College Football Playoff: Week 3 results from Michigan State perspective


Hey, Spartan Nation, Michigan State is up to No. 2. It’s been nearly 50 years since MSU was ranked so high in the AP poll.

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With MSU firmly entrenched in the College Football Playoff discussion (with some folks ranking them the top seed), taking a look at the rest of the CFP scene and checking out potential foes seems more relevant than ever.

All of MSU’s opponents in the first three weeks were bowl teams from a year ago. This week MSU knocked off a pesky Air Force team and that coupled with an Alabama loss vaulted MSU to the second spot in the AP trailing only Big Ten brethren Ohio State.

While Spartan fans might have been disappointed with the margin of victory and the persistent inability to close games out, seeing what else happened in week three proves that things could have been far worse.

Alabama’s loss wasn’t the only shake-up at the top as USC went down hard to a written-off Stanford team. We have another interesting weekend in store, but before we get to those games, let’s review what happened in the college football playoff world from an MSU perspective.

The most important result

Sep 19, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; dMichigan State Spartans linebacker Andrew Dowell (5) celebrates fumble recovery during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

MSU 35, Air Force 21: Michigan State controls its own destiny in the playoff race and will continue to do so as long as it keeps winning. Technically speaking, State doesn’t control its own destiny as the playoff committee could decide to leave it out, but there is zero chance that would happen if the Spartans were an undefeated Big Ten champion with wins over Oregon, Ohio State and possibly Wisconsin from the Big Ten West.

Last year the committee did drop Florida State to the four seed after several close calls and unimpressive wins. If MSU wants to truly sit in pole position it should close out these games better.

Results that help

Sep 19, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Mississippi Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly (10) reacts toward the end of the game against Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Rebels defeated the Tide 43-37. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

No. 15 Ole Miss 43, No. 2 Alabama 37: This is the result that catapulted MSU up to No. 2 in the AP this week. And an Alabama loss is even better than if some other team were ranked No. 2 because the Crimson Tide are perceived to be so untouchable.

The more losses Alabama takes, the better for Michigan State. Whether it wins the SEC or not, it will be considered for a playoff spot based solely on reputation. Of course, when an SEC team beats the SEC team, then that team gets to be thought of as the SEC team.

Ole Miss garnered more first place AP votes than MSU did this week and jumped from No. 15 to No. 3 in the polls. If another SEC team beats Ole Miss, then that team will make a similar jump — rinse and repeat.

Stanford 41, No. 6 USC 31: Some people might argue that any team ranked below MSU isn’t really a concern for the Spartans, but as we saw know anything can happen.

It’s best for State if other highly ranked teams have their weaknesses exposed. Stanford continued its recent tradition of terrorizing USC and they fully deserved to win the shootout. Stanford is back in contention despite a week one loss to Northwestern, but on balance this is a good result for MSU.

No. 12 Oregon 61, Georgia St 28: Oregon should keep on winning, as far as the Spartans are concerned. The better Oregon does, the better the Spartans look. And any head-to-head comparison will leave MSU ahead of the Ducks.

No. 10 UCLA 24, No.19 BYU 23: It might have helped to knock of the No. 10 UCLA Bruins, but with a win, BYU was a real threat to go undefeated. An undefeatd BYU with wins over Boise State, UCLA, Michigan and Missouri would have been very hard to keep out of the playoff. It’s best that BYU lost this game as UCLA still has to go against Arizona, Stanford, Utah and USC.

No. 23 Northwestern 19, Duke 10 and Iowa 27, Pittsburgh 24: Two Big Ten wins over power conference foes does the conference and, in turn, MSU some good. These Big Ten West teams will probably be duking it out for the West title and if Michigan State gets to the Big Ten Championship, it may be playing one of these two teams. The better their resumes the better MSU’s when it beats them.

Too early to tell but probably matter results

Sep 19, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) breaks away from Auburn Tigers cornerback Ed Paris (24) for a touchdown during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

No. 13 LSU 45, No. 18 Auburn 21: Almost every week there will be two SEC Top 25 teams battling it out. These results will definitely impact the playoff race, but it’s not entirely clear how. For the moment LSU looks like it might be the best team in the SEC West, though Ole Miss certainly would argue that. Auburn keeps falling, though I would guess they still will have a say in things at some point in the conference race.

Results that could have helped but then they didn’t

Sep 19, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) hurdles over Northern Illinois Huskies cornerback Albert Smalls (1) at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Ohio St 20, Northern Illinois 13: Northern Illinois gave the Buckeyes all they could handle. The Huskies were within three and had the ball late in the third quarter. And then had the ball twice with less than five minutes left down just seven.

Ohio State’s stout defense held them at bay, but a loss by the Buckeyes would have put Michigan State atop the AP poll and very much in control of the playoff picture.

No. 9 Florida St 14, Boston College 0: Florida State really struggled against Boston College scoring just one offensive touchdown. It took a fumble return for a TD to seal the game against the defensive-minded Eagles. The ACC race is an important one when it comes to the playoff.

No. 11 Clemson 20, Louisville 17: In another battle early ACC battle, Louisville almost pulled off the upset. Clemson, Florida State or Georgia Tech should win the ACC, the more losses they get, the better.

No. 22 Missouri 9, Connecticut 6: What an ugly game. At this point it doesn’t seem like Missouri can come close to hanging with Georgia in the SEC East, but that’s why a loss could have helped. A loss to Connecticut and a miracle win over Georgia would send the SEC into chaos. But Missouri held on and if they get to the SEC championship game this result will be largely forgotten.

Results that hurt

Sep 19, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith (9) reacts after recovering a fumble during the second half at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame defeats Georgia Tech 30-22. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

No. 8 Notre Dame 30, No. 14 Georgia Tech 22: Most Top 25 matchups this early in the season would go in the “Too early to tell” category, but this one hurts. Notre Dame is gaining momentum as a real College Football Playoff contender. It still has to play Clemson, USC and Stanford, but the rest of its schedule looks very manageable. No power conference team wants to see an undefeated Notre Dame.

Miami (FL) 36, Nebraska 33: Nebraska could be sitting at 3-0 if a couple things had fallen its way, instead the Cornhuskers are 1-2 with both losses coming on the last play of the game. A 3-0 Nebraska would likely be ranked right now, instead they look like another weak Big Ten team.

Michigan State plays Nebraska at Nebraska in the only game before Ohio State that should be a significant test. A loss there would sting a lot less against a ranked Nebraska team and a win would look much better.

Key games this weekend

Next: Big Ten Football Heisman Contenders: Week 4