football-fbs flag | September 26, 2014

Third and Long

Third and Long Florida State and Oregon barely held on for wins in Week 4. Do either belong as No. 1?

1. What's the most compelling storyline heading into Week 5?

♦ I hate to be all about the Southeastern Conference, but there are two games from that conference Saturday that really intrigue me. Will we see another thriller when Missouri goes to South Carolina? How will Missouri respond after last week’s loss to Indiana? Also, call me crazy -- and I’m sure you both will -- but I think Georgia may have more of a problem with Tennessee than many may think. If Georgia, particularly its defense, goes on vacation for a while -- which they’ve been prone to do -- Tennessee could get it done. The key for the Vols may be the early going, during which the Bulldogs haven't exactly been proactive.

♦ I’m also looking at the SEC, and specifically two teams that have an opportunity to make a statement. First, there’s Texas A&M -- how good are the Aggies, really? After they thrashed South Carolina in Week 1, which I think we can safely say was not a good representation of how good the Gamecocks are, Texas A&M hasn’t been tested. With a high-powered Arkansas team up next, I’m interested to see if the Aggies can put them away like they did South Carolina, or if it’s going to be a close, back-and-forth affair where both teams break 40 points. I’m looking at Georgia as well, which rebounded from its first loss with its most lopsided win in 56 years (although it was against Troy). Taking on Tennessee this week, the Dawgs are definitely not out of the SEC East race yet, therefore still in contention to reach Atlanta and thus still in playoff contention. A big win against the Vols could go a long way to restore some confidence.

♦ I find Texas A&M very interesting. The Aggies might be my favorite team to watch. In terms of SEC watchability it goes: 1. A Steve Spurrier news conference, 2. Texas A&M football. The game against Arkansas will actually be a test for the defense. The Razorbacks lead the SEC in rushing yards per game. And in a football sense, the PigSooies play a rather physical style of game. That means they hit the snot out of people. So this is another "statement game," but more for the Aggies' defense. The offense will do some wizardry and you will continue to bow down to Kevin Sumlin.

Mark Spoor: What, you don't think beating Troy was a confidence builder, Eric?

Eric Vander Voort: Well sure, getting a 66-0 win like that helps. But for now, there is still that zero in the division win column. If Georgia can start to get on a roll, watch out.

That Texas A&M-Arkansas matchup has potential to be tons of fun. It's two of the top three scoring teams in the country (Texas A&M second, Arkansas third). Kenny Hill and the Aggies are fourth in passing offense, while Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins and the Razorbacks are eighth in rushing offense. The Hogs were tied at the half with Auburn in Week 1. Don't be surprised to see them keep it closer longer.

2. Florida State escaped with a win against Clemson last week as Jameis Winston watched from the sideline. Is there a team suited to jump the Noles to take over the No. 1 spot?

Eric Vander Voort: The only reason Florida State is No. 1 is the fact that it won last year’s national championship. This season, I’d say there are a minimum of six teams that have been more impressive than the Seminoles so far. First-place votes have been finding their way to other teams, and I think that trend will continue in the next few weeks. Second-ranked Oregon has some chances to prove itself, with its next three games against UCLA, Arizona and Washington, which are a combined 11-0. Alabama has Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas A&M as its next three. Florida State? NC State, Wake Forest and Syracuse. If other teams can win some of these big games while Florida State doesn’t have a chance to prove itself, we could easily see a new No. 1 in the next few weeks.

Craig Thomas: Florida State will have to lose in order to drop from No. 1. Teams that win titles learn it is much easier to climb the mountain than it is to set up camp there. That's why what Alabama has done in the Nick Saban era has just been so impressive. That team reloads every year and it takes a fluke play to knock out them. ... Florida State could use the Clemson game as a rallying cry and focus for the season.

Mark Spoor: I knew Big E would get Cuse in there. ... I would have said Oregon, but the way it seemed last week against 1-3 Washington State makes me think not. Alabama's second-half performance against Florida was quite a statement.

Craig Thomas: I noticed no one mentioned Oklahoma and I think it might make a nice run at No. 1. The West Virginia game not withstanding -- Morgantown, West Virginia, is hell to play in. I'm liking OU's Samaje Perne.

Mark Spoor: Craig, what if FSU wins -- but too close. Still No. 1? I always wonder how much that matters. Seems to be a great deal.

AlabamaThe Crimson Tide are rolling early on in 2014.
Eric Vander Voort: I'm nowhere close to having an actual vote, but if I did have one, I just can't imagine voting for Florida State above Oregon or Alabama if all are still undefeated three weeks from now. This should be about this season; Florida State was clearly missing more than just Jameis Winston from its team that won the title when it played Clemson last weekend.

Craig Thomas: You have to lose to drop from No. 1! Stats boy -- that's you, Eric -- name me one team that fell from No. 1 without losing. When Florida State loses, then it can drop from No. 1.

Eric Vander Voort: My point is, why do they deserve to be No. 1 in the first place?

Craig Thomas: They won the national title last year.

Mark Spoor: I'm with E. If Alabama runs that gauntlet over the next few weeks still unbeaten, how are the Tide not No. 1?

Craig Thomas: BECAUSE FLORIDA STATE DIDN'T LOSE!!!!!! In this futurama we are discusing where Alabama is No. 1, has FSU lost?

Mark Spoor: No, but they had at least one scare. Maybe an OT.

Eric Vander Voort: No, and I don't think they will lose anytime soon. But when comparing resumes, I'm going to take the team with the best wins this season. I don't care about what anyone did in 2013 anymore.

Craig Thomas: That's why we have a playoff this year.

Mark Spoor: So in that case, is being No. 4 the same as No. 1?

Craig Thomas: No -- it means you are the visiting team in the Rose Bowl. But yeah -- if my team is No. 4 in the College Football Playoff poll, I'm happy.

Eric Vander Voort: You have to earn that top seed. It shouldn't have been determined before the season started.

Craig Thomas: So no team is No. 1 in Week 1? You need to start somewhere. Florida State started the season at No. 1.

Mark Spoor: Preseason polls are an entire issue, themselves.

Eric Vander Voort: Of course there's going to be a preseason No. 1. But that doesn't mean voters can't change their minds based on what they see on the field.

Craig Thomas: And they will stay there until they lose. <Drops mic>

3. The Big Ten went 12-1 last week. Has that changed your perception of the conference and its chances of having a team qualify for the playoff?

Craig Thomas: Ohio State and Michigan State are still the best programs in the Big Ten. But last week was a nice way for people to remove their countdown to basketball tickers. But the Big Ten did have a nice bounceback week in the last meaningful Saturday of non-conference play. They went 3-0 against the ACC and Indiana wasn't a basketball school for a Saturday afternoon.

Mark Spoor: I’m a Big Ten fan -- in fact, I’ve been called “Mr. Sparty” here before, but no. Yes, Indiana had a nice win, but Michigan State beat Eastern Michigan, Ohio State didn’t play and Michigan lost.

Michigan StateWill the Spartans earn a CFB playoff spot?
Eric Vander Voort: Perhaps my opinion has changed just a little bit. Color me mildly impressed with the Big Ten’s Week 4. The Indiana win at Missouri is nice, and some mid-tier teams like Iowa and Maryland had some solid wins. But do I think all of a sudden that the Big Ten is back to having a de facto guaranteed playoff spot? Not at all. That’s going to take some work. I do think we can all slow down a little bit on slamming the conference, though.

Mark Spoor: It's going to take a lot more than one good weekend to get rid of the bad taste left in folks mouths a few weeks ago.

Craig Thomas: But let's be honest -- the most interesting thing I've heard this week about the Big Ten was a Cincinnati professor threatened to fail any student he saw wearing any Ohio State gear. UC-OSU -- the Battle of Ohio!

Eric Vander Voort: If a Big Ten team is going to make a run to the playoff, it's Michigan State. That Oregon loss won't look so bad in hindsight, and it being early in the season will make it easier for the committee to have more of a "what have you done for me lately" mindset.

Mark Spoor: Michigan State-Nebraska in two weeks will go a long way in determining how good Sparty really is.

Craig Thomas: Nebraska will always be a Big 8 team.

Eric Vander Voort: Definitely. I gave Nebraska a thought too, but I give Michigan State a much better shot to run the table the rest of the way than the Huskers.

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