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Who Makes the Playoffs? The Big Questions for Week 15 in College Football

Mississippi State v Alabama
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After a wild and unpredictable year, it all comes down to this. Here are the top storylines as we look ahead to the final weekend of the college football regular season.

Is This the Week Florida State’s Luck Comes to an End?

The Seminoles have been living a charmed life this season, with six second-half comebacks and nearly that many police and university “investigations” quietly going away.

Can that luck continue against a surprisingly tough 10-2 Georgia Tech squad that ranks fourth nationally in rushing and has won its last five games by an average of nearly 23 points per game? While the Florida State defense is solid, they have not been as dominant as last year and could have problems with a triple-option offense that is third in the nation in offensive efficiency and first in third-down conversions. If the Yellow Jackets can convert those third downs and run the clock, all bets are off.

Jameis Winston has thrown 11 interception in his last six games and will now go against a Yellow Jacket defense that is ninth nationally in that category. With all that said, the Seminoles have gotten out of plenty of touch situations this year and, as much as I’d love to see playoff chaos, it’s hard to pick against them extending their winning streak to an ACC-record 29 games.

Will Minnesota Determine the National Champion?

Baylor beat TCU head-to-head, but finds itself looking up at the Horned Frogs in the playoff standings largely due to the playoff committee’s consideration of strength of schedule. Both teams played SMU and an FCS team. But TCU’s resume includes an impressive 30-7 win over 8-4 Minnesota while the Bears beat up on 5-6 Buffalo. Thus far, the committee has put more stock in that “quality win” over the Golden Gophers than in TCU’s fourth-quarter collapse against the Bears.

Baylor will have a chance to earn some style points this week against No. 12 Kansas State. But after a lackluster two-point win over Texas Tech last week, the Bears are quickly running out of time to narrow the gap.

Can Mizzou Shock the College Football World?

It still boggles my mind that a team that lost to Indiana at home could be the SEC champions. But that’s exactly the situation in which Missouri finds itself, one win away from winning its first SEC title and, ironically, knocking the SEC out of the playoffs entirely. Since dropping a 34-0 loss to Georgia, the Tigers have gone 6-0, with four of those wins coming as Vegas underdogs. So it’s not like they’re not capable of pulling the upset.

But the Tigers have not won a conference title since 1969, and I just don’t see this being the team to break that dry spell. Like it or not, the football gods have decreed that the SEC will always be in title contention and Alabama is this year’s golden calf. Missouri ranks 16th nationally in total defense, but has been prone to giving up big plays in the passing game. So look for star receiver Amari Cooper to have a big game.



The No. 1 song in America the last time Mizzou claimed a conference championship.

Can Someone Cheer Up Michigan Fans?

It’s been a rough season for the Wolverines, with the team struggling to a 5-7 record and coach Brady Hoke getting fired on Tuesday. But Arizona is rubbing salt in the wounds by continuing to win and now putting hated former coach Rich Rodriguez in position to possibly play for a national title.

After backing their way into the Pac-12 title game thanks to Stanford pulling an upset of UCLA, the No. 7 Wildcats suddenly find themselves in a position to now back their way into the playoffs. Yes, they would need some help in the form of upsets at the top this week. But they’ve already beaten Oregon once this season (31-24 in Eugene) and another win over the Ducks would certainly look good in the eyes of the playoff committee.

This is the third straight year that the Pac-12 title game is a rematch. In both previous cases, the team that won in the regular season also went on to win the championship. So Michigan fans can be forgiven if they don’t tune in for this one—the pain might be too much to bear.

Rich Rod? Seriously?

How Will the Committee Judge Ohio State?

If there is an upset in the top four this week, the playoff selection committee might have an even tougher decision to make than the ongoing TCU/Baylor controversy. How exactly will they rank Ohio State after the season-ending injury to starting quarterback J.T. Barrett? After Barrett went down with a broken ankle in last week’s win over Michigan, Cardale Jones stepped in, but attempted just three passes, completing two for only seven yards.

Remember, Barrett was the backup before Braxton Miller went down at the start of the season with an injury, so the Buckeyes will essentially be playing a third-stringer this week. If they can get past Wisconsin and the nation’s leading rusher, Melvin Gordon, will the committee really consider Ohio State one of the nation’s top teams after losing so much talent at the top? We may be about to find out.

I like their odds if band performance is taken into consideration.

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