Can Milton, Tagovailoa face off in College Football Playoff?

  • David Simon

It’s all about quarterbacks this week. I mean, that’s how it is most weeks, right? The quarterback is always the face that runs the place.

It’s been another good week for some of those more familiar faces. After the newest edition of the College Football Playoff rankings came out Tuesday, Central Florida has crept up to No. 9, hoping to possibly moves up further if mayhem ensues within the top six during rivalry week.

Following UCF’s 38-13 statement win over Cincinnati on Saturday, the Knights are gaining some traction toward what they certainly consider to be their ultimate goal of reaching the Playoff. If that were to occur, it would mean that two of the four quarterbacks vying for a national title would be Hawaii products — UCF’s McKenzie Milton (Mililani) and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (Saint Louis).

Each is already leading one of only four remaining unbeaten schools, along with Clemson and Notre Dame. But a lot would need to happen for UCF to realistically enter the top four, because some of the teams they need help from are right there in similar positions.

The Knights need to leap frog over Washington State (8), LSU (7), Oklahoma (6), Georgia (5) and most likely Michigan (4). While that’s a large contingency of teams, they all have very difficult games remaining.

Washington State has a tough rivalry matchup this week against No. 16 Washington, with a win then sending them to the Pac-12 title game against No. 17 Utah. LSU hits the road against No. 22 Texas A&M.

Oklahoma plays at No. 13 West Virginia, with a chance to then go to the Big 12 title game to possibly face No. 14 Texas, to whom they already lost this season. Georgia has a tuneup against Georgia Tech before a showdown with No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game. Michigan has “The Game” against No. 10 Ohio State with the winner then facing No. 19 Northwestern for the Big Ten title.

In all likelihood, those teams would all need to lose for Milton and UCF to have a shot at joining Tagovailoa and rising into the top four. But if by some miracle, all those teams were to lose at least one more time, would a one-loss Ohio State then jump back in front of UCF? Would West Virginia hop them with a win over Oklahoma? Does a two-loss Georgia team even drop below UCF if their two losses are at LSU and against Alabama?

The Knights have had another great season and looked legitimate against a good Cincinnati team. But if that’s their best win at the end of the year, it’s still hard to send them to the CFP when these other schools are facing much better opponents now, as well as for most of the season. A trip to the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day seems to be the most likely outcome and that’s nothing to sneeze at. All this exposure will continue to help UCF gain national recognition and aid in recruiting. I’d be all for them crashing the party, but it still feels like a tough road.

Seems we’ve been here before

Speaking of quarterbacks, fallout from Saturday’s 35-28 comeback victory for Hawaii is yet another quarterback controversy for the ‘Bows. With UH running off 22 consecutive points behind true freshman Chevan Cordeiro for the dramatic win over UNLV, who will start the finale against San Diego State?

Cole McDonald has had a sensational season overall, but his performance since returning from injury has been up and down to say the least. Having narrowly won the job in August, McDonald threw for 2,100 yards, 24 touchdowns and just two interceptions through the first six games. After then missing the 17-13 win over Wyoming with an unspecified injury, McDonald has thrown for 1,238 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions in five games — four losses and a benching.

All things being equal, starting Cordeiro seems like the right move. However, it would be his fourth game with the Hawaii Bowl still looming. Playing in more than four games would ultimately eliminate any redshirt option, burning a full season of his eligibility.

How would that decision sit with McDonald, who will be entering his junior season in 2019? Would he eye another opportunity or be open to competing to try to win back his job? Despite clinching bowl eligibility on Saturday, the manner in which Hawaii did so may have raised even more questions than it answered.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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