It wasn’t that long ago that both Notre Dame and Nebraska were sitting in good shape for a potential playoff spot if things broke right for them. Both teams had started their respective seasons undefeated and even when both finally lost their first games, they were still in contention for some really good postseason news.
Nebraska’s loss was at Michigan State. The Cornhuskers fell behind but rallied late and nearly pulled off the comeback in East Lansing before losing by five points. It was a loss, but it was widely regarded as a “good loss” because at that point, Michigan State had lost only to Oregon in Eugene so losing to the Spartans was nothing to be ashamed of.
In South Bend, the feeling was that the Irish had been robbed in Tallahassee when their late, game-winning touchdown was called back because of a controversial pass interference call. So much like Nebraska, the Irish were still very much in play for a playoff berth should they run the table.
Things change quickly in collegiate athletics and college football is the prime example.
Just weeks later, both of these traditional powers find themselves searching for answers. Nebraska has now dropped two straight games to Wisconsin and to Minnesota. Ironically, those two teams will be playing for the Big Ten West Division title next week in Madison while the Huskers will be playing for pride and bowl position against Iowa.
For the Irish, it’s been even worse. They struggled to put away Navy following the FSU loss since the win over the Midshipmen, Notre Dame has lost three in a row. The first of those was a sloppy loss at Arizona State and the last two have been at home to Northwestern and Louisville yesterday. The Fighting Irish are now 7-4 and still have USC to deal with.
Questions were already swirling about Bo Pelini’s fate in Lincoln and that will intensify this week. Brian Kelly can only ride the trip to the National Title Game so long before he starts to feel more pressure as well. His last two losses will not sit well with the Irish faithful.
Another traditional power on the outs is of course Michigan who dropped to 5-6 following a fourth quarter collapse and eventual loss to Maryland in what is sure to be Brady Hoke’s final game in Michigan Stadium.
The Wolverines now face the prospect of having to go to Columbus and defeat the Buckeyes in order to go to a bowl game and that ain’t happening. Michigan has suffered from horrible quarterback play and untimely defensive failures all year.
Interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett announced yesterday that the decision on Hoke’s future would be his to decide. Firing Hoke isn’t easy because he’s a likable guy and a ‘Michigan Man’ through and through but the evidence is overwhelming in favor of terminating him. The only thing that can save Hoke is a win over the hated Buckeyes but I can’t see it happening.
I expect Hoke to join Will Muschamp on the unemployment line very soon.
My Playoff Predictions for this week
1. Alabama – Revenge week begins as Auburn comes to Tuscaloosa.
2. Florida State – Yes, they struggled again but the name of the game is winning and they are doing that.
3. Oregon – Another ho-hum blowout this time over Colorado.
4. Mississippi State – The Bulldogs bounced back from their loss to Alabama by crushing Vanderbilt 51-0.
Still in the running… TCU, Baylor, Ohio State