College football week ahead: Spotlight shifts to playoff committee

By David Wharton - Los Angeles Times

If the past two months are any indication, the College Football Playoff system has a mess on its hands.

And the cleanup work starts Tuesday when 13 members of CFP selection committee untangle a large and tightly packed field to determine their first rankings of the season.

Another weekend of upsets did not make the job any easier.

Or, as Ohio State coach Urban Meyer remarked after his team surprised Penn State in the final minutes: “Wow. What the heck just happened?”

Alabama looks like the only sure bet at this point, the Crimson Tide ensconced at No. 1. After that, more than a half-dozen teams — some undefeated, some with one loss — are scrambling for the remaining slots in the CFP’s coveted final four.

The pack includes sixth-ranked Clemson, trying to rebound from a midseason shocker at Syracuse.

“If we want something, we’re going to have to go and get it,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “And we’re one of the teams that has a chance.”

CFP voters will issue five weekly rankings leading up to a Dec. 3 announcement of the four teams that get to play for the national championship.

Anyone who disagrees with the first list might not have to wait long to see a change.


Another test

This week brings another round of important matchups, starting with Alabama facing a resurgent team in No. 19 LSU.

The Tigers lost twice in September but have rebounded with recent victories over Florida and Auburn. Coach Ed Orgeron said his team will face a unique sort of animal in the Crimson Tide.

“Physicality — they’re different,” he told reporters. “They’re bigger and stronger and faster.”

Also on Saturday, ninth-ranked Miami — undefeated but so far unconvincing — gets another chance to prove itself against No. 13 Virginia Tech and No. 8 Oklahoma faces No. 11 Oklahoma State.

Both teams in the Sooner State’s “Bedlam” rivalry are within hollerin’ distance of playoff consideration.

“It’s ready to be championship November and that’s our favorite time of year around here,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said.


Florida fiasco

While the rest of college football focuses on winning, Florida is picking up the pieces of a shattered program.

The Gators parted ways with coach Jim McElwain on Sunday after a week of confusion over claims he made about his family and players receiving death threats.

This season has been a disappointment in Gainesville, where a 42-7 loss to No. 2 Georgia on Saturday marked the team’s third consecutive defeat.

The university reportedly investigated the alleged threats from disgruntled fans but found no substantiating evidence.

According to ESPN, administrators have subsequently explored the possibility of using McElwain’s comments to fire him “for cause,” thereby saving the school a $13 million-plus buyout.

Florida said only that terms of the separation were being negotiated.


The statue

Last weekend was supposed to be a crowning moment for Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, widely considered the leader in the 2017 Heisman Trophy race.

Barkley scored on a kickoff return and a long run against Ohio State but was held to 44 yards on 21 carries, opening the door to a new favorite in Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett.

After passing for 328 yards and four touchdowns against the Nittany Lions, Barrett played it humble.

“I tell you all the time I’m just a little cat from Wichita Falls, Texas,” he said. “People don’t even know where it is on the map.”

Another contender rising to the fore is Notre Dame running back Josh Adams, who has led the Irish on a winning streak with 1,169 rushing yards.

Big performances against USC and North Carolina State have pushed Adams into the conversation the last couple of weeks. His coach asked Heisman voters to be patient and watchful.

“I just think if you wait till the end of the year, a lot of questions will get answered,” Brian Kelly said. “If you hold your vote until the end of the year, that would be great.”

It has been that sort of season in college football — a lot can change between now and December.


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By David Wharton

Los Angeles Times