College Football Week 12: McMurphy’s Law on CFP Rankings, Brian Ferentz, the Announcer Jinx & More
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images. Pictured: The College Football Playoff trophy.
On Tuesday night, wedged between two basketball games, the latest edition of ESPN’s weekly fall television show — also known as the College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings — revealed its latest rankings.
If you missed it, don’t worry: They were almost identical to last week’s rankings. Actually, they had the same 25 teams as last week, but the committee slightly shuffled the deck and moved some teams around.
It also was eerily similar to the rankings from two weeks ago. Is that unusual? Yes.
The selection committee rankings have been so boring that there have been more head coaches that have been fired or resigned (four) than new teams ranked (three) in the past three weeks.
The rankings have become more predictable than Michigan’s second-half offense against Penn State.
Since the initial rankings on Halloween, the committee has ranked only 28 schools — the only changes being Air Force, USC and UCLA replaced by Arizona, Iowa and North Carolina.
What does that tell us about the final three weeks. Actually, absolutely nothing. The biggest, more important aspect to take from this weekly television show is that any rankings occurring before December don’t matter.
The head-to-head comparisons, strength of schedule, most deserving, best resume, the dreaded “eye-test.” None of that matters until the final ranking on Dec. 3.
What did matter in Tuesday’s rankings? Actually, the most significant aspect was not related to potential playoff teams, but Missouri moving into position for its first New Year’s Six bowl appearance.
Missouri jumped from No. 14 to No. 9. That’s significant because if the Tigers close with wins over Florida and Arkansas, the Tigers are virtually guaranteed a New Year’s Six bowl (either the Fiesta, Cotton or Peach).
The only way 10-2 Mizzou could fall out of a New Year’s 6 Six bowl would be if Oregon State — ranked No. 11 this week — moved in front of Missouri and none of the eight teams currently ranked above Missouri fall lower than No. 9.
Oregon State would have to finish with wins over Washington and Oregon to jump Mizzou, but then the Huskies or Ducks would have to remain in front of Missouri.
If Oregon State splits its final two regular-season games, it’s doubtful that would be enough for the Beavers to jump 10-2 Missouri in the final poll, sending the Tigers to their first traditional New Year’s Day bowl since winning the 2012 Cotton Bowl.
Stat of the Week 📈
Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz was doomed. He never had a chance.
Before the season, there was a well-documented clause in his contract that said the Hawkeyes needed to average 25 points a game or else. Iowa was averaging only 19.5 points per game last month when interim AD Beth Goetz announced Ferentz would not return next season.
Yes, Iowa’s offense is — how can I be politically correct about this? — scoring challenged.
Surprisingly, though, if every school fired their offensive coordinator for not averaging 25 points a game, then there would be a lot of folks out of work — 51, to be exact.
Of the 133 FBS schools, nearly 40% didn’t reach the Ferentz line, including nine of the remaining 13 Big Ten schools. Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State and Maryland are the only Big Ten teams averaging more than 25 points per game.
Entering this week, here are the five schools that would have barely made the 25 points per game cut and the next five that would not.
By the way, Iowa currently ranks 123rd out of 133 schools, averaging 18.3 points per game.
- 78. Iowa State, 25.7 points per game
- 79. Florida Atlantic, 25.6
- 80. Utah, 25.3
- 81. Cincinnati, 25.2
- 82. Bowling Green, 25.1
Brian Ferentz Line (25 points per game mark)
- 83. Syracuse, 24.9
- 84. NC State, 24.6
- 85. Marshall, 24.4
- 86. Northern Illinois, 24.2
- 87. Houston, 24.1
TV Eyeball Watch 📺👀
With Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh among those tuning into his Wolverines, Michigan’s road win at Penn State was easily the most-watched game in Week 11 and ranked as the sixth-highest of the season.
FOX had the top two games of week 11 — Michigan at PSU and Utah at Washington.
Before we get to last week’s biggest games, how’s this for a wacky stat: more people have watched Penn State’s two losses than its eight wins combined, based on Nielsen rating. There were 19,120,000 viewers for PSU’s losses vs. Ohio State and Michigan compared to 17,573,000 viewers in PSU's eight wins.
Here are last week’s top-rated games, according to SportsMediaWatch.
Last week’s top five (all times ET):
- Michigan at Penn State, 9.16 million (FOX, noon)
- Utah at Washington, 5.17 million (FOX, 3:30 p.m.)
- Ole Miss at Georgia, 4.83 million (ESPN, 7 p.m.)
- Miami at Florida State, 4.14 million (ABC, 3:30 p.m.)
- Tennessee at Missouri, 3.62 million (CBS, 3:30 p.m.)
Good Teams Win, Great Teams Cover 💰
Vegas’ hometown team is on some kind of red-hot roll.
UNLV not only is having an amazing season under first-year coach Barry Odom (8-2 and tied for the Mountain West lead) but also an even more incredible run against the point spread.
The Runnin’ — and Covering — Rebels are a national-best 9-1 against the number.
It's funny how things work out. In December, Odom hired Bobby Petrino as his offensive coordinator, but three weeks later, Petrino bolted from UNLV to become Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator for Jimbo Fisher.
A week later, Odom hired Texas wide receivers coach Brennan Marion to replace Petrino.
On Sunday, Fisher was fired, so Petrino will be looking for a new gig next year. Meanwhile, Odom — keyed by Marion’s Go-Go attack — has UNLV enjoying its best season in school history.
While UNLV is red-hot against the spread, Vanderbilt is Antarctica-like ice cold.
The Commodores are a dreadful 1-10 against the spread, easily the nation’s worst mark. Vanderbilt doesn’t play this week. I guess you could argue they haven’t played much the past 11 weeks either.
Maybe Significant (Or Not) 🏈
Play-by-play announcer Brian Custer and analyst Rod Gilmore may not be the most welcomed sight for college football coaches over the next couple of weeks.
The ESPN announcers were on the call for Saturday’s Mississippi State at Texas A&M game. Less than 48 hours after the Aggies' win, both A&M’s Jimbo Fisher and Mississippi State’s Zach Arnett were fired. The first time in college football history both coaches from one game were fired — or at least, the first time one received a $76 million buyout.
When the news broke Monday, Gilmore — absolutely one of the best guys in the business and an even better person (did I phrase that right, Rod?) — responded to my tweet about Arnett’s firing: “Man! I do a game and both coaches get fired!”
Gilmore then tweeted: “I don’t think the staffs at FIU v Arkansas will be happy to see our crew this week. 👀”
I don’t think the staffs at FIU v Arkansas will be happy to see our crew this week. 👀 https://t.co/Rjec6l0fNy
— RodGilmore@espn (@RodGilmore) November 13, 2023
He could be on to something.
The future of Arkansas’ Sam Pittman is in question with the Razorbacks (3-7) eliminated from bowl contention. If Pittman joins the ranks of the unemployed, beware the Grim (Gilmore) Reaper of analysts during the final week of the season.
And who should be wary the following week? Gilmore has no idea. He won’t get his assignment for Thanksgiving weekend until next week.
Dream Bowl Projection of the Week 😋
In past weeks, I’ve listed some pretty obvious dreamy bowl matchups we’d love to see, most notably the Lincoln Riley Bowl (USC vs. Oklahoma) and the Brian Kelly Bowl (LSU vs. Notre Dame).
This week, though, I’m going with the Jamey Chadwell Bowl (Liberty vs. Coastal Carolina).
Chadwell was head coach at Coastal for the past four years before moving to Liberty this season. The Flames could finish 13-0 as CUSA champions in the New Orleans Bowl.
Liberty playing Chadwell’s former team near Bourbon Street would be the ultimate chef’s kiss.
100% Guaranteed Pick* 💸
*Will Likely Lose 70% of the Time
New Mexico State vs. Auburn Under 49
At this point, my bowl hopes are crushed. I’m just playing out the stretch. Despite my sub-.500 record, I remain committed to Action Network and am not entering the transfer portal. Please respect my decision.
For this week’s pick, I’ll try some basic logic for once in Auburn vs. New Mexico State.
Auburn hosts Alabama next week, while New Mexico State hosts Jacksonville State. Auburn has clinched a bowl berth, and New Mexico State has clinched a spot in the CUSA title game on Dec. 1.
If I could give both coaches truth serum, they would admit to me they would use a running clock and be fine with a 3-0 Auburn victory. Auburn gets the win, New Mexico State gets its $1.85 million payday, and both teams stay healthy and focus on what’s ahead: Auburn's Iron Bowl and NMSU’s CUSA title game.
For Saturday, I expect a heavy dose of running to burn the clock, very few possessions, and who knows, maybe some key players from both sides watching from the sidelines? Give me under 49.
Season Record: 5-8