Starting 11: The Calm Before The Storm Edition

I love college football, but this week’s games didn’t feature a single top 25 match up and as we sit here this morning and survey the landscape almost nothing at all changed. Other than Penn State no one eliminated themselves from playoff contention and aside from Oklahoma no top tier team even got significantly threatened with an upset.

With that in mind, let’s dive into the weekend and see what we learned.

But first a reminder that our SEC football documentary has dropped on FoxNation and that you can watch it there for free with the code “outkick.”

Here’s a preview for the first episode, which features Bowling Green-Tennessee, Texas-Arkansas, and Georgia-Clemson. I think you guys will really enjoy it.

Okay, here we go with the Starting 11:

1. The most likely playoff four remain: Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma.

But there remain substantial pratfalls for each team along the way. Alabama and Ohio State (probably) can’t lose again, but Georgia and Oklahoma (likely) have mulligans as we’ll discuss below.

In the meantime, here are the updated national title odds from FanDuel.

Georgia +115
Alabama +250
Ohio State +450
Oklahoma 20-1
Cincinnati 30-1
Michigan 50-1
Pittsburgh 60-1
Oregon 80-1

I’d say the most surprising odds here are Oregon. Because this means oddsmakers think there’s almost no chance Oregon is in the playoff.

I’ll discuss that a bit below in a moment, but otherwise I agree that Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State have distinguished themselves as the four best teams. And Georgia has been so good that you can essentially bet the Bulldogs or the field when it comes to the national title, which is pretty wild considering we’re not even to November yet.

2. The Big Ten East is less complicated with Penn State effectively eliminated after their 9 overtime loss to Illinois.

How wild were those dueling two point conversions in overtime by the way? That’s the first time I’ve watched the new college football overtime rules play out like that.

It’s thrilling, but a bit insane for a game to come down to dueling two point conversion attempts.

The ultimate outcome, however, leaves Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State as true contenders for the Big Ten East. Given Penn State still has all three of these teams on the schedule it feels highly improbable the Nittany Lions would win all three of these games and advance to the Big Ten title game with two losses. The winner of the Big Ten East feels unlikely to have more than one loss in conference, if that.

And the Big Ten East, to a high degree of probability at this point, will be decided the final week of the regular season in Ann Arbor when Ohio State rolls into town.

3. With Penn State’s loss — and with Ohio State on deck this weekend — the James Franklin coaching watch may start sooner rather than later.

If Penn State loses to Ohio State this weekend, as they will be favored to do, that would effectively end the Big Ten East race for the Nittany Lions and it will open up James Franklin to fully explore the USC and LSU jobs. Franklin, who recently switched to Jimmy Sexton as his agent, has been sought after at USC before, which is why I’d put him at the top of the Trojan coaching target list.

But I would also expect LSU to contact Franklin and gauge his interest in returning to the SEC.

Which job would Franklin prefer and will he leave Happy Valley?

Buckle up, this one could get very interesting.

4. Speaking of Lane Kiffin, he auditioned for the LSU job on Saturday.

After a slow start the Rebels pulled away and whipped LSU handily.

Now the big question is this, does Lane want to leave Oxford for Baton Rouge? I think a big part of this decision will be how confident Lane is in the roster he’s built outside of Matt Corral. And also how confident he is in his back up quarterbacks to take the reins of the offense and dominate going forward.

There’s no doubt LSU is far more talented right now than Ole Miss outside of the quarterback position. Corral has covered up a ton of Ole Miss roster deficiencies. But with Corral headed to the NFL, presumably, does Lane feel like things will drop off at Ole Miss or is he just getting started there? His decision will tell you quite a bit about that.

Two additional caveats as well: with college football expanding the playoff, potentially, to 12 teams in the years ahead does it matter as much which job you have? If you’re in the SEC, you stand a good shot at making the playoff if you can be one of the top four teams in the league. Well, this year Ole Miss is the third best team. So if there was a 12 team playoff the Rebels would be in it. I think you may see more coaches staying at “lesser” jobs because a 12 team playoff than a four team playoff gives far more opportunities to play for a title. It’s the same reason lots of college basketball coaches haven’t felt the need to move up, they know if they make the tournament they are on an even playing field so the status of the job matters less than the current coach.

The second caveat: does Lane want to live in the Baton Rouge fish bowl. He’s a bit under the radar at Ole Miss and Oxford is a fabulous college town. He’s got incredible contract leverage right now. LSU just fired their national title winning coach less than two years after he won a title. Lane could get a monster deal and a long term time commitment at Oxford right now. He may choose that over the higher ceiling but crazy situation down on the bayou. And, to be honest, he may not see the ceilings as even being that different. Lane may think he can win at Ole Miss on the same level he could at LSU.

This decision will be fascinating to watch.

5. Oregon stayed alive in the playoff race with a win over UCLA, but oddsmakers are giving the Ducks virtually no shot to make the playoff.

As I discussed above the Ducks are 80-1 to win the title despite having the proverbial tiebreak over Ohio State in the event only one of these teams got in the playoff.

The 80-1 number surprises me because Oregon only has Colorado, at Washington, Washington State, at Utah and Oregon State left on their schedule. None of these teams are ranked and only two of these remaining opponents have a winning record.

Granted there’s still the Pac 12 title game to play as well, but it seems like there’s a decent title value here at 80-1 to me.

Essentially oddsmakers are giving Oregon a tiny shot at actually making the playoff based on this number and I don’t think Oregon’s playoff chances are that bad.

6. Did I mention we have debuted our SEC documentary, “Going Deep,” which we have been filming all fall?

Because we have.

You can watch it here. It’s a behind the scenes look at SEC football featuring me and the Outkick crew. You can watch it for free by clicking on this link and using the code “outkick.”

And here’s another teaser segment, this time from the Ole Miss-Alabama weekend.

7. Is Cincinnati a legitimate playoff threat?

The Bearcats survived against Navy, but I still find it hard to believe the playoff committee is going to put Cincy in, even if the Bearcats are undefeated, over a one loss power conference team.

But oddsmakers aren’t doubting Cincy as much as I am — they have the Bearcats title odds at 30-1, far better than many power conference contenders.

And if you check out the Bearcat schedule Cincinnati only plays one team remaining with a winning record, SMU on November 20th.

If both teams can stay undefeated, that’s looking like it could be a monster game.

8. I don’t see Oklahoma finishing the season undefeated.

And I’d bet most Sooner fans don’t see it happening either.

The performance against Kansas continued a season long theme of mostly disappointing performances. Oklahoma was down ten points late in the second half before they finally turned things around.

But at some point these mediocre to bad performances are going to catch up with the Sooners.

And with games remaining against Texas Tech, at Baylor, Iowa State and at Oklahoma State not to mention the Big 12 title game, I feel like the chances of the Sooners finishing the season unbeaten are comparatively low.

But 12-1 Big 12 champ Oklahoma is still likely to be in decent playoff shape, I think, if you look around the playoff landscape.

In fact, who would get in, 12-1 Big 12 champ Oklahoma or undefeated Cincinnati? I feel like it’s Oklahoma and I don’t even think the debate would be that intense.

9. We had an incredible time at the Brett Boyer Foundation event all day Saturday.

Here’s my morning interview with Luke Bryan.

I’d encourage you to donate to the foundation if you can.

10. Outkick’s National Top Ten

1. Georgia
2. Alabama
3. Ohio State
4. Michigan
5. Michigan State
6. Oregon
7. Cincinnati
8. Ole Miss
9. Oklahoma
10. Wake Forest

11. SEC power rankings 1-14

1. Georgia
2. Alabama
3. Ole Miss
4. Kentucky
5. Texas A&M
6. Auburn
7. LSU
8. Florida
9. Arkansas
10. Mississippi State
11. Tennessee
12. South Carolina
13. Missouri
14. Vanderbilt

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.

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