Wojo’s Pigskin Picks: CFP rankings only add to craziness

Bob Wojnowski
The Detroit News

If you’ve been watching college football this season, your head probably hurts. And your pupils are dilated. And you’d like a double of whatever they’re drinking in the replay booth.

I can’t keep up with the craziness, which is unfortunate because it’s about to get crazier. Before everyone starts bellowing about the first College Football Playoff rankings, you should know it doesn’t matter yet and it’ll all get settled on the field, right before it gets settled in a stinky boardroom, right before it gets overturned by replay review, right before it goes to federal court after Alabama makes the playoff with an 8-4 record.

Sitting comfortably just outside the chaos are the good ol’ Spartans, who don’t care what anyone thinks of the blemishes on their unblemished 8-0 record. And by “don’t care,” I mean “will crush your larynx if you use the word ‘fluke’ in any context.” To be safe, I suggest avoiding all these words: Fluke, flute, flake, floss, flub, falafel and Fluellen.

Michigan State has a case, although the selection committee would like to watch more Southeastern Conference games before officially disagreeing. Listen, if the Spartans were lucky to win a game on a slapstick punt muff (not a fluke!), how lucky were the Wolverines last week when the Gophers drove to the 4-inch line, trailing by three, and inexplicably elected to run out the clock?

The point is, everyone is getting breaks this wacky season. Well, everyone but Nebraska, which is 3-6 and so sick of losing on Hail Marys, it decided to stop playing defense to avoid the possibility. Nebraska is due, although I’m not sure karma actually exists. I do know it’s something the committee considers very seriously, along with the “eye test,” the “Rorschach test,” the “dartboard” and the “Ouija Board.” (“Ohhhh, great spirit, do we feel the powerful presence of Nick Saban in this rooooom?” Ouija: YES.)

Detroit News college picks: Week 10

This has to concern Mark “Apostrophe Optional” Dantonio, whose Spartans visit the Cornhuskers on Saturday night. Michigan State has been living on the edge, which partly explains why it’s seventh in the CFP rankings. Nebraska, meanwhile, has been falling off the ledge, which makes this a dangerous game.

It’s not because the Cornhuskers are any good (haha, my goodness no). It’s not because the Spartans are still partying in a hot tub with the Paul Bunyan Trophy (not true, I heard it was a swimming pool). It’s because anything, quite literally, can happen now that college football has adopted a new rule requiring teams to complete the full 60 minutes.

That burned Michigan, just as it burned Florida State when Georgia Tech returned a blocked field goal as time expired, leaving Jimbo “Shrimp” Fisher looking like he just got another call from the campus police. And then last week, Miami topped it all, somehow outsmarting Duke on the final 75-yard kickoff return. The Hurricanes lateraled 34 times, kept going backward, and then miraculously emerged from a tunnel on the opposite end and scored.

Replay officials looked at the tape, saw a Miami player had a knee down, then erased the tape, pulled hoodies over their heads and sprinted for the exit. It was a travesty, but because it happened to Duke, whatever. It didn’t affect the playoff picture, which is all that matters, judging by the endless TV commercials with that annoying concession slacker Larry.

The four-team playoff will be set Dec. 6, when the 12-member committee cashes out its $29,403 hotel room bar tab. It’s gonna be bleary-eyed, because all the big showdowns are yet to be played — LSU-Alabama, Michigan State-Ohio State, Baylor-TCU, Notre Dame-Stanford, Michigan-Rutgers. The final four right now — Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, Alabama — probably won’t be the final final four, which is expected to include three SEC teams and Notre Dame.

To help you sort this out, I have a few minutes to take some questions:

Q: Wojo, you’re a renowned college football expert. Isn’t it better to have one good healthy loss than be undefeated?

A: Only for you, Nick.

Q: I’ve been debating this with my buddies — is it possible for Michigan State to finish 13-0 and be ranked 19th?

A: Oh, please, stop being paranoid. Under no circumstances would an unbeaten Michigan State miss the playoff, not even in the event of a much-anticipated Zombie Apocalypse. You must be thinking of Iowa, which could finish 13-0 and play in the Holiday Bowl.

Q: What are some keys to ensuring you make the playoff?

A: Well, you could start by joining the SEC West. Also, you should avoid being named “Memphis” or “Houston” or “Baylor.”

Q: Hey, that’s not fair! Baylor scores tons of points, so who cares if its leading defensive player has four tackles this season. Do the Bears have a shot with all their funky, shifting formations?

A: Does a Bear shift in the woods? (I don’t even know what that means.) But no, because TCU will defeat Baylor in a classic Big 12 slugfest, 84-81.

Q: So tell me honestly, there’s no way a 10-2 Michigan would get into the playoff over a 13-0 Michigan State, right?

A: Mark, let it go. (Answer: Um, probably not).

The picks

Michigan State at Nebraska: Nebraska can lose all the heartbreakers it wants, but the deal-breaker is giving up 55 points to Purdue. The Spartans have to be careful, because they can’t expect to reach the playoff winning every game 52-26. Michigan State 52-26

Rutgers at Michigan: Michigan regained the coveted Little Brown Jug by completely dominating Minnesota in the final two seconds of a 29-26 victory. This is another revenge game, because records suggest Michigan lost to Rutgers, 26-24, although this cannot be confirmed. Michigan 31-7

Minnesota at Ohio State: The demoralized Gophers have spent the past week guzzling from little brown flasks. That’s OK. Buckeyes fans know what it’s like to show up at a game wobbly and glassy-eyed. Ohio State 42-14

Iowa at Indiana: The 8-0 Hawkeyes are one of 10 unbeatens in the country but they don’t get much respect. That’s too bad because they actually have a decent quarterback (C.J. Something) and sort of a good defense (or so I’ve heard). Iowa 31-27

LSU at Alabama: The winner is on track to get the No. 1 spot in the playoff. The loser probably will plummet to the No. 2 seed. I suspect Saban will come up with another genius game plan and hold superstar running back Leonard Fournette to 329 yards. Alabama 23-20