Gamblin’ with Garret: Week 11

Six straight winning weeks for ya boy Garret has this column flush with spending cash. You’re running out of time to get in on the action.

College. Football! PLAYOFF!

Like I told you last week, the playoff portrait is going to paint itself over the course of the next few weeks. Clemson is firmly established in the top spot after finally getting past the Florida State boss level. Alabama survived its SEC elimination game against LSU. Ohio State seems to have suspended J.T. Barrett for the right game, and can now return to him the keys of a miraculously unscratched Ferrari. And Notre Dame is No. 4.

OK. That last one is a little weird.

Now, the thing about writing a weekly college football recap is that by the time the whiskey is poured and the fingers hit the keyboard, most horses have been beaten to death and repeatedly kicked postmortem. So I’m not here to bring up the committee’s (mostly flawed) logic in putting the Irish in the top four. I’m not here to question Iowa moving from nine to five on the strength of beating *cough* Indiana *cough*.

Naw, in a weekly column you have to look forward. So that’s what we’re going to do this week.

I don’t think anyone believes that the top four is going to look like this in four weeks. College football does weird things as the days grow shorter. So let’s take a look at which teams currently outside the top four are most likely to be in the playoff discussion come December.

Keeping in mind that, this being college football, teams generally need to lose for other teams to move up. We first need to look into the top four and determine which spots could actually open up. A cursory glance at Clemson’s remaining schedule would point toward the Tigers coasting into the playoff. Alabama similarly would seem to have a nice path in — needing only to dispose of potential challenges from Mississippi State and SEC-East-short-straw-drawer Florida.

With two spots spoken for, Ohio State is next on the chopping block — and it faces a back-loaded Big Ten West (the good half of the Big Ten) schedule. The Buckeyes must still navigate Michigan State and the annual rivalry game against perennially talented and finally well-coached Michigan. Ohio State is a J.T. Barrett injury or suspension or being kidnapped by Cardale Jones away from dropping one or both of those games.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, will skate along until its season finale against Stanford. However, the Irish are already sitting in the precarious position of having one loss (albeit a two-point defeat at No. 1 Clemson). If, say, Baylor were to run the table and finish the Big 12’s round robin schedule undefeated, the strength of wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU could vault the Bears past Notre Dame.

But who are the teams that could take advantage of a slip up or move into the top four with a few more quality wins:

Teams Currently Ranked 5–15

5. Iowa

6. Baylor

7. Stanford

8. Oklahoma State

9. LSU

10. Utah

11. Florida

12. Oklahoma

13. Michigan State

14. Michigan

15. TCU

This group can be broken down into three camps:

Win and You’re In:

Iowa

Baylor

Stanford

Oklahoma State

Florida

Iowa, Baylor and Oklahoma State, all sitting currently undefeated, will not be left out of the field if they run the table. Stanford has an opportunity to knock Notre Dame out of the top four and could get another top 15 win over Utah in the Pac 12 Championship game. A one-loss Florida team is not getting left out as the SEC Champion.

Gonna Need Some Help:

LSU

Utah

Oklahoma

All three teams have one loss: LSU to a team currently ahead of it, Utah to an underwhelming USC and Oklahoma to a gawd-awful Texas team. It’s least likely that the committee could overlook Oklahoma’s loss. LSU would need Alabama to drop a game to either Mississippi State or Auburn — thus putting the Bayou Bengals into the SEC Championship game, and Utah needs Stanford to beat Notre Dame before falling to the Utes in the Pac 12 championship game.

Ain’t Gonna Happen:

Michigan State

Michigan

TCU

Sorry, Sparty — you can’t lose to Nebraska and make the playoffs. Those are the rules. Michigan has two losses — a two-loss team isn’t getting in. TCU has too many conference mates ahead of it.

So there you have it: With four weeks to play we have 12 teams still in contention for four spots. If I had to guess now, I’d put Clemson, Alabama, Baylor, and Stanford in the playoff — which likely spells doom for the Bears and Cardinal. Sorry, I guess.

HOME TEAM IN CAPS

SYRACUSE (+28.5) over #1 Clemson

The Tigers are due for a letdown after a big win over Florida State.

#2 Alabama (-8) over #17 MISSISSIPPI STATE

I haven’t actually looked at the numbers, but I think the SEC has kicked my ass the most in this column. Here’s the thing: I don’t like watching SEC football. Can’t bring myself to watch a random Mississippi State-Auburn game. I’d rather, y’know, watch offense. That being the case, I can’t get a read on this league. When in doubt take Saban I guess.

#3 Ohio State (-16) over ILLINOIS

Nothing tells a kid “don’t drive drunk” like returning the keys to his Ferrari one week later.

Wake Forest (+27.5) over #4 NOTRE DAME

Irish get ahead by 24 and coast into the victory.

Minnesota (+11.5) over #5 IOWA

Minnesota is 2–0 against the spread since the sudden retirement of Jerry Kill.

#6 BAYLOR (-3) over #12 Oklahoma

Oklahoma was destroyed by this Baylor offense in Norman last year. I don’t think those defensive lapses have been fixed.

Oregon (+9.5) over #7 STANFORD

The Ducks have been, dare I say it, good this year with a healthy Vernon Adams at quarterback.

*SNAPS INTO THE FUTURE* *SEES DON PELLUM’S DEFENSE TRYING TO STOP STANFORD*

#7 STANFORD (-9.5) over Oregon

Blood…. There’s blood everywhere…

#8 Oklahoma State (-14) over IOWA STATE

Blood… There’s blood everywhere…

Arkansas (+7.5) over #9 LSU

LSU combating a post-Alabama hangover.

#10 Utah (-6) over ARIZONA

Still convinced that Las Vegas hates Utah.

#11 Florida (-8.5) over SOUTH CAROLINA

I can excuse Florida sleepwalking through Vanderbilt at home last week. The Commodores don’t garner the Gators’ full attention. A road game at Sakerlina, even a bad Sakerlina, will get the attention of Florida.

#13 MICHIGAN STATE (-14.5) over Maryland

Instead of giving one line of rationale for this pick here’s a link to Nebraska fans’ emails to Chancellor Harvey Perlman after the Huskers’ Purdue loss.

#14 Michigan (-13.5) over INDIANA

We’re going back to the old “Jim Harbaugh is a crazy person and his teams will play as such” theory.

Kansas (+45) over #15 TCU

Yep. I’m actually grabbing the Jayhawks and a shit ton of points. Oddly enough, since joining the Big 12 in 2012, TCU has only won its three games against progressively worse Kansas teams by 14, 10 and four points. The Frogs just don’t care in this one.

#16 FLORIDA STATE (-9.5) over North Carolina State

This game is on ESPN3. Nothing weird will happen on ESPN3.

Purdue (+15.5) over #18 NORTHWESTERN

Since dropping two straight and becoming aware of its Northwesternness mortality, the Wildcats have won two straight by two points each.

Washington State (+10.5) over #19 UCLA

In a season of peaks and valleys, UCLA is due for a Pac 12 After Dark valley.

#20 NAVY (-21) over SMU

Can horses swim?

#22 Temple (-2.5) over SOUTH FLORIDA

South Florida has improved. That doesn’t mean the Bulls are good.

#23 NORTH CAROLINA (-12.5) over Miami

Drinking the Kool-Aid after the pounding the Heels put on Duke last week.

#24 HOUSTON (-7) over #21 Memphis

After the backdoor cover the Cougars gave me last week, I owe them at least one more week of blind faith.

Southern Miss (-7.5) over RICE

I’ve had a hard time picking Rice games because 1) I know nothing about Rice football and 2) I do know a Rice grad. So I naturally want Rice to do well, but have no idea if it will do well. I’ve come to learn that Rice will, in fact, not do well. (Ed. note: Rebuilding year.) This is the best of both worlds: If I’m right, my picks benefit. If I’m wrong, my friends gain roughly 3 percent happiness in Rice playing good football. Everyone wins, except Rice. Rice rarely wins. (Ed. note: Rice is 29–20 over the last four years with a Conference USA championship. It’s a rebuilding year.)

Last Week: 12–11

Season-to-Date: 89–79–4