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College Football Playoff threat watch, Week 5: Just don't play Arkansas

All of the SEC West is mentioned here in one way or another, along with the country's other top contenders for the first College Football Playoff.

An instantaneous survey of five 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.


You're never sure what someone does against the bye week. Rest assured that whatever it was for Marcus Mariota, it was stunning, balletic, and missed by half the sportswriters in America. He did it after their bedtimes on the East Coast. Why are our sportswriters so sleepy despite having to perform literally no manual labor during the day? Is there a chronic fatigue syndrome associated with their work?

Can it be correlated with all of them watching the degenerative disease known as Michigan football during the day? It's definitely that. Stop watching Michigan football, sportswriters, and start watching Pac-12 football, even if it's late in the day. It's why they make unregulated liquid stimulants you can purchase in bulk at any store in America and put in your stupid face. It's so you can watch Oregon and note how well their existing key victories (Michigan State and Washington State) have held up as foundational building blocks for their strength of schedule.

Threats: Stanford (November 1) remains capable of sucking the life out of any team. But the next two games should shoot mild terror directly into the veins of Oregon fans: a tricky Thursday game against Arizona followed by a road game against UCLA. That UCLA, the one with pieces of Arizona State still stuck in its teeth.

Texas A&M

I have a friend whose grandmother often offered to fight men in her family, rolling up her sleeves, assuming the stance of a Gilded Age boxer and announcing "You might win, but YOU'RE GONNA BLEED." That insane old lady is Arkansas in the SEC West: physical, brutal, and capable of making you feel like you lost even when you win.

Texas A&M struggled to stop Arkansas, yes, and had to wrestle every last ounce of the Razorbacks' 50,000-pound offensive line for 60 minutes just to get the chance to survive, much less win.

But the Aggies survived, and not just against your average, fairly amped division rival. It's a testament to the monsoon of hammers and misery that is the SEC West that Arkansas has improved dramatically, become the most punishing team in the division, and will likely finish no better than third in the final standings behind the Aggies and Alabama. That's so not fair, just like nothing is fair about the way Texas A&M can lay low for the better part of three and a half quarters before jolting to life and winning a game with both offense and a timely appearance by the defense.

You won, Texas A&M. But you bled.

Threats: Mississippi State this coming week, now that the Aggies have all those bruises from playing Arkansas. Oh, and the rest of their heinously deep SEC West schedule, including Alabama, Auburn, and LSU.

Florida State

Nothing much really changed from what you suspected were Florida State's strengths and weaknesses this week. Sure, it was jarring to see it illustrated so clearly against NC State: the rushing offense still didn't gain as many yards against NC State as Old Dominion did, the passing offense still seems to be Jameis Winston-to-Rashad Greene and then a guess as to the rest, and FSU's defense as a whole remains a cheerful, gullible friend to opposing offenses.

As a team with the luxury of an ACC schedule, the Seminoles may have enough time to grow through the pains of becoming a well-rounded football team by the end of the season. Then again, this may be what they are: an uneven, offense-first team with a weak run game, a masterful passing game, and a defense that sometimes can't chase down a fart with a golf cart and a net. No, I don't know what that means, either, but you can bet that twangmaster Jimbo Fisher has said it very quickly at one point in his life.

Threats: Notre Dame, Louisville, and ... um ... Boston College? Sure, we'll say that Boston College is a threat to Florida State's playoff chances, mostly because we believe in the Steve Addazio Theory Of Real Dudes.


Based on what Ole Miss did against Memphis this weekend, it is safe to say that a.) Ole Miss next week will be the most serious defensive challenge for the Crimson Tide yet, and b.) quarterback Bo Wallace could undo all the seriousness of that solid defensive challenge with his often whimsical offensive decision-making.

Threats: Texas A&M, Auburn, and for the first time in the Bielema era, Arkansas? Sure, let's assume it wouldn't be easy to get punched in the ribs for four quarters, even if you are Alabama.


Our third winner of a triumphant blowout of the bye week. Well done, you genius Bob Stoops, you.

Threats: Baylor and Oklahoma State and that's really it. The Big 12 backloads its schedules so hard that if Oklahoma does lose to someone like, say, Baylor, then it will be very hard to win back that voting momentum by winning against teams like Kansas and Texas Tech late in the season.

Oklahoma should beat Baylor in a football game on November 8, and that's the kind of expert advice you simply can't get anywhere else.




Baylor, leaving a crater on the field in Ames where Iowa State once stood.

UCLA, which is so very close to the top five but just misses it due to Arizona State being a serious accomplice in its own demise. (Also, we can't quite shake Memphis almost beating the Bruins at home, which is really more of an emotional problem with us than with UCLA.)

Auburn, which just screams "9-3 with a loss to Alabama" thanks to subpar run blocking throughout the year and a still-questionable defense.

Notre Dame? No really, we're not trying to get them killed in a New Year's Day game, or at least we would never admit that out loud.


Ole Miss and Mississippi State, because both are undefeated and that still feels so very strange at this point in the football season.