The first College Football Playoff poll is set for Tuesday, and like every ranking, it will carry no practical meaning.
But it will be analyzed like the Zapruder film, complete with irrational conspiracy theories.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, whose team is top-ranked in The Associated Press and coaches’ polls and figures to be prominently mentioned on Tuesday, knows what’s coming.
“Talk radio Wednesday morning is going to be absolutely amazing,” he said after the Bulldogs beat Kentucky on Saturday.
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The playoff poll will be announced on ESPN (of course), and the thing will have killer ratings in the South with the expectation of regional domination. The Bulldogs are atop the AP poll released Sunday followed by Florida State, Alabama and Auburn. A Dixie delight.
The poll has become part of the college football conversation on Saturdays, even more so it seems to me than the BCS. Perhaps this is because more teams are involved, but it certainly has something to do with the power of the SEC West Division and the enormous fan interest in the Southeastern Conference.
College football is built on speculation. It gets fans through the week, but some of chatter has been so wild — like the idea that ESPN strongly favors an SEC-heavy playoff because it launched the SEC Network this season — that Chris Fowler launched a response on Saturday morning’s “GameDay“ program.
“People around the country think the committee can only operate with an agenda in mind. They don’t believe there can be integrity or objectivity on the committee,” said Fowler, the program’s longtime host.
He went on to say that any network would favor a bracket with national rather than regional representation.
He’s right. TV viewers prefer competition from different corners of the country. When Alabama defeated LSU for the 2011 national championship, the game was among the lowest rated in BCS title game history.
Fowler’s rant, from a studio set on the LSU campus, played to boos, but on he went.
“I’m a little defensive, but I get defensive when stupid, uninformed stuff gets repeated again and again, and people all over the world think that we somehow have a stake in having three teams from this league get in,” Fowler said.
Actually, ESPN, which will broadcast the College Football Playoff, is part of the financial lifeblood of every power five conference. The relationship is different with the SEC, and no amount of soapbox defense will alter the perception of favoritism in many minds. It’s all part of the irrationality that fuels the game’s enormous interest.
Just keep in mind the 12 members of the playoff committee don’t work for ESPN, just as the members of the Division I men’s basketball committee aren’t influenced by CBS and TBS when it comes to March Madness matchups.
What I’ll look for on Tuesday is the identity of the fourth team. Committee members have emphasized the importance of a conference championship. And although the leagues won’t be decided for weeks, the committee can send a signal about this concept by identifying, say Oregon, as a playoff team if the season ended today, instead of a third SEC team.
Terrific victory for the Tigers over Mississippi, and a touching postgame speech from coach Les Miles, whose mother, Martha, had passed away at an assisted-living facility the previous night.
“After the game, I can’t tell you the number of young men that threw their arms around me and said that they love me, which is as touching as anything I’ve had happen,” Miles said. “They hand me the game ball, which I only accept on behalf of a great team. A team that really comes out and says we can be a whole lot better, we can improve and they go to work. You guys hear me say this, they’re going to improve, they’re coming, we’re going to be special, this team is ambitious. So, I accept it. Martha Miles, this is a great night considering. I miss you, Ma.”
Eighty-two points and 785 yards. Not a bad day for the Horned Frogs against Texas Tech.
The Utah linebacker was the only player on the field who knew the ball from Cody Kessler was a lateral and not a forward pass. While everybody else stopped, Orphey scooped and scored to help the Utes beat Southern California 24-21
Whoever missed the same-uniform call
South Carolina should have had one more play against Auburn, and the SEC admitted as much Sunday. A Gamecocks’ Hail Mary on the game’s final play of the Tigers’ 42-35 victory was intercepted in the end zone. But two Auburn players on the field were wearing uniform No. 1. That’s a 5-yard penalty and South Carolina should have been given one more snap.
Michigan stake planters
As a motivational ploy, Michigan brought a tent stake to Michigan State on Saturday and planted it in the Spartan Stadium turf. That wasn’t supposed to happen, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said Sunday in an apology to the state rival. It was the reason the Spartans punched in a late touchdown with a 17-point lead to win 35-11. “It just felt like we needed to put a stake in them at that point,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.
There was more.
“I can only be diplomatic for so long,” Dantonio said after the game. “The little brother stuff, all the disrespect, it didn’t have to go in that direction.
“We try to handle ourselves with composure. That doesn’t come from a coach. It comes from the program. Throwing the stake down in our backyard out here and coming out there like they’re all that. That got shoved up ... It got shoved in the last minute and a half.”
COMMITTEE OF ONE
Projecting the College Football Playoff
▪ Sugar Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Oregon
▪ Rose Bowl: Florida State vs. Alabama
▪ Knocking on the door: Auburn, TCU, Notre Dame, Mississippi, Kansas State
RANKING THE BIG 12
d. Texas Tech 82-27
at West Virginia
Boykin in Heisman race
2. Kansas State
d. Texas 23-0
Recorded rare Big 12 shutout
Two weeks to get over loss
at Iowa State
Still in league race
5. West Virginia
d. Oklahoma State 34-10
Impressive by the week
6. Oklahoma State
l. West Virginia 34-10
at Kansas State
Schedule now a problem
l. Kansas State
at Texas Tech
Offense stepped back
8. Iowa State
Seeks statement victory
9. Texas Tech
l. TCU 82-27
Defense is a shambles
Can Jayhawks stay close?
RANKING THE SEC
1. Mississippi State
d. Kentucky 45-31
1-0 as top-ranked team
d. Tennessee 34-20
Cooper is amazing
d. South Carolina 42-35
Trouble stopping Gamecocks
l. LSU 10-7
Bad execution in the end
Looks like East’s best
d. Mississippi 10-7
Getting better every week
d. Vanderbilt 24-14
One goal reached: Bowl eligibility
8. Texas A&M
Hasn’t won in a month
l. Mississippi State 45-31
Game effort vs. Bulldogs
10. South Carolina
l. Auburn 42-35
Hasn’t given up
d. Alabama-Birmingham 45-17
at Mississippi State
Did you see big-man TD pass?
Any fight left?
l. Alabama 34-20
at South Carolina
Competitive but can’t win
l. Missouri 24-14
Better effort vs. Mizzou