On Friday, I laid out 8 Top 25 matchups that could have big implications for Liberty’s chances of making it into the College Football Playoff Top 25 on a weekend where the Flames saw their season finale showdown with their rival Coastal Carolina canceled due to COVID concerns. Getting into the College Football Top 25 would be a big boost for the team in helping them get over disappointing circumstances and would also be a big boost to Liberty’s chances of getting invited to a bowl game. Liberty is currently ranked at #22 in the AP Poll and #21 in the Coaches Poll, following the release of the updated polls on Sunday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
#22 Washington and #23 Oregon lost Saturday to unranked teams. Washington was favored by 11.5 points against Stanford and Oregon was favored by 9 points against California but both teams ended up losing in major upsets which will certainly send them hurtling from the Top 25 polls.
Surprise upsets were #15 Oklahoma State losing to TCU and #21 Marshall losing to Rice. I didn’t even preview either of these games in the 8 games I looked at as potential upsets because both teams didn’t look like they were in any danger of losing but I was proven majorly wrong on Saturday! The most surprising of the two games was Rice getting the W against previously undefeated #21 Marshall. Rice picked off 5 passes and returned one to the endzone to route The Herd 20-0. Marshall will certainly be out of the rankings and Oklahoma State might fall out. Last week, Texas went from #17 to unranked after losing a tight game by 3 points to #13 Iowa State. Considering Oklahoma State’s opponent was unranked (TCU is 5-4) and the Cowboys currently have 3 losses (same as Texas when they fell out of the Top 25) there is a chance OSU will be on the outside looking in on Tuesday.
#16 Wisconsin also lost their matchup against #12 Indiana in a close game that ended 14-6. The 8 point difference is greater than the margin of defeat suffered by Texas last week that got them kicked out of the rankings so it may be enough to kick the Badgers out. However, Wisconsin only has 2 losses on their record and the Committee has shown a high degree of bias towards the Big 10 this year so I doubt that Wisconsin will fall entirely out of the Top 25 this week.
Overall, there are three teams that will definitely be out this weekend (Washington, Oregon and Marshall) with a potential of a fourth and fifth in Oklahoma State and Wisconsin.
WHAT WENT WRONG
#25 Louisiana, #19 Iowa and #24 Tulsa all won their matchups but only barely. Appalachian State missed a field goal to send it to overtime against UL, Illinois had a 1 point lead at the half but allowed Iowa to rally back and Navy was within a touchdown of Tulsa until the fourth quarter. It would have been great for Liberty if all three of these teams had lost but unfortunately, it looks like they will be staying in the Top 25 unless the Committee chooses to demote them for their subpar performances against lesser competition (this is the second week in a row that Iowa has struggled to win against teams with 4 losses on their records).
Additional disappointments for Flames fans were victories by #20 USC and #18 Coastal Carolina. #20 USC put up 28 points in the first quarter to cruise to a 38-13 victory over Washington State on Sunday but the biggest disappointment for Flames fans was BYU who proved a poor substitute for the Flames against Coastal Carolina. The Cougars allowed the Chanticleers a 22-17 point victory in a close-fought matchup that saw the Heisman hopes of BYU star QB Zach Wilson dashed. This was disappointing for Flames fans not just because one never wants to see their hated rival win on the national stage but also because BYU is unlikely to fall from the rankings at #13 whereas Coastal losing at #18 would have potentially opened up space for the Flames.
WILL THE FLAMES GET INTO THE CFP TOP 25 THIS WEEK?
There will likely be 3 or 4 slots open for teams to climb into the rankings this week. As I stated in my article on Friday, it is difficult to tell exactly where Liberty stands relative to other teams outside the Top 25 right now because the Committee doesn’t produce “others receiving votes” rankings. Liberty is currently in the AP and Coaches Top 25 but those rankings are unofficial and not taken into account by the Committee (Liberty was also in those rankings last week). Teams that might be considered ahead of Liberty this week are:
8-3 NC State who is on a 4 game winning streak and beat Georgia Tech 23-13 to close out the season Saturday
6-3 Texas who only just fell out of the rankings last week after losing to now top 10 Iowa State and who crushed Kansas State 69-13 on Saturday
4-0 Colorado who beat Arizona 24-13 on Saturday
5-0 San Jose State who beat Hawaii 35-24 on Saturday
4-0 Buffalo who has scored over 40 points in every game this season and beat Kent State 70-41 last week
With these 5 teams in mind, Liberty is by no means guaranteed a spot in the Top 25. I think NC State and Colorado are in this week over Liberty because they are both Power Five teams (which the Committee has shown a high degree of bias to). Colorado is undefeated (even if is against the lesser end of the PAC 12 this year) and NC State owns the victory over LU and the Committee is unlikely to promote the Flames ahead of the Wolfpack having lost to them.
That leaves the third spot which I think will come down to Texas and LU. With #9 Iowa State blowing out West Virginia and poised to potentially move even higher in the rankings, I think Texas, whose three losses are to TCU (who beat #15 OSU), #11 Oklahoma and #9 Iowa State, will get the nod over the 9-1 Flames. I said in my article on Friday that if three slots opened up Liberty might be in and if 4 slots came available then Liberty would definitely be in. If #15 OSU or #16 Wisconsin falls out of the rankings, then I think the Flames will get the nod over SJSU or Buffalo, unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen. #15 to unranked is a long way to fall, even if it is following an upset loss to an unranked team. I think the Cowboys will drop like a stone but come to rest at #23.
I think Wisconsin will move back to 20 or 21 but stay in the rankings with their very narrow defeat to a good Indiana team. This will leave LU out of the rankings this week but certainly next team up and only just outside. I would love to be proven wrong and for the Committee to see the Flames without their inherent biases against un-established, non-Power Five programs, but I doubt that will happen this week. However, even if I am right and the Flames come up short this week, most Top 25 teams are playing next weekend even if LU isn’t. There is still plenty of hope for LU to finish the season in the Top 25 and I fully expect them to be in next week if they aren’t this week.
CFP RANKING PREDICTION: LU ENDS UP JUST SHORT OF THE TOP 25 BUT IS LIKELY RIGHT AT #26
Written by Mr. Exclamation Point.