The most encouraging news for Texas A&M on Sunday wasn’t the Aggies’ rise to No. 7 in the AP Top 25.
It was the unranked state of every other team remaining on the schedule. Auburn and Tennessee dropped from the AP Top 25.
The College Football Playoff speculation that bubbled up after A&M (3-1) got its first win at Mississippi State on Saturday got a little more plausible. Imagine the Aggies running the table in the regular season and finishing 9-1 and perhaps claiming a second spot for the SEC in the playoff – ahead of, say, the Big 12 champion.
Yes, it’s way too early to play connect the dots. The first college football playoff rankings won’t be released this year until Nov. 24. Plenty could go wrong between now and then in the SEC minefield, even if the A&M schedule looks less daunting with Alabama and Florida in the rear-view mirror. Arkansas is far different now under first-year coach Sam Pittman.
For now, you can make a case for A&M if it finishes 9-1.
Assume Alabama runs the table and wins another SEC West title – which may not be much of an assumption – and add a Florida win over Georgia to win the SEC East. Alabama hands Florida a loss in the SEC title game and A&M would have the second-best resume in the conference.
Pencil in spots for the ACC champ (Clemson, very probably) and the Big Ten champ (Ohio State, ditto) and there would be one spot remaining in the four-team playoff.
No. 6 Oklahoma State is the only remaining undefeated team in the Big 12 and rounding into form after a slow start. The Cowboys have the skill position talent and a veteran defense. Will that be enough to beat No. 17 Iowa State (3-1) this week in Stillwater? And can Oklahoma State end a five-game losing streak to Bedlam rival Oklahoma?
Even if Oklahoma State survives, no one knows how the playoff selection committee views a conference that didn’t exactly distinguish itself in its abbreviated non-conference slate.
Plus, there could be other contenders potentially vying with the Aggies and Big 12 champs.
Notre Dame could emerge as a second team from the ACC as could Wisconsin or Penn State in the Big Ten. Maybe BYU or SMU could give the group of five a contender.
Only once, during the 2017 season, the selection committee picked two teams from the same conference – Georgia and Alabama.
For now, A&M isn’t thinking beyond the bye week and Arkansas.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We’re nowhere close to where we can be.”
Two weeks into the season, the Aggies were being buried by the same media types praising them now. Things are different now, including A&M developing an identity as a power running team behind an experienced and nasty offensive line. It’s not necessarily sexy but it can be effective.
“Their offensive line does a great job