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VOL. 129 | NO. 212 | Thursday, October 30, 2014

South Dominates First Playoff Rankings

By Don Wade

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The first College Football Playoff Rankings were released this week and if the playoff started today Mississippi State and Ole Miss would hold seeds one and four respectively, with Florida State No. 2 and Auburn No. 3.

Just outside the coveted top four, Oregon landed in the fifth spot and Alabama was No. 6. The SEC West, which has dominated the top of national poll rankings, overwhelmed the first CFB Playoff rankings by taking three of the top four slots and four of the top six.

The committee will release new rankings each week until the final rankings determine the playoff. Meantime, here’s some reaction to the initial rankings.

Jeff Long, the committee chair and director of athletics at the University of Arkansas, said on the ESPN rankings release show (there had to be a show): “We don’t analyze it by conference. We look at those teams and evaluate the teams they played and the success they had or the failures they had.”

Christine Brennan, USA Today sports columnist: “It’s official: The Southeastern Conference runs college football.” That was Brennan’s first sentence in a column that also included this stinger: “When this committee talks football, it’s with a Southern accent.”

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State quarterback: “It’s cool … first-ever ranking, first team to be No. 1, so that’s pretty cool for the university.”

So we can see how this is going to go, can’t we? Long, who heads up the now 12-person committee (Archie Manning dropped off, citing a November surgery that would complicate travel) will spend each week explaining why the committee speaks with a Southern accent. National observers such as Brennan, who just can’t stand it when the sports world isn’t kneeling before one of the coasts, will continue bashing the SEC’s dominance.

And if there comes a time when Prescott doesn’t see the ratings as “cool,” well, that just might mean that some other SEC quarterback does.

This much is clear: Fan bases from Notre Dame, rated 10th, and Ohio State, rated 16th, to name two, will only get angrier. At one point during the rankings show Long was asked if the Buckeyes’ loss to Virginia Tech was “an albatross.”

Long’s response: “I wouldn’t call it an albatross, but it was not a good loss for them.”

Go ahead, call it an albatross.

The University of Memphis plays Tulsa Friday night at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. With it being Halloween and going up against high school football, it will be interesting to see if attendance is north of 30,000.

Senior defensive tackle Terry Redden likes the Friday night game.

“Very exciting,” he said. “Like high school all over again. There’s no brand of football like Memphis football. Friday night lights is a different ballgame.”

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has taken a lot of heat for forcing a throw near game’s end at LSU and having it intercepted; the errant pass prevented the Rebels from at least trying a potential game-tying field goal.


(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

But a larger trend is Wallace’s decline in completion percentage the last two games. Wallace had a theory on that.

“A lot of times when we’re throwing right now it’s on third down,” he said. “We’re staying in third-and-long so much. People get in their defenses and it’s hard in this league to convert third downs. We have to get back to throwing the ball on first and second down and making plays like we did earlier in the season.”

Auburn, 3-1 in the SEC, and Ole Miss, 4-1 in the SEC, play this Saturday at Oxford. In effect, it’s an elimination game for the division and the four-team playoff.

Tennessee sophomore QB Joshua Dobbs came off the bench to complete 19-of-32 passes for 192 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the 34-20 loss to Alabama last Saturday. Dobbs also led Tennessee in rushing with 75 yards on 19 carries. “I thought he was in command,” UT coach Butch Jones said. “Josh showed some very good poise.”

MSU running back Josh Robinson finished with 198 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, including a 73-yard score in the fourth quarter, as the Bulldogs held off Kentucky 45-31 last week.

“He was carrying our team on his back, and sometimes carrying their team on his back,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said. Robinson’s 887 yards rushing leads the SEC.

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