Enjoy it now, Cincinnati, because they’re going to find a way to screw you over in the end.
Alabama’s shocking 41-38 loss at Texas A&M on Saturday night will end the Crimson Tide’s run as the top-ranked team in the country, boosting Georgia to No. 1, while Iowa now figures to be No. 2 after its 23-20 triumph over Penn State.
The Bearcats will leap over the Nittany Lions, and you would think over Alabama, too. Either way, they’re in the top 4, and even though the College Football Playoff rankings don’t start coming out until November, and we’re just talking about the polls now, you can see where this is going.
Georgia, which hasn’t allowed more than 13 points in any game this season, rolls into the SEC title game undefeated, but loses to Alabama. The playoff committee isn’t going to keep SEC champion Alabama out, and they’re still going to give a spot to a Georgia team whose only loss is to the Crimson Tide.
Iowa, which has no ranked teams left to play, either goes undefeated to win the Big Ten, or loses the Big Ten title game to Michigan (which would also be undefeated in this case) or a one-loss Ohio State — and the committee isn’t keeping out undefeated-in-conference, only-loss-to-Oregon, Big Ten champion Ohio State.
As for the other spot, Cincinnati had a different result on Saturday that winds up playing poorly into the Bearcats’ chances, because Oklahoma stayed undefeated, as the Red River Shootout lived up to its name in a big way, even if they dropped the “Shootout” part a few years ago because of the connotation with gun violence — it’s really made a big difference, hasn’t it?
Anyway, Texas managed to blow a lead that was 28-7 after one quarter and 41-23 with two minutes left in the third. The Longhorns blew it so comprehensively that Oklahoma was able to take a 48-41 lead with 7:10 left and let Texas come back to tie before the Sooners won on Kennedy Brooks’ 33-yard run off a direct snap with three seconds left.
The Sooners are now 6-0, and have to like their chances at making a fourth College Football Playoff in five years, with only one more ranked team on their schedule — Oklahoma State, which has lost 16 of the last 18 Bedlam rivalry games. The one thing that should give Oklahoma pause? Aside from the Sooners’ 76-0 clobbering of Western Carolina, all of their games have been decided by a touchdown or less, and as much as a win is a win is a win, it doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence when you barely squeak past Tulane, Nebraska, West Virginia, Kansas State, and Texas.
Do we really think Oklahoma is better than Cincinnati? Does it matter? Of course not. An undefeated Oklahoma goes to the playoff. And that’s how an undefeated Cincinnati, near the top of the rankings all year, winds up getting shut out in this incredibly stupidly arranged sport.
Lane Kiffin took a bunch of heat last week for going for too many fourth downs against Alabama in a 42-21 loss to the defending national champions. When asked to explain himself, the Ole Miss coach said simply, “If you punt it away, it just takes longer for them to score.”
Kiffin was talking about Alabama specifically, but also about the state of Ole Miss defense, a unit that is extremely good at getting the ball back to the Ole Miss offense — not necessarily by racking up turnovers, but by receiving kickoffs.
So, on Saturday, Kiffin once again went for it five times on fourth down, just as he did against Alabama. This time, against Arkansas, the Ole Miss offense converted four times, and although that much maligned defense gave up 51 points, it came through when it mattered most, on a game-deciding two-point attempt after Warren Thompson’s nine-yard TD catch at 0:00.
Nobody complains how much you go for it on fourth down if you make it, and nobody cares about your defense giving up 51 points if you score 52.