The College Football Playoff committee uses each week as an opportunity to reassess its entire rankings.
This week the Oregon Ducks should enter the conversation to be ranked No. 1 overall.
While a 47-19 victory during the Civil War against the Oregon State Beavers isn’t exactly a major resume builder, cracks were revealed in the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide’s exterior during this year’s vision of the Iron Bowl.
Alabama dug deep and earned an impressive 55-44 victory against the No. 15 Auburn Tigers. But the Crimson Tide was exposed in areas where the Ducks excel.
First and foremost, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the best player in the country. Even if an argument breaks out that Mariota isn’t the nation’s top player, he’s clearly a superior quarterback to Alabama’s Blake Sims.
Sims threw three interceptions against Auburn, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban considered pulling him from the contest. Sims redeemed himself during the second half, but Mariota hasn’t even thrown three interceptions all season.
The Heisman favorite was nearly flawless against the rival Beavers. Mariota only threw six incomplete passes. The Ducks quarterback also accounted for six touchdowns.
Oregon clearly owns an advantage at the game’s most important position.
Second, Auburn wore down Alabama’s defense by playing with constant tempo. Gus Malzahn‘s offense racked up 630 yards against Alabama’s vaunted defense. If Auburn capitalized on three early red zone trips instead of kicking field goals each time, the complexion of the game could have been very different.
Like Auburn, Oregon can play at a breakneck pace and cause plenty of problems for Alabama’s defense.
Oregon also has the play-makers to exploit the Crimson Tide’s lack of talent at cornerback. Auburn’s pair of starting wide receivers combined for 327 receiving yards.
While the Ducks’ skill players don’t present the same size mismatch outside, they are quick and difficult to cover in small areas if Mariota is given time to throw. Byron Marshall accounted for 165 total yards on only eight touches Saturday.
Finally, Oregon should have been ranked higher than Alabama initially.
Prior to the Crimson Tide defeating then No. 1 Mississippi State, Alabama was ranked fifth overall, while Oregon was sitting at the second slot. A loss to the No. 1 overall team usually allows the program just behind them to take over the top spot. Instead, the committee found a way to rationalize placing Alabama at No. 1 overall and leapfrogging the Ducks. However, Mississippi State is now a two-loss team after losing to the Ole Miss Rebels in the Egg Bowl. Alabama’s best win is not as impressive today as it was last week
Oregon’s only loss came at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats. The Ducks will have an opportunity to avenge their line defeat in next weekend’s Pac-12 Championship Game and roll into the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Thankfully, all of this will finally be settled on the field, whether Oregon and Alabama eventually meet in a a semifinal contest or the National Championship Game (as long as they don’t falter in their conference championship games).