State of Mississippi moves to top of First Four

Mississippi State fans ring their cowbells in the first half of their NCAA college football game against Auburn in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct 11, 2014. No. 3 Mississippi State beat No. 2 Auburn 38-23. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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Mississippi State fans ring their cowbells in the first half of their NCAA college football game against Auburn in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct 11, 2014. No. 3 Mississippi State beat No. 2 Auburn 38-23. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

I’ve been covering college football for a long time. This is a sentence I never thought I would write: Mississippi State and Ole Miss are 1-2 in my rankings for the College Football Playoff.

But there it is.

Will it last until the two teams meet on Nov. 29 in Oxford? The odds are against it. The schedules are just too tough. But then again, the odds were against the two Mississippi schools ever being in this historic position.

So here are this week’s 12 teams that are in the discussion for the first College Football Playoff:

THE FIRST FOUR

1) Mississippi State (6-0): It was a tough call but the Bulldogs’ overall body of work, which includes victories against LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn is a little bit stronger than Ole Miss and its three conference victories against Vanderbilt, Alabama and Texas A&M.

2) Ole Miss (6-0): After two emotional victories in a row against Alabama and Texas A&M, the Rebels have an interesting home game with Tennessee (3-3), which came so close against Georgia (35-32) and Florida (10-9). With a trip to LSU coming up next week, does Ole Miss have an emotional letdown against the Vols?

3) Baylor (6-0): Last week I asked when Baylor might play somebody and they did with an incredible 24-point rally in the fourth quarter to beat previously undefeated TCU 61-58. The Bears have scored 45 points on everybody but Texas and should have another shootout when they go to West Virginia on Saturday.

4) Florida State (6-0): The Seminoles are a train wreck off the field because of their troubled quarterback but on the field they are plugging along. Florida State has won 22 games in a row and will face its toughest test to date on Saturday at home against Notre Dame (6-0).

THE NEXT FOUR

5) Auburn (5-1): The Tigers made a bunch of mistakes in the 38-23 loss at Mississippi State. Can those be corrected during the off week and before Auburn enters a four-game stretch that includes South Carolina, at Ole Miss, Texas A&M and at Georgia?

6) Michigan State (5-1): For two consecutive weeks the Spartans have built a big lead only  to struggle in the fourth quarter. It would be wise to avoid that in Saturday’s trip to Indiana (3-3). Ohio State goes to East Lansing on Nov. 8.

7) Alabama (5-1): Alabama is playing sloppy football on offense but is still finding ways to win. The Crimson Tide defense is giving up too many passing yards so it will be interesting to see how it fares against reeling Texas A&M (5-2). Alabama still has to play No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 5 Auburn in November.

8) Notre Dame (6-0): The Irish have played one team with a good offense and gave up 43 points last week (but won) against North Carolina. The next three weeks will determine if Notre Dame stays in the discussion: at Florida State, at Navy and at Arizona State. The Irish also go to Southern California on Nov. 29.

THE LAST FOUR

9) TCU (4-1): The Horned Frogs blew a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost a heartbreaker to Baylor 61-58. TCU may look back on that loss with regret. It hosts red-hot Oklahoma State (5-1) on Saturday and goes to West Virginia on Nov. 1.

10) Oregon (5-1): The Ducks bounced back from a 31-24 home loss to Arizona with a 42-30 win on the road at UCLA. There are issues on the offensive line and there are big hurdles remaining, the biggest being a home game with Stanford on Nov. 1.

11) Oklahoma (5-1):  The Sooners survived a tough rivalry game with Texas (31-26) last Saturday but they can still get into the First Four if they run the table against a schedule that includes Kansas State (Saturday at home), Baylor (Nov. 8) and Oklahoma State (Dec. 6).

12): Georgia (5-1): The Bulldogs impressed a lot of people by winning 34-0 at Missouri without Todd Gurley. There are still two difficult trips — to Little Rock to play Arkansas on Saturday and to Lexington to meet Kentucky on Nov. 8. The Florida game in Jacksonville is going to be tough. Then Auburn goes to Athens on Nov. 15. Get to Atlanta for the SEC title game and anything could happen for Georgia.


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