Week 7 of the season was billed as Separation Saturday by some, and that didn’t turn out to be hyperbole when Sunday morning rolled around across the country.
The script in many conference races was flipped, several surprising upsets happened, and a number of closer-than-expected games turned out to be laughers. And let us not forget that one team only needed 10 seconds left in order to capture a victory.
Keep all that in mind as we enter a Week 8 slate that doesn’t have all that many enticing matchups but still presents the opportunity for some teams to get back in the College Football Playoff race or fall out for good.
Buckle up, folks: The season is on the downslope and it’s rolling along quite quickly.
Now on to the bowl projections. A hearty disclaimer that these are projecting out the rest of the season and as such are not completely reflective of the state of college football at the moment.
- Here are the full Top 25 rankings. The College Football Playoff selection committee will release its first rankings in just over two weeks, on Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
- After that Separation Saturday, we saw a pretty big shake-up among the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six teams. The biggest change involves a conference being shut out of the final four that would have one part of the country up in arms and likely delight the rest. Yes, the SEC is out of the playoff. It is entirely possible the league’s champion has two losses by the end of the year, and while that may not completely eliminate the SEC from the playoff, it does present an uphill battle. Alabama looks again to be the top dog, but it remains in the realm of possibilities that the Tide would have just a single Top 10 win (at Texas A&M) and only one other Top 20 victory (LSU) by the end of the year depending on how things shake out. A loss to Ole Miss isn’t looking too hot either. While the team has flashed at times, there are still quite a few holes on both sides of the ball (and special teams) to not be quite sold on Alabama.
- Baylor continues to look unstoppable and will remain in the top spot until its two-game season (against Oklahoma and at TCU) concludes. Ohio State is starting to hit its stride, and Clemson also remains on track to go undefeated. That’s three spots pretty much locked in unless something crazy happens between now and late November.
- The fourth spot is where things get interesting. Based on its strong play in recent weeks, a case can be made that Stanford is playing as well as anybody in the country. The Cardinal have just two remaining road games left and have opportunities to capture quality victories down the stretch against Cal, Notre Dame (which may turn into a play-in game) and possibly undefeated Utah. Alabama may still win the SEC, but if Stanford closes things out like it could, it will be hard to keep them out of the final four.
- Yes, Memphis captured the best win any Group of Five team will likely have when it topped Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon, but AAC rival Houston remains the pick to grab the league title and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl. The biggest reason is the schedule: The Tigers will face Navy’s triple-option, then go on the road to Houston and Temple in a three-week stretch in November. The Cougars, on the other hand, miss Temple completely (outside of the conference title game) and have two home games before hosting Memphis. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. has proven to be a fringe Heisman candidate and has to like that setup for Houston.
- In the Year of the Running Back, LSU's Leonard Fournette and Florida State's Dalvin Cook seem to have created some separation from the rest of the pack. How about seeing them face off in the Peach Bowl? Yes, please.
- Utah could win the Pac-12 to get in the playoff or it could lose in the conference title game to Stanford. The latter scenario may not be what Utes fans want to hear, but they have to like the potential backup option of the Rose Bowl. Michigan State was at the Rose Bowl two seasons ago, so we’re guessing the Rose Bowl committee would opt for Big Ten runner-up Iowa (last trip to Pasadena: 1991) over a one-loss Sparty.
- Thanks to some upsets, injuries and good play, we’re finally on track to have enough bowl-eligible teams this season. The line is razor-thin however, so some teams like Washington State, Indiana, Auburn and UL-Monroe will have to still get the job done late in the year.
- Rematches in bowl games are not typically something teams, fans or the bowls themselves want, but we might have a few exceptions in 2015. Case in point is the Poinsettia Bowl’s open spot offering Arizona a chance at payback against Boise State and the Hawaii Bowl allowing BYU and Memphis to make up for last year’s fight at the end of the Miami Beach Bowl.
- The juiciest Group of Five postseason game remains the GoDaddy Bowl between MAC champion Toledo and Sun Belt titleholder Georgia Southern. The question is, will either head coach be around by game time, or will they have been hired away by a bigger program by then?
- If you’re looking for a contrast in styles, no need to go anywhere but the Armed Forces Bowl between Air Force’s option attack and Washington State’s Air Raid.
Bryan Fischer is a national college football columnist at Bleacher Report, you can follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.