Good news for Mississippi State: the Playoff Committee kept them in the top four, checking in at that magic No. 4 spot.
Going forward: things are still murky.
It’s good for Dan Mullen’s team to see it’s still in the playoff picture after its first loss of the season (a five-point road loss to No. 1 Alabama). But, at the risk of being too obvious, it’s the final ranking on December 7th that will matter. Where will MSU stand by then?
Some say it’s possible the Bulldogs could fall out of the Top Four simply by other teams enhancing their résumés and therefore jumping the Dawgs. Others insist a one-loss SEC West team would be tough to keep out, conference champion or not.
While there are only two regular-season weeks left for MSU, plenty of options remain. The key for State, obviously, is to win out. That might be a lot to ask, especially with a road trip to Ole Miss in two weeks, but they’ve done a lot to be in this position already.
So, let’s look at some possibilities if MSU does finish the regular season with wins over Vanderbilt and Mississippi.
MSU could still win the SEC if they win out and Alabama loses to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. If the Bulldogs go to Atlanta and beat whoever comes out of the SEC East (again, emphasis on IF), they’d have to be in, one would think.
If Alabama and MSU both win out and the Tide win the West, things get more dicey for the Dawgs.
As it stands now, there are four one-loss teams who would appear to be fighting for the same final spot. Let’s look at what each of those teams have remaining.
- No. 4 MSU: vs. Vanderbilt, at No. 8 Ole Miss
- No. 7 Baylor: vs Oklahoma State, vs Texas Tech, vs. No. 12 Kansas State.
- No. 5 TCU: at Texas, vs. Iowa State
- No. 6 Ohio State: vs. Indiana, vs. Michigan, potential Big Ten championship game vs. No. 14 Wisconsin
Under the assumption that the current rankings reflect what the committee thinks about each team’s body of work to this point, it’s what they have left that could bring about change.
If that’s the case, MSU would have the “best” possible remaining win if opponent rankings holds. So, as much it may pain them to do, State fans might want to cheer for the Rebels against Arkansas this weekend in the hopes of getting a more impressive final win in the Egg Bowl.
Ohio State gets an edge by being able to play an extra game by means of the title match, though a potential neutral site win over Wisconsin currently projects as slightly less impressive (in terms of opponent rank) than an MSU road Egg Bowl win would, if examined in a vacuum like that.
Neither TCU or Baylor would have the advantage of a title game, but one of them will be able to claim the title as Big 12 Champion, which would weigh against MSU if it’s not the SEC champ.
And that’s a question, too. If all teams win out and have the same 11-1 regular season record, can the committee fault those who are in tougher/weaker/different conferences for not getting the same title as the others? To be sure, at this point, MSU has the “best” loss of the bunch coming to No. 1 Alabama, while Baylor and Ohio State’s losses came against unranked teams. TCU’s loss to Baylor stands clear as the second best among the losses. The hard part for MSU is that the loss to ‘Bama is also the most recent of the losses in question.
Debate remains about the merits and quality of wins each team has already, but our only option is to presume the current playoff rankings reflect the committee’s opinion on those when stacked against each other.
Of course, there’s the possibility for all teams involved to lose a game between now and December 7th, in which case the committee may need the Rosetta Stone to translate the meaning of the season’s results. It’s also possible, say, that No. 3 Florida State loses a game. If that happens, how many of the one-loss teams we’re looking at right now would jump the Seminoles?
The point is to say, at the moment, we know the possibilities, but guessing which ones come to fruition is next to impossible. At the very least, it ought to be an entertaining and likely stressful few weeks for college football fans.
Here’s the link for the full rankings.