ACC out of playoff? Five overreactions from college football’s Week 12

With one notable – and extremely regrettable – exception, matters went largely according to script in Week 12 around the college football world. As such, there might not appear to be much worth overreacting to. But as the late great Gilda Radner often said in her persona of Rosanne Rosannadanna, it’s always something. (Google her, kids. She was terrific.)

In this week’s top five overreactions, we’ll start with how the absence of a key player might affect the outlook of an entire league. We’ll then take our usual weekly snapshot of the race for the sport’s top honor, and wrap up with some thoughts on the future, both immediate and long-term.

The ACC is out of the College Football Playoff

The biggest piece of on-field news on Saturday was the devastating injury suffered by Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis, an unfortunate development in what was supposed to be a tune-up game against FCS member North Alabama. The possible ramifications for the College Football Playoff committee were addressed in the Misery Index, but the thinking here is that the Seminoles will still be among the top four should they get to the finish line at 13-0.

The fact of the matter is there are only nine power-conference teams with one loss or none. At least four of those teams will lose one more time head-to-head with Michigan and Ohio State squaring off next week, Georgia and Alabama slated to meet for the SEC title, and Washington and Oregon likely on course for a rematch. The fourth pairing is the ACC finale, now set between the Seminoles and Louisville. Given that there can be at most four unbeaten teams in that group, it seems highly unlikely that the committee would subject itself to the backlash that would result if even a short-handed team were omitted from the playoff in favor of a one-loss conference champ or non-champ. Just the same, it would be helpful if the Cardinals still have just the one loss when they get to Charlotte to keep that game a top-10 matchup.

The Seminoles would almost certainly be out of that mix with a loss, either next week against Florida or in said ACC finale, so then the question becomes whether Louisville would have a case. The Cardinals, obviously, would have to get through their own Rivalry Week date with Kentucky before dealing with the ‘Noles. They’d have an argument at 12-1, but they’d likely need a fair amount of chaos ahead of them. For one thing, their loss to Pitt would be the most damaging result among the contenders. Furthermore their best win would be against a Florida State team that would not be at full strength.

Jayden Daniels/Bo just won the Heisman Trophy

At roughly the same time as LSU’s Jayden Daniels was putting up video game numbers against an overmatched Georgia State, Oregon’s Bo Nix was doing his own number on an equally powerless Arizona State. Over the rest of the night, nearly every highlight from those performances was peppered with comments about whether this was his – or his – Heisman moment. It probably didn’t hurt either guy’s cause that Washington Michael Penix Jr. had a subpar statistical outing even though he still managed to get the ‘W’ for the Huskies at Oregon State.

We’ve been over this before, but it bears repeating – there’s no such thing as a Heisman moment. Numbers do matter, and voters take stats into consideration. But they also look at the total picture, including the opponents against whom those stats were accumulated. This close to the finish, however, those impressions could be lasting ones. Stay tuned.

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Bigger conferences will mean better conferences

Deeper perhaps, but the potential for late-season tiebreaker insanity will be much greater starting next year when 16-, 17- and 18-team conferences without divisions dot the FBS landscape.

One need only look at the impending mess on the horizon in the Big 12. The Oklahoma schools and Kansas State are tied for second heading into the final week of the regular season, and a four-way logjam at the top is possible if Texas finds a way to lose to Texas Tech.

So long as the top four prevail next week matters would sort out with little difficulty, as the Longhorns would remain first and Oklahoma State would claim the second spot via a head-to-head sweep of the Sooners and Wildcats. But in future seasons with more teams and without increasing the number of conference games things are likely to get a lot more complicated around this time of year. Oklahoma and Kansas State, for example, didn’t meet this year. When teams that didn’t face each other inevitably land in tie situations, you’ll start hearing phrases like ‘record against common opponents,’ or even the dreaded ‘random draw.’ It probably won’t be long before some of these mega-conferences start tinkering with how they determine their champions once the 12-team playoff era begins.

Michigan-Ohio State is the biggest game in the history of everything

Well, we’ll say this much. The stakes are probably a bit higher than last year when both the Wolverines and Buckeyes wound up in the playoff anyway. To be sure, the loser will be considered as we laid out last week in this space, but there’s a potentially more crowded field this time. We’ll also stipulate that it’s undoubtedly the headliner of the final Saturday before conference championship week, as there’s just one other ranked matchup on the weekend docket (more on that below).

There are a lot of Thanksgiving turkeys on tap

Aside from that little tussle in Ann Arbor, the rivalry formerly known as the Civil War* between Oregon and Oregon State is the only other meeting of ranked teams on the Week 13 slate. This date on the calendar is usually reserved for a school’s biggest rival, but many of those contests this year are paper mismatches.

Crazy things can always happen in such encounters, but the traditional Thursday night start to the holiday weekend might be dubbed the Rotten Egg Bowl this time as Ole Miss will not be inclined to show mercy against Mississippi State, which has just one SEC win and is already searching for its next coach. Trophies can’t make every game better. The Territorial Cup showdown between surging Arizona and rebuilding Arizona State looks like another blowout in waiting, and the Old Oaken Bucket battle between Indiana and Purdue will bring their respective miserable seasons to a merciful end.

But there might yet be fireworks in these games, especially for teams trying to achieve bowl eligibility at the expense of their archrivals. These include South Carolina (maybe), Florida (unlikely), and Washington State (not happening). But we know we’ll watch anyway after enjoying our feasting. It’s what we do, right?

*It’s still the Civil War as far as we’re concerned.

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