The Big 12 was the Power 5 conference left stewing last season in regards to the College Football Playoff. And while I think the Big 12 could be left out again, I'm certain now that the Pac-12 is going to miss out on the playoff this year.
That was all but assured this past weekend as Pac-12 North Division-leading Stanford, which was No. 7 in the most recent CFP rankings, was beaten by Oregon. The Cardinal are obviously going to drop in Tuesday's new rankings. They also missed a chance to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 title game. Oregon needs Stanford to lose this week at home against Cal for the Ducks to have a shot at winning the North.
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The bigger upset was No. 10 Utah, the South Division leader, falling 37-30 in double overtime at Arizona. So clearly the Utes are out of the playoff chase, and they also no longer control their destiny to win the South as Utah is tied with Southern Cal for first place; the Trojans hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. USC visits Oregon this week with the Ducks as opening 4.5-point favorites at BetOnline.
In the latest Associated Press Top 25, no Pac-12 team is in the Top 14, so go ahead and write in the conference champion for a Rose Bowl spot -- probably against Iowa, which I presume will lose the Big Ten title game to the East Division champion.
Here are a few Week 12 opening lines that caught my eye. Rankings from AP poll.
Western Michigan at Northern Illinois (-3): This is Wednesday, and I looked at a Wednesday night MACtion game in this space last week -- WMU was also a 3-point dog in that one, at home to Bowling Green. The Falcons won 41-27 to clinch the MAC East title. Now WMU is in a three-way tie with NIU and Toledo (which is at Bowling Green on Tuesday) for the West Division title. The winner of this game would control its destiny to face Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Game on Dec. 4 at Ford Field in Detroit. NIU already beat Toledo and will be a big favorite in its regular-season finale against Ohio. Western closes the regular season at Toledo. Weeknight games are nothing new for Northern Illinois. It hasn't played a Saturday game in November on a date later than Nov. 3 since Nov. 20, 2010 at Ball State. Northern Illinois won at Western Michigan 31-21 to conclude the 2014 regular season in the snow to clinch the MAC West title. Western led 21-7 in the second quarter but turned the ball over six times. The pick: NIU.
No. 11 TCU at No. 7 Oklahoma (TBA): The Sooners were the big risers in the AP poll, jumping five spots after an impressive 44-34 win at Baylor on Saturday, which pretty much ended the Bears' playoff hopes. They had won 20 straight home games. I expect OU to perhaps rise as high as No. 5 in the new CFP rankings. If the Sooners win this game and then in the Bedlam matchup in Stillwater against Oklahoma State the following week, then the Sooners would clinch their ninth Big 12 title and first since sharing a title with Kansas State in 2012. This line is TBA because of the status of TCU's two best players, quarterback Trevone Boykin and receiver Josh Doctson. They are both questionable with injuries, but I have a feeling both play. Boykin suffered an ankle injury on the second play of Saturday's win over Kansas. Doctson was playing with a wrap on his left hand and wrist from an injury the previous week at Oklahoma State. In last year's 37-33 win over Oklahoma, Boykin threw for 318 yards and two scores and rushed for 77 yards, while Doctson had six grabs for 76 yards. The pick: Oklahoma wins comfortably even if those two Frogs play.
No. 9 Michigan State at No. 2 Ohio State (-13): While the books haven't put out a spread yet on TCU because of Boykin, they do have one here even though Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook was knocked out of Saturday's win over Maryland with a shoulder injury. He returned to complete six of 20 first-half passes with an interception and no touchdowns and then spent the second half on the sideline wearing a headset. Cook says there's no way he's missing the Big Ten's game of the year. This one means too much to the fifth-year senior, who is from Ohio but didn't even get a scholarship sniff from OSU. If Sparty wins this game and then the following week against Penn State, it wins the Big Ten East Division. OSU also controls its destiny as it closes, as usual, against Michigan. If the Buckeyes, who have won an NCAA-record 30 straight in-conference regular-season games, and Wolverines (at Penn State) both win this week, their game in Ann Arbor will have title implications for both sides for the first time since 2007. ESPN GameDay will be on hand here. Ohio State won in East Lansing last year 49-37 behind five total touchdowns from QB J.T. Barrett. The pick: MSU covers as long as Cook does play.
No. 5 Notre Dame vs. Boston College (+17): This game is at Fenway Park, and it should terrify Irish fans. Yes, the Eagles enter on a six-game losing streak. But this is Boston College's bowl game as it won't get postseason eligible. Plus BC has a stellar defense, leading the country in yards allowed per game (237.0), rushing yards allowed (71.7) and third in points (14.4) given up; BC is dead last in total offense. Notre Dame might be caught looking ahead to the regular-season finale at Stanford with a playoff spot likely on the line for the Irish. Notre Dame starting linebacker James Onwualu will miss this game with a second-degree MCL sprain. The junior has 36 total tackles, including five for loss and two sacks, and one forced fumble this season. Running back C.J. Prosise should play after missing Saturday's win over Wake Forest with a concussion. The pick: BC covers and go "under" whatever total this is, and it will be quite low.
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