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College Football Playoff threat watch, Week 9: Oregon returns, flaws and all

An instantaneous survey of four teams in the best position for the College Football Playoff's four spots at this very moment, plus the biggest threats looming for each. Be advised: these have nothing to do with the Top 25 polls. If you get mad about this, you will be pointed to the previous sentence.

1. Florida State

Brilliantly scheduled a bye week prior to a deeply hazardous Thursday night road game against Louisville.

Of all the undefeated teams in recent memory, the Seminoles are among the wobbliest by trend, sleepwalking through an underwhelming ACC schedule, getting dominated on the stat sheet for much of a near-miss against Notre Dame, and having little in the way of a run game. But this is a sport played by 18- to 22-year-olds with limited practice schedules and very little experience, and the Seminoles are America's most dependable college football team.

Threats: That aforementioned road game at Louisville this Thursday, a home game against Virginia, and a road game against Miami. The Noles are basically in the Playoff already, barring a loss to Boston College. (They're losing to Boston College because this is 2014, and every seventh year in college football, the chaos locusts come out of the ground to breed.)

2. Mississippi State

Avoided a road upset at the hands of Kentucky, a team threatening to become rather good. A 45-31 victory highlighted by Josh Robinson's thunderous running will be presented to suit your desired Playoff argument below:

  • SEC fan: "Stop laughing, Kentucky would win the Big Ten, y'all."
  • Pac-12 fan: "No, it's pretty cool that your Oregon State doesn't even have to play a nine-game schedule to get in the national title conversation. Hope you enjoy humidity and not having In-N-Out."
  • Big 12 fan: "Let me check and see what Texas wants us to say about this."
  • ACC fan: [file not found]
  • Big Ten fan: "Feelings are a pernicious lie of the ultimate traitor: human consciousness. The SEC cheats."

The nice part about being an undefeated SEC team going into the first week of November is that you can avoid paying Mack Brown for a football politics consulting fee. You can instead simply point to being "an undefeated SEC team going into the first week of November."

Threats: At Alabama and at Ole Miss for The Egg Bowl At The End Of The Universe.

3. Oregon

A 59-41 win over Cal doesn't prove much you didn't already know about Oregon, but it did sort of drive home your convictions that a.) Cal is insane and is out to create the longest football game ever played every week, and b.) Oregon is pretty similar to Florida State in having a star QB, an underwhelming defense, and obvious weaknesses teams still can't manage to exploit. They're also different in having an actual schedule, something Florida State does not have, through little fault of its own. (It's not FSU's fault that the ACC is leprous or that Oklahoma State's and Florida's seasons have curdled.)

Threats: Stanford in Eugene is the obvious stumbling block from past seasons, but that road game on November 8 in Salt Lake City against Utah may be this year's intolerable brutality for the Ducks.

4. Notre Dame

No movement, as Notre Dame spent the bye week reviewing the rules concerning offensive pass interference.

Threats: Honestly, the rest of their schedule and the round of championship games are their biggest threat. Their best opponent left is Arizona State, and the lack of a championship game as an independent will bump their strength of schedule into subprime territory.


Ole Miss, which lost 10-7 to LSU on a night when Bad Bo Wallace showed up with a vengeance and did not cease until he had thrown the Rebels' last chance to tie the game into the hands of an LSU DB.


Baylor, whose one loss to the Mountaineers now makes things very complicated.


  • TCU SCORED 82 POINTS ON TEXAS TECH. Legally, any time you score more than 80 points, it should appear in all-caps.
  • Alabama, proud owners of a satisfying, 34-20 win over Tennessee.
  • Michigan State, victors and champions of the (relative) West, beating Michigan 35-11.
  • Auburn, whose 42-35 win over South Carolina was among the least responsible and most enjoyable ways to spend four football quarters this weekend.
  • Kansas State blanked Texas, 23-0, and yes, you're damn right Bill Snyder was polite enough to give Charlie Strong a written receipt to keep for his financial records.
  • Arizona outpaced Washington State, 59-37, but then again most teams do.
  • Nebraska, which beat Rutgers, 42-24, but who could still reach Bo Pelini's usual mark of 9-4.


  • Utah, which beat USC, 24-21, but whose lone loss is to a bad two-win Washington State
  • Arizona State, a one-loss team whose one loss was a huge, flat-flop 62-27 fiasco at home against a two-loss UCLA team.