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College Football Playoff threat watch, Week 11: TCU flips into the top 4

Auburn's fall makes room in the top four for a new team in the if-the-season-ended-right-now Playoff picture.

An instantaneous survey of the teams in the best position for the College Football Playoff at this moment, led once again by the most revered and respected institution in all of amateur sports.

1. Florida State

An improving, sleepy, reigning champion, as evidenced by only going down by one TD before begrudgingly waking up, putting on a robe, and beating Virginia 34-20 in pajamas. Jameis Winston was error-prone again, throwing two picks to one TD on the night. The positives for the Seminoles: the defense played well, they sort of rushed the ball, and the rest of their schedule is fairly easy.

Threats: A road game at Miami next week should test the Noles' run defense, as well as their tolerance for working in vast, oceanic silences.

2. Mississippi State

Paid UT-Martin for the privilege of losing, 45-16. Not having witnessed a real game, let's just treat this like the bye week it was and instead focus on the very strong case Mississippi State could make for itself next week against Alabama. And also on the embarrassing habits of SEC athletic directors and out-of-conference scheduling.

Threats: Alabama next week and Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl at the end of the season.

3. Oregon

51-27 over Utah does not really tell the full story of the game here. Utah held Oregon close for three quarters, playing a gritty, defensive-minded match punctuated with timely plays from the Utes offense. Then, in the fourth quarter, Oregon decided it did not want a close game, began ripping off huge plays with ease, and turned a 30-27 game with 11 minutes remaining into a 24-point blowout at the end.


The Ducks also suffered key injuries to center Hroniss Grasu and tight end Pharaoh Brown, which would matter even more if the next two opponents were not lowly Colorado and struggling Oregon State.

Threats: Oregon State, because anything can happen in a rivalry game? Until the Pac-12 title game, it's really just a matter of finding enough linemen to stand around and watch Marcus Mariota levitate through opposing defenses.

4. TCU

The most frightening stat from the Horned Frogs' 41-20 win over Kansas State: after allowing about 100 rushing yards per game on defense, the Wildcats evaporated under the onslaught of TCU's rushing attack, giving up 334 yards on the ground.

TCU is playing brilliant three-phase football right now, and it would be a largely irrelevant and unnecessary cruelty to mention that one bad quarter against Baylor separates it from a perfect season. Remember that one bad quarter, though? Or that you'll have to go get Trevone Boykin from wherever he's floating in orbit?

by Nick Pants


Alabama, winners of a 20-13 game against LSU that was a kind of football amnesia.

Ohio State, now the Big Ten's greatest hope for a spot after a 49-37 win over Michigan State.

Baylor, which might have accidentally weakened its strength of schedule by whipping Oklahoma so badly in a 48-14 blowout.

The steadily climbing Arizona State Sun Devils, victors over Notre Dame, 55-31.

And the Nebraska Cornhuskers (on a bye week) and Duke Blue Devils (27-10 over Syracuse), both still technically alive for a Playoff spot, whether you want to admit it or not.


Auburn lost a 41-38 shootout to Texas A&M via a literally and figuratively painful disaster: the buttsnap, as in Auburn center Reese Dismukes snapping the ball into his own ass, turning the ball over to the Aggies defense with less than a minute remaining, and bouncing the last chance to preserve Auburn's title hopes off his posterior. (The Auburn defense ruined its chances at least 40 times prior to this happening, but poor Reese messed up last.)

Michigan State suffered its second loss of the season, a home defeat to Ohio State in a game reminiscent of its earlier loss this season to Oregon. The Spartans have two quality losses on their resume and the eternal love of Rich Homie Quan. Neither will help them much in the year 2014.

Notre Dame, generous donors of five turnovers in a 55-31 defeat by the Sun Devils. It was closer than the score indicates, and that is something the committee will certainly consider while nodding and politely shredding your application, Irish.

Kansas State is also excused, having left its loss to TCU some time in the first quarter, stating its need for "a glass of water and a sound nap of some considerable length." Two losses eliminate it from contention; the nap, however, might help it regroup for the Big 12 stretch run.


Undefeated Marshall, you're 9-0 and just beat Southern Miss, 63-17, and that's great, even if your strength of schedule won't allow you near the Playoff.

Same for you, 9-1 Colorado State, victors in a 49-22 matchup against Hawai'i. Screw the Playoff, and go get some Waffle House for the whole team anyway.