In less than a week, the College Football Playoff selection committee will release its first Top 25 and the real fun of the 2014 season will begin. These would be my 12 teams still in the discussion for the national championship as of today:
THE FIRST FOUR
1) Mississippi State (6-0): The Bulldogs had last week off and I’m still giving them a slight edge over Ole Miss because they have the better road win at LSU. There are trips to Kentucky, Alabama and Ole Miss remaining.
2) Ole Miss (7-0): The Rebels get better with each game but should face a pretty good test Saturday night at LSU. The only road game in November is at Arkansas with Auburn and Mississippi State at home.
3) Auburn (5-1): The Tigers get this spot based on the fact that their only loss was on the road at No. 1 Mississippi State and that they have the best non-conference road win (20-14 at Kansas State) in the SEC. Auburn also has the toughest road schedule in November with trips to Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama.
4) Florida State (7-0): The Seminoles yet again found a way to win (31-27) at home over Notre Dame, but they really haven’t done a lot to knock your socks off. Their next game, a Thursday night trip to Louisville on Oct. 30, could be interesting. Still, I think FSU runs the table.
THE NEXT FOUR
5) Alabama (6-1): The Crimson Tide was impressive in beating Texas A&M 59-0 and their 33-23 win over West Virginia at a neutral site looks better each week. Alabama still has to prove it can play well on the road, this week at Tennessee and on Nov. 8 at LSU.
6) Oregon (6-1): The Ducks are starting to get healthy again, just in time to play at California on Friday night followed by the big game against Stanford on Nov. 1. When the SEC West teams starting beating up on each other, look for Oregon to make its move.
7) Notre Dame (6-1): Notre Dame is much better on defense than I thought and if the Irish can finish 11-1 after a stretch run that includes trips to Arizona State and Southern California, they have to be in the discussion.
8) Michigan State (6-1): The Spartans, whose only loss was at Oregon, keep chugging along. They should roll over Michigan this week and then will get a week off before Ohio State visits on Nov. 8.
THE LAST FOUR
9) Georgia (6-1): A lot of people are paying attention to the Bulldogs after watching them dominate Missouri and Arkansas on the road without Todd Gurley. Georgia is clearly the best team in the SEC East but can’t afford a stumble down the stretch against Florida, Kentucky or Auburn if wants to stay in this discussion.
10) Kansas State (5-1): The Wildcats, whose only loss is at home to Auburn, positioned themselves to make a run at the Big 12 title with a 31-30 upset of Oklahoma. After Saturday’s game with Texas, Kansas State hosts Oklahoma State and then plays back-to-back games at TCU (Nov. 8) and at West Virginia (Nov. 20).
11) TCU (5-1): The Horned Frogs bounced back from their 61-58 loss to Baylor by thumping Oklahoma State 42-9. TCU still has a chance to win the Big 12 but Gary Patterson’s team has to play at West Virginia and at home to Kansas State in consecutive weeks in November.
12) Arizona State (5-1): The Sun Devils lost to UCLA (62-27) on Sept. 25 but have bounced back with consecutive wins over USC (38-34) and Stanford (26-10). Looks like their game at Arizona (5-1) on Nov. 28 could be for the Pac-12 South championship.