Week 11 College Football Q&A: Will the Big 12 break into the CFP top four?
Every Friday, NCAA.com will run ‘Third and Long,’ a look at three different questions facing the college football world. Our panelists this week are Sam Richmond, Joe Boozell and Courtney Martinez.
1. There are 18 games between Top 25 teams and unranked teams this weekend. Are you putting any of the ranked teams on upset alert?
Sam Richmond: I’m putting UCLA on upset alert. Washington State is playing some really good football right now, and they have a decent shot at taking down the Bruins. The Cougars are winners in four of their last five games, with their lone loss being a close 30-28 battle with No. 7 Stanford. Mike Leach’s squad is capable of hanging with top teams.
Also, we’ve seen the Bruins lay an egg against an inferior team already this season. Arizona State, a team Washington State beat by two touchdowns last week, toppled UCLA 38-23 at the Rose Bowl in October. The Bruins need to come out ready to go or history will repeat itself on Saturday.
Joe Boozell: It goes without saying that I love me some Josh Rosen, but I like Washington State’s chances quite a bit going up against No. 19 UCLA. Luke Falk is quietly one of the better quarterbacks in the nation, and the Cougars are quietly 6-3. They’re coming off a 14-point win over Arizona, and just two weeks prior, they took Stanford down to the wire before losing by two.
UCLA is banged up on both sides of the ball, and though they’re playing in the friendly confines of the Rose Bowl, I could see Wazzu pulling this one out.
Courtney Martinez: I was tempted to say Florida State against NC State but last time my upset prediction for FSU was a bust. So I’ll stick with this Pac-12 theme and go with Stanford. The Ducks haven’t been themselves this year but they still enter the game on a 3-game win streak and Vernon Adams is back to where he was before his injury. The Cardinal has played spoiler to Oregon winning the conference twice before in 2012 and 2013, so you know the Ducks are just itching to return the favor.
2. The Big 12 continues to lag behind others in the CFP rankings. Is this a trend, or can a Big 12 team play its way into the Playoff with a big month?
JB: If a Big 12 team goes unbeaten, I still think it will get someone into the College Football Playoff. It was no secret that the Big 12 conference schedule was backloaded. If Baylor or Oklahoma State comes out of the regular season unscathed, they’ll have wins over TCU, Baylor/OK State and Oklahoma. I believe that’s a stronger resume than Notre Dame’s would be, even if they beat Stanford.
With that said, no Big 12 school is getting in with a loss, and these teams are leaving themselves very little margin for error since their nonconference schedules leave a lot to be desired. Still, I think either Baylor or Oklahoma State will get in by the skin of its teeth.
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SR: If Baylor or Oklahoma State wins out, they have to be included in the College Football Playoff. While neither has had a difficult schedule thus far, they each have three games against teams currently ranked in the top 15 remaining on their schedule. An undefeated team from a Power Five conference with big wins like that on its resume is not getting left outside of the coveted top four.
Even Oklahoma, who already has a loss, isn’t completely out of the picture. The Sooners have a similarly difficult schedule down the stretch and would have a case to make the playoff if they win out.
3. After the way Derrick Henry outperformed Leonard Fournette last Saturday, how important should head-to-head results be in the Heisman debate?
CM: Honestly, how many instances do you see two potential finalists really compete head-to-head? I would assume not very often. Plus, this wasn't like it was defensive candidate going up against an offensive candidate. Henry and Fournette weren't rushing against each other. Regardless, it doesn’t need to factor into the Heisman race. Henry and Fournette should and will be evaluated on their overall body of work, not just the one game where Henry had a better performance.
SR: I don’t think head-to-head results should factor in the Heisman race at all. It’s not as if Fournette and Henry were on the field at the same time, so one’s performance has no impact on the other’s.
Still, it’s worth noting that Henry jumped Fournette as the new frontrunner for the Heisman in my weekly look at the race following Week 10. But that’s simply because Henry had a great game in which his team won and improved its chances of making the College Football Playoff, while the opposite can be said of Fournette.
JB: Not very. I get it – it’s easy to compare the two at the same time on the same field. But how would Derrick Henry have fared against the A’Shawn Robinson-led Alabama defensive line? My guess is not much better (and possibly worse) than Fournette. If anything, these two should be judged on how they perform against common defenses. After all, they both play in the SEC West.