Brads’ Breakdown: New month, new stakes

By Alan Brads

Champions are crowned in December and January. They are forged in November.

How do you fare when you play three tough conference games in a row? Can you bounce back from a loss? When your star linebacker gets thrown out for targeting, can you rally against your archrival? Can you handle the snow?

Balanced teams have the best chance to address all those questions. That is why I love Oregon’s chances in the Pac-12, and Ohio State or Michigan to win postseason games.

For the same reason, I suspect some combination of Washington, Alabama, Oklahoma and Penn State will fumble the bag down the stretch. They do not play well enough on both sides of the ball to beat all the strong programs they will meet.

November football ruins seasons and creates legends. Look at 2014, when Ohio State entered November ranked 16th, and Mississippi State first. The Buckeyes won the national championship, and the Bulldogs finished with three losses and missed the SEC championship game. What happened? November happened.

For the first week of November football, here are three stories to track, and three games to watch:

#3- Colorado, Clemson, fight for bowl eligibility

The devaluation of bowl games in the college football playoff era hurts my heart. Here at Cedars, you will find no bowl game erasure whatsoever. Sure, the playoff represents the most exciting stories in the sport, but bowl games matter. Just ask Colorado fans. A season removed from 1-11, resurrected by Coach Prime and projected by many in September to win eight games, now scrambling to scrape out two more wins for bowl eligibility. Clemson’s story is a tale of woe for Tiger fans. After spending half a decade as the second biggest powerhouse behind Alabama, Dabo Swinney’s refusal to adjust to the times derailed the Clemson train. The 4-4 Tigers play Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and South Carolina. Tough sledding against a group of teams with vendettas against their former oppressor.

#2- High Stakes on the Great Plains

When the Jayhawks knocked off Oklahoma the Big 12 playing field flattened like their midwestern topography. No less than five teams sit atop  the conference standings, all with a 4-1 record, but not for long. Texas hosts Kansas State, and Oklahoma faces Oklahoma State in two massive showdowns for control of the Big 12. The winners control their championship destiny, and the losers will need an excess of chaos to make it. Iowa State vs. Kansas will get tossed aside by television networks in favor of the two bigger matchups, but the Cyclones would stay in the 5-1 club with a win.

#1- CFP rankings fallout

The playoff committee is like refereeing, it is a job where you can not please everyone, no matter how hard you try. The committee selected the right four teams every year since their inception in 2014. They deserve some credit for that. That said, the opening rankings have their quirks. I want to know what drove them to rank Florida State over Washington, who arguably has the best win of any team this year. The Michigan Wolverines won big, earning a #3 ranking despite an atrocious strength of schedule. On top of that, CFP committee chair Boo Corrigan said their cheating scandal is “An NCAA issue, not a CFP issue.” Usually, these things shake themselves out in November,, but whenever there is turnover of committee membership, it is worth looking at what the new committee values. This committee seems to favor the eye test, thus Georgia and Michigan at #2 and #3 and Washington down at #5.

I am tempted to pick five games for discussion this week, it is shameful some of the games that won’t make the list. Suffice it to say I mean no disrespect to Texas vs. Kansas State, or USC vs. Washington. I wish I could talk about them more, but I can’t because these three games are the three must-watch games of the week:

#3- #9 Oklahoma @ #22 Oklahoma State – 3:30 p.m. on ABC

Bedlam, an often overlooked rivalry due to its lack of competitiveness, closes a chapter in its history this Saturday. Oklahoma is 91-19-7 all-time and won 16 of the last 19. The series has seen everything from a 75-0 Sooner victory to a 0-0 tie. The Sooners turn their covered wagons east for the SEC in 2024, and for the first time in 114 years, there will be no Bedlam. Despite Oklahoma’s dominance, Cowboy fans can be optimistic. The Sooners lost last week to Kansas, who OSU already beat this year. They host Bedlam in Stillwater with a trip to AT&T Stadium potentially on the line. Expect Mike Gundy’s team to come out hot. The Cowboys will never even the score, but they could still get the last laugh.

#2- #12 Missouri @ #2 Georgia – 3:30 p.m. on CBS

I can’t make this the top game of the week because of its high blowout potential, but if Missouri pulls it off, it could be the best game of the year. Georgia all but locks up the SEC East with a win – they would have to lose twice to blow their lead to Tennessee. Missouri could shock the world and snatch the east’s steering wheel from the Bulldogs. Georgia’s image suffered early in the season because of their lackluster schedule and uninspiring wins, but the narrative hasn’t caught up with their improved play. People picked Florida as a cheeky upset last week, and the Bulldogs silenced the doubters with a 43-20 win. The Red River Rivalry stole the headlines on the day the Bulldogs curb-stomped a ranked Kentucky team. Georgia may not be the same team they were two years ago, but in a year without any flawless teams, they don’t need to be.

#1- #14 LSU @ #8 Alabama – 7:45 p.m. on CBS

A week full of “lasts.” The last Bedlam, the last chance for Georgia to fumble the SEC East, but this “last” hits the hardest. The last CBS broadcast of the Alabama-LSU rivalry. This game, the emotions, the stakes, and the broadcasters represent the pinnacle of my college football childhood. Sadly, I have a history of missing legendary editions of this game. I watched a high school musical during Joe Burrow’s legendary 46-41 win. My dad made me go to bed at the halftime of 2011’s “game of the century,” a 9-6 rock fight that resulted in a national title rematch. Maybe I will forgive him someday. I will not, however, miss CBS’s final LSU-Bama broadcast.

Alan Brads is a senior journalism student and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys playing the drums, speaking Spanish and watching Buckeye football like his life depends on it.

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