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Hamilton: CFP trending upward, SEC East not so much

A midweek sports stock report after October has turned into November:

College Football Playoff rankings

The second round of this season’s College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday night and the top five remained unchanged. For the second straight week, Georgia and Alabama are situated to be the first duo from the same conference to make the CFP in its four-year history, while Notre Dame could break ground as an independent. Clemson is positioned to defend its title from the fourth spot. That is, of course, assuming nothing changes between now and Dec. 3 and the odds –– as well as history –– says a lot will go down over the next 26 days. Both Alabama and Georgia must play No. 10 Auburn, with the Tigers possibly playing the Bulldogs twice. A three-game sweep by Auburn could make it the first two-loss team to make the CFP. Either two teams or a multiple-loss conference champ getting in would make SEC critics twist. But haters around the rest of the college football world –– or at least those situated west of the Mississippi River –– would lose their minds if something I’m calling the “Doomsday Scenario” happens. If seventh-ranked Miami beats Notre Dame this weekend to improve to 9-0, it would set up the very real possibility of a four-team CFP that would pit two teams from the ACC against two from the SEC. No Big Ten –– it cannibalized itself over the weekend regardless what Wisconsin people say. No Pac-12, which has only three teams in the top 25 and none higher than Washington at No. 9. And no Big 12, meaning Oklahoma and TCU –– currently ranked fifth and sixth, respectively –– would be left out of the mix. Then again, can’t this happen anyhow even if Notre Dame beats Miami? After all, it’s a quasi-member of the ACC thanks to a Faustian deal that allows it to maintain its independence in football, though it must play five ACC teams each year. That kinda counts, right?

Advice: Buy

SEC East

Make no mistake about it: things are going to get worse for the SEC East before they get better. Yes, Georgia could carry the division’s flag in the CFP even if it loses in Atlanta and that’s definitely a big deal. Otherwise, it’s a group wallowing in mediocrity, if not misery. Consider that the two other teams in the division with winning records are a ho-hum 6-3 and the only thing close to a signature victory for either Kentucky or South Carolina is the Gamecocks’ season-opening win over N.C. State. The West has a 42-21 to 36-26 advantage in overall record and is 9-2 against its East counterparts so far this season. That’s yet another indication that the traditional alphas of the East –– that being Florida and Tennessee –– are in the midst of lulls that will likely cost both coaches their jobs. Most notably, only two of those losses by the East have come against Alabama and one at the hands of Auburn, while every team in the West has at least one SEC victory. And the SEC West champ has won eight straight league championships, a stretch that’s a far cry from Florida and Tennessee combining to win six straight in the 1990s and the decade of parity the league enjoyed starting in 1999. The average margin of victory has been 21.8 points since Florida beat Alabama in 2008. The closest game during that stretch? When the Crimson Tide beat Georgia, 32-28, in 2012. Just sayin’.

Advice: Sell

Baker Mayfield’s Heisman hopes

Remember when we were polishing the mythical September and October Heisman Trophies for Penn State’s Saquon Barkley? No, I don’t either. The Nittany Lions’ current two-game losing streak has eliminated them from CFP discussion and put Barkley’s Heisman candidacy in dire straits as its lacked both production (he had a whopping 113 total yards during the loss to Michigan State) and in the kind of highlight-worthy moments that make and break winning campaigns. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, meanwhile, continues to plod along with big games and, most importantly, big wins. He completed 24 of 36 passes for 598 yards and five touchdowns against two interceptions during the Sooners’ wild 62-52 Bedlam win over Oklahoma State. For the season, he’s completed nearly 72 percent of his passes for 3,226 yards and 28 touchdowns with five interceptions. He also has 181 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 62 carries. The biggest stat on his resume however is 2-0, that being his record at schools that go by “OSU,” that being the Cowboys and Ohio State. Mayfield’s biggest challenge will be convincing some of the old school voters to overlook his offseason arrest for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and fleeing along with his postgame shenanigans at Ohio State.

Advice: Buy in bulk

Eric Bledsoe to Milwaukee

The former UK guard got his wish and will be traded from Phoenix to Milwaukee in exchange for center Greg Monroe and a pair of upcoming draft picks. Bledsoe averaged a career-high 21.1 points and 6.3 assists for the Suns last season and he’s one of just nine players to have averaged at least 20 points and six assists since the start of the 2015-16 season. However, he hasn’t played since tweeting “I don’t want to be here” after the Suns’ third game this season and only hours before Phoenix coach Earl Watson was fired. He was fined $10,000 for that tweet, though it might prove to be the best money he’s ever spent as Bledsoe joins a lineup that includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Malcolm Brogdon. The young Bucks (you see what I did there) made the playoffs last season and excelled as a defensive team and the addition of Bledsoe should help take some pressure off of Antetekounmpo and elevate the offense. If nothing else, the Eastern Conference just got way more interesting.

Advice: Buy

Big Baller Brand

Three UCLA men’s basketball players were arrested in China for shoplifting. One of them is LiAngelo Ball, brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard Lonzo Ball and therefore son of overbearing parent Lavar Ball. Which begs the question –– um, what?

Advice: No. Just … no

Follow Scott Hamilton on Twitter @ScottH_Sports




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