During a recent discussion about Tuesday’s impending release of the first College Football Playoff rankings, selection committee chairman Jeff Long made it clear he’s been doing his homework.
The Arkansas athletic director estimated he has watched portions of “well over 100 games” this season, including an Oct. 4 man-cave extravaganza during the Razorbacks’ bye week. Long said he hunkered down at home, with three televisions in action, and watched college football telecasts from the 11 a.m. kickoffs until the final gun sounded at 1:55 a.m. to end the late-night West Coast matchup.
Inspired by Long’s dedication, I replicated his Sofa Spud Saturday in hope of offering keen insights for committee members when they convene Monday in Grapevine to discuss the initial CFP rankings.
The committee’s first set of weekly Top 25 rankings will be released Tuesday. The top four teams in the Dec. 7 rankings will participate in the four-team playoff bracket. With historic votes approaching, Saturday marked my final opportunity to help shape the initial ballots of committee members (aren’t all of them Star-Telegram subscribers?)
Based on what unfolded Saturday, committee members need to give more love to the Purple People from the Big 12 — No. 11 Kansas State (6-1, 4-0 in Big 12) and No. 10 TCU (6-1, 3-1) — than pollsters have shown when identifying the nation’s best team with only one loss.
They should realize No. 8 Michigan State (7-1) is overrated and untested. The Spartans’ only matchup against a fellow top-10 team resulted in a 46-27 loss to No. 6 Oregon, and the Big Ten conference schedule is a weekly pillow fight.
At the top of the bracket, there’s no reason to defrock No. 1 Mississippi State for holding off an inspired Kentucky team 45-31 in the Bulldogs’ first appearance as the nation’s top-ranked team.
Sadly, production deadlines prevented me from assisting committee members through the conclusion of Saturday’s late games. But the following timeline shows I helped as long as I could.
One final word to committee members: You’re welcome. Use these notes at will in Tuesday’s voting session:
11:19 a.m.: Kansas State kicks a field goal to cap its first drive against Texas. It seems like we’ve seen this movie before.
11:40 a.m.: Illinois, a Big Ten cellar-dweller playing with its backup quarterback, seizes a quick 14-0 lead over Minnesota, a Big Ten division leader (for now).
12:05 p.m.: Just saw a replay of the season’s greatest play: Arkansas’ TD pass from OT Sebastian Tretola (6-foot-5, 350 pounds) to C Alan D’Appollonio (from unbalanced line formation). Tretola shifted into the backfield to take the snap, leaving the center uncovered as an eligible receiver. The Razorbacks will not be a playoff team but they are creative.
2:17 p.m.: Kansas State wraps up a 23-0 victory over Texas, becoming the first team in 10 years to shut out the Longhorns. The offense stayed conservative to protect QB Jake Waters’ ailing shoulder yet K-State never was challenged. I spy a top-10 team and a playoff contender in those purple jerseys.
2:32 p.m.: Minnesota falls to Illinois 28-24. It serves as the latest reminder that the Gophers (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) and their league remain a long way from playoff worthy.
3:13 p.m.: No. 22 West Virginia hits Oklahoma State with Mario Alford’s 79-yard TD catch, taking a quick 14-0 lead on the road. Without question, these Mountaineers are in the Big 12 race for the long haul.
3:16 p.m.: TCU snuffs out Tech’s drive in the red zone to protect a 14-10 lead. That may be a game-changer.
3:27 p.m.: No. 1 Mississippi State wobbles into the second quarter with a 10-7 lead. The Bulldogs look sluggish after last week’s bye.
3:48 p.m.: TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin hits Deante’ Gray in the back of the end zone on a post route, the latest example of a 2014 TD pass that the Horned Frogs’ QB was not equipped to make in 2013.
3:56 p.m.: Michigan kicker Matt Wile hits a 48-yard field goal in swirling wind, moving Wolverines to within 7-3 of No. 8 Michigan State.
4:04 p.m.: Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford finds the end zone, upping the Spartans’ halftime edge to 14-3 in an eventual 35-11 win.
4:15 p.m.: Florida Atlantic, a 3-4 team, checks in with a 16-14 halftime lead at No. 23 Marshall (8-0). Even by coming back for a 35-16 triumph, Marshall will be hard-pressed to escalate its PR campaign for a playoff berth this week.
5:23 p.m.: Kentucky keeps pecking away at MSU, this time with a 61-yard TD pass from QB Patrick Towles to WR Javess Blue. It’s 31-24.
5:36 p.m.: Fox commentators lobby for TCU’s playoff chances after Boykin’s 57-yard TD strike to Ty Slanina ups the lead to 61-20. Based on this landslide, it’s hard to argue.
5:43 p.m.: Mississippi State RB Josh Robinson pops a 73-yard touchdown run, boosting the Bulldogs’ lead to 38-24 and turning the momentum in a 14-point win.
5:40 p.m.: Boykin’s school-record seventh TD pass of the game boosts the Frogs’ lead to 68-27. And we’re not even in the fourth quarter yet.
6:04 p.m.: West Virginia closes out OSU 34-10. It’s the first time for the Mountaineers to win consecutive road games as a Big 12 member. They’ll test TCU next week in Morgantown, W.Va.
6:37 p.m.: TCU puts the wrap on its 82-27 romp. The Frogs send a loud, clear message to the selection committee.
College Football Playoff
• First rankings announced at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN.
• Subsequent rankings will be announced at 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday on ESPN through Dec. 2.
• Final rankings and semifinal bowl selections will be announced at 11:45 a.m. Dec. 7.
• Semifinals will be Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
• Championship will be at AT&T Stadium on Jan. 12