By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Editor
Last week, Oregon. This week, Alabama. Things are all falling into place for the Bears to make it to the playoff. Who would’ve thought such a thing was even possible two months ago — let alone two years.
Baylor came into the week at No. 9 in the playoff rankings — its first time in the top-10 since Week 12 four years ago. The Bears then proceeded to trounce Les Miles-led Kansas 61-6 for their second-best offensive performance of the year and their best defensive. That was step one this week.
Then, Alabama had to lose, and lose they did. The Auburn Tigers took down the Crimson Tide after a missed Alabama field goal with two minutes remaining. There was a myriad of questionable calls, but in the end, Nick Saban’s playoff dreams were crushed, and Auburn fans were storming the field.
Utah still won, as did the others in the top-four, but that only starts to matter this coming week. For Baylor to squeeze in, three or four things have to happen. LSU has to beat Georgia, otherwise, both teams are in and no other game particularly matters. Oregon has to beat Utah, giving the Pac-12 a two-loss champion, and a two-loss team has yet to make the playoff.
Finally, the Bears have to beat Oklahoma. Three weeks ago, they came just about as close as it gets, but they let it slip out through their fingers. Since that loss (their only loss), Baylor’s defense has been incredible, holding Texas and Kansas to a combined 16 points, and its offense has been impressive. This time the Sooners will have CeeDee Lamb, so coverages and production will probably be different. But if Baylor can play like they did in that first half, all bets are off on who wins this game.
Oh, and it would help if Ohio State beat Wisconsin, but it may not be entirely necessary for Baylor to make it into the final four.
Jim Harbaugh should still be the coach at Big Blue in February. Yes, he’s lost five in a row to Michigan’s arch-rival. Yes, he will have only finished in the top-10 twice in his five years. But, he’s led a team to a Super Bowl and has made Michigan at least relevant again.
The Maize and Blue will never again be the Alabama-esque powerhouse it once was. It’s simply not relevant enough in the national conversation — especially Michigan’s recruiting basse cares more about basketball. Plus, Ohio State is cooler. They’ve had more success, and it seems that their new head coach can keep their success going.
The Wolverines need to strive for success, and that doesn’t necessarily mean a national championship run each year. Just being competitive in the hyper-talented Big 10 East, plus a few conference titles every few years, should give the Ann Arbor faithful satisfaction.
The other three top-four schools beat their rivalry week opponents by an average of 41 points. LSU got revenge after their seven-overtime loss in Aggieland last season, locking the Bayou Bengals into the playoff. Clemson rolled over South Carolina, and Georgia beat down Georgia Tech, placing both in “win and they’re in” scenarios.
The top-four teams are so clearly better than everyone else. I honestly hope LSU loses so we get the four best teams in, but even I’m not naive enough to believe that will happen. The committee will appease the Big 12 or Pac-12. It’s only a matter of who earns their way in.