Welcome to the eleventh edition of the sophomore season of The Hangover, where I recap the previous weekend in college football. This week, The Hangover comes to you from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where I witnessed Tua Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide finish what is arguably the best regular season run in college football history against Auburn. Rivalry Week was full of the chaos we’ve been waiting on, so let’s dive right in…
As it stands now, I see six teams with a legitimate chance at making the College Football Playoff. Those six would be Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Ohio State (sorry, UCF). Notre Dame is already in the four-team field, so they’ll be watching from the couch on Championship Weekend to see how the result affect their seeding. So, we’re only one week from finding out “Who’s In” with plenty of games that can change how the four will be laid out. Here are all the possibilities for the playoff field based on potential results in championship weekend games:
Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Ohio State all win.
This is the nightmare scenario for the playoff committee. Who will they put in between Ohio State and Oklahoma? Ohio State has the better win but the worse loss. Oklahoma has the better loss (by a wide margin), but not as many quality wins. Both teams are explosive offensively, with the Sooners obviously holding the edge there, while the Buckeyes are easily better defensively (although they have plenty of questions on that side of the ball). So, who would get the nod? We’ll know more when the CFP Rankings are released Tuesday night, but for now I’d give the nod to Oklahoma. My reasoning with this is simple: with the Sooners, we know what we’re going to get. Oklahoma will score 40+ on anybody, and they’ll give up close to the same number each time out. While it hasn’t always been pretty, that’s been the formula all year long for Lincoln Riley’s squad. Ohio State has been way more inconsistent, at times looking like a team that would be lucky enough to win seven games (examples: Maryland, Nebraska, etc.). Dwayne Haskins is spectacular, but the rest of the team is full of question marks. Simply put, I have no idea if Ohio State is really good or if they just get up for good teams. With Oklahoma, we know the deal, and I think the slight edge in overall strength of schedule (Oklahoma’s combined FBS opponent’s record is 80-61, while Ohio State’s is 72-70). Because of all of that, I’d slip the Sooners in at four. Here’s what I think the CFP Four would look like:
- Notre Dame
Clemson, Oklahoma, and Ohio State all win and Georgia upsets Alabama.
This is the scenario that would upset the apple cart the most because I don’t see a way for Alabama to miss the playoff at all. Simply put, I don’t know how the committee could look at Alabama, even with a loss to Georgia, and say this isn’t one of the four best teams in college football. While that might have folks from the Big Ten and Big 12 up in arms, if you have eyes, you know I’m correct. And the “Alabama ain’t played nobody” narrative? That’s out the window with LSU, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and possibly Missouri either ranked or on the cusp of the Top 25. Likewise, Alabama’s opponents’ combined record is 83-50, better than Ohio State’s and Oklahoma’s numbers. Lastly, the loss would be to an SEC Champion in the field; that’s better than losses to 6-6 Purdue or (potentially) 9-4 Texas. Now, I do have it on good authority that if two teams make it from the same conference, the playoff committee will do everything in its power to make sure those two squads cannot match up in the national championship. With that being said, here’s what the CFP Four would look like:
- Notre Dame
Alabama, Ohio State, and Oklahoma all win and Clemson is upset by Pittsburgh.
Admittedly, this is the least likely of any of these scenarios. Still, it’s college football, so anything could happen. We’ve seen Pittsburgh knock off a good Clemson team before, so you never know. If it happens, Clemson would be in a perilous situation. The best win, a road victory over Texas A&M, would hold some weight, but the weakness of the ACC would severely hurt the Tigers’ cause. Syracuse would help for sure, but the average seasons by everybody else on the schedule would make it tougher. I think, because of the dominant way Clemson has won in the second half of the season, they’d squeak in at the four spot. Here’s how I think the CFP Four would look:
- Notre Dame
Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State win and Oklahoma loses to Texas -or- Alabama, Clemson, and Oklahoma win and Ohio State loses to Northwestern.
In these two separate scenarios, the winner would be in. This is the easiest possible outcome for the committee.
Alabama and Clemson win, but Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Georgia all lose.
Ah yes, the absolute chaos scenario. First thing’s first, everything here depends on margin. If Georgia loses to Alabama by less than ten points in this scenario, the Bulldogs would take the four spot. If it’s a blowout defeat, Oklahoma or Ohio State could pass them up. If Georgia loses by 14 points in this situation, I still think they’ll be given the four spot simply because of the amount of quality wins, especially on the road (and Georgia’s opponents’ combined record is a shockingly high 92-48). Why not UCF? Simply put, it’s because of the injury to McKenzie Milton. Milton is out for the year and, fair or not, the committee has to look at how the roster sets up going into the playoff. If they only got to the nine hole with Milton, I’d be stunned if the committee would move the Knights up into the top four without the star quarterback. Also, had LSU beaten Texas A&M on Saturday, I think they would’ve had a good shot at sliding into the playoff. Here’s how the CFP Four would look with all of this considered:
- Notre Dame
So that’s the breakdown. That’s how it’ll shake out. As I see it, Alabama and Notre Dame have spots locked down. The question is, who will join them in the playoff? We’re less than a week from finding out.
Gray’s Top 10
- Notre Dame
- Ohio State
Past the top six, it’s hard to figure out how to rank these teams. Without McKenzie Milton, I don’t consider UCF a top seven team; however, I can’t move down a squad after a four-touchdown win. I’ll keep LSU at eight after the seven overtime loss to Texas A&M simply because I think the Tigers would beat both of the teams ranked below it. Texas comes in at nine after reaching the Big 12 title game, and Michigan fills out the top ten because…I guess somebody had to do it. Look, if you’re one of those people that says we need to expand the playoff, this season doesn’t help your case. We’re going to have a hard time finding a team that’s deserving of the fourth spot, let alone potentially the eighth spot if the bracket was bigger.
Coach of the Week
For the first time ever, our COTW will go to a person who lost his job this week. That man is former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who was let go on Sunday morning. Why is he getting COTW after losing to Baylor over the weekend and failing to reach a bowl game and finishing with a losing record for the fourth time in five years? Well, because Kingsbury is taking the firing like a complete gentleman. Today, he released a letter on Twitter that shows his maturity and quality as a human being.
This letter shows just how much Kliff Kingsbury loves Texas Tech, and the class of it all is unlike anything I’ve ever seen from a departed coach. Here’s to hoping Kingsbury gets a great job as an offensive coordinator somewhere in the very near future.
Idiot of the Week
Rivalry week brings out the idiot in all of us (trust me, I know; I have to interact with Auburn fans every year), and some coaches fell prey to this same idiocy. While I could pinpoint to plenty of in-game moments and some poor decisions, I’ll focus on the big picture with this week’s IOTW winner: Jim Harbaugh.
This was his chance, y’all. This was Coach Khaki’s moment to prove to everybody around the country that he’s worth the hype and the insanely high salary. He had the top defense in the country, an offense with some weapons that had played well during most of the season, and Ohio State looked weaker than they’ve ever been during Harbaugh’s tenure…and Michigan fell flat on its face.
It wasn’t that Michigan lost, it’s how they lost. Every scoring record for Ohio State in terms of series history was broken, and if you watched the game you can tell that the defense was flummoxed from the opening kick. The Wolverines were just never in the contest, and that’s disconcerting for a head coach that was brought to Ann Arbor to restore Michigan to its former glory. Could Harbaugh still do it? Sure. But this year made the most sense so far in his tenure, and once again the Wolverines will be sitting at home on Championship Saturday.
Here at RR HQ, we try to keep it random. It’s in our name, after all. Still, we feel obligated to complete our announcer series with these final rankings of the regular season. So far, we’ve done sideline reporters and color analysts. Now, it’s time to dig into the distinct voices–the people of play-by-play. Since a few members in HQ are aspiring play-by-play broadcasters, we’d like to note that some of the folks on this list are friends and/or mentors. They’re all the goal; big-time guys sitting in a booth describing the action on the field. So, without further ado, here’s our Random Ranking of the top five college football play-by-play broadcasters. *Disclaimer*: per usual, once Random Rankings are posted, they aren’t changing. Again, we’re a big fan of all of these folks. They’re just ranked 1-5 because this section calls for that.
1. Brad Nessler, CBS
Our all-time favorite, Nessler has that distinct voice that just belongs with big-time college football. His move to the SEC on CBS has been a successful one, as some of his calls are already legendary just two years on the job. Nessler is also one of the nicest guys in the industry, too.
2. Tim Brando, Fox Sports
Brando is a friend of The Hangover and one of the best in the business. Few men can encapsulate the drama in a moment like Timmy B, and that’s why he’s ranked in this list.
3. Tom Hart, SEC Network
He’s relatively new to the big stage, but Hart is growing on us as one of the best at his craft. Not every primetime SEC Network game is the greatest match-up, but Hart does a great job with his crew to build the drama. He’s also an excellent storyteller, and his banter with partners Jordan Rodgers and Cole Cubelic makes for an entertaining broadcast.
4. Dave Pasch, ESPN
This is the most underrated crew in college football with Greg McElroy and Tom Luginbill. Both McElroy and Luginbill got slots in our rankings, and Pasch deserves one too. His commentary is succinct, and he’s not afraid to slide an opinion or two into his statements.
5. Gus Johnson, Fox Sports
The largest of legends, Gus Johnson is the best when the moment is biggest. That’s why he’s on the list; what almost kept him off is the fact that, sometimes, it seems like he can’t turn off his energy, even for plays that don’t mean much in the grand scheme of the game. Still, he’s one of the most knowledgable guys out there and, again, he always makes the biggest moments bigger.
Gray Goes Off Returns: A Note on the Coaching Carousel
I’ll be honest–the coaching carousel isn’t exactly loaded with big-time programs. Still, more drama could be on the horizon. Here are a few comments about some of the jobs currently being discussed across college football:
After letting go of Larry Fedora (and rightfully so after five wins in two years), the Tar Heels appear to have their sights set on former North Carolina and Texas coach Mack Brown. While not yet official, this one seems certain, and I like the move. Brown reportedly only wanted to come back to coaching if it was with North Carolina, and he’s a proven winner. Can he have success after a few years out of the game? Time will tell, but we’ll find out quickly on the recruiting trail.
You thought Gus Malzahn was out of the woods? You don’t know Auburn fans. Following a 7-5 regular season, reports are that a growing faction on the Plains is trying to wheel the Gus Bus out of town. One name that I heard earlier in the day was Bob Stoops, who reportedly met with Auburn officials a few weeks ago. As I was typing this story, CBS Sports released a report where Stoops said, “I haven’t talked to anybody from Auburn. I haven’t met with anybody from Auburn nor am I set to talk to anybody” (First reported by George Schroeder from USA Today). One person told me he expected the move to happen, but it’s all speculation at this point. My belief is that, if true, this feels like Auburn approaching Stoops to gauge his interest. If he’d said yes, Gus would be gone. If not, Malzahn is likely around for one more year. One thing is for sure though–Malzahn better hope he doesn’t lose another bowl game.
Last week I wrote that I felt like Clay Helton would be let go after the Notre Dame game. Instead, athletic director Lynn Swann is sticking to his guns and sticking by his guy. Whether you feel like the pressure on Helton is fair after two NY6 bowl appearances and a Pac-12 championship, it’s tough to deny that the Trojan fanbase is fed up with the current state of the program. According to media at USC-Notre Dame, Helton was booed anytime he appeared on the jumbotron. A banner flew above the stadium calling for his job. Things aren’t all sunny in Los Angeles, and Helton will have to turn things around quickly if he wants to keep his job for longer than the 2019 season.
I have no idea who Louisville should hire, but it appears as if Jeff Brohm isn’t interested. Brohm said after Saturday’s win over Indiana that he’s happy in West Lafayette, and I tend to believe him. Brohm is building some special at Purdue; I have no idea why he’d want to give that up to take a job in the disheveled Louisville athletic department, even if it’s “home.”
Will we see any more moves over the next few weeks? It’s possible. There are rumors circulating about Steve Addazio at Boston College possibly being in trouble. Either way, compared to last year’s insane carousel, the fireworks this season would barely register as a sparkler at your aunt’s Fourth of July party.
SEC Power Rankings
I’m an SEC guy through and through, so I have to include my SEC Power Rankings. The regular season is over, so we finally have a full sample size from everyone in the conference. Here’s where things finish up in the best conference in the country:
- Alabama (1)
- Georgia (2)
- Florida (4)
- LSU (3)
- Texas A&M (7)
- Kentucky (5)
- Mississippi State (6)
- Missouri (8)
- South Carolina (9)
- Auburn (10)
- Vanderbilt (11)
- Ole Miss (13)
- Tennessee (12)
- Arkansas (14)
So Who’s Ready for Championship Week?
It’s time to see who will win all of the conferences, and there are plenty of tasty contests. Here’s what’s on tap:
Pac-12 Championship: #17 Utah vs. #16 Washington (Friday)
Big 12 Championship: #14 Texas vs. #6 Oklahoma
Conference USA Championship: UAB vs. Middle Tennessee
Stanford at California
AAC Championship: Memphis vs. #9 UCF
SEC Championship: #1 Alabama vs. #5 Georgia
Mountain West Championship: Fresno State vs. #23 Boise State
ACC Championship: #2 Clemson vs. #24 Pittsburgh
Big Ten Championship: #19 Northwestern vs. #10 Ohio State
That’s all from The Hangover! I’ll be in Atlanta for the SEC Championship, and then I’ll be hustling to the hotel to see how things play out. We’ll see you next week with our reaction to the playoff field!