Welcome to a world where Alabama is the No. 1 college football team in the country. It looks familiar, doesn’t it?
Thanks to No. 1 Georgia’s loss at No. 10 Auburn on Saturday afternoon, the Tide will very likely ascend to the top spot in the third edition of the 2017 College Football Playoff rankings even if Alabama’s win over No. 16 Mississippi State was a nailbiter. The No. 2 Tide beat the Bulldogs 31-24 thanks to a touchdown pass from QB Jalen Hurts to WR Davonta Smith with 26 seconds left.
Unless you’re a Miami superfan, there’s really no disputing that Alabama deserves to be the top team in the country. So if we accept that as a universal truth, we’re left with a dilemma. Who’s No. 2?
The No. 7 Hurricanes demolished No. 3 Notre Dame on Saturday night, but Clemson and Oklahoma, the teams at Nos. 4 and 5 also won. And No. 8 Wisconsin moved to 10-0 with a convincing win over an Iowa team that demolished Ohio State a week ago. All four of those victors have a case for the second spot to varying degrees.
Here are those cases. We’ll find out who’s No. 2 on Tuesday.
Teams listed in alphabetical order
Previous ranking: 4
Saturday’s result: 31-14 win over Florida State
Best Win: Auburn
Case for No. 2: Clemson is the only team on this list that didn’t get its best win of the season in Week 11. Blame it on Florida State being a lot worse than we expected.
The Auburn win is a feather in Clemson’s cap as the Tigers’ defensive line dominated an Auburn offensive front that controlled No. 1 Georgia’s defense on Saturday. The Tigers have also convincingly beaten Louisville (No. 14 at the time) and Virginia Tech (No. 12 at the time) while beating No. 20 NC State by a touchdown a week ago.
Clemson’s loss — a week 8 defeat to Syracuse — also came on the road on a short week. And quarterback Kelly Bryant started the game clearly hobbled and missed the second half.
Previous ranking: 7
Saturday’s result: 41-8 win over Notre Dame
Best Win: Notre Dame
Case for No. 2: Miami’s case for No. 2 was made in the rout of Notre Dame, who entered Saturday night at No. 3. The Hurricanes forced four turnovers and shut down a Notre Dame team that had been dominant on the ground. If it wasn’t for a late garbage time touchdown, the game could have been a shut out.
Oh, and Miami beat then-No. 13 Virginia Tech convincingly the week before. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Hurricanes were on a run of not-so-great wins entering that Virginia Tech game. But the Hurricanes have looked like one of the best teams in the country over the past two weeks and are doing it without star running back Mark Walton, who is sidelined for the season. If the playoff rankings truly start from a blank slate each week and are a snapshot in time, Miami’s last two weeks are pretty persuading.
Previous ranking: 5
Saturday’s result: 38-20 win over TCU
Best Win: TCU
Case for No. 2: The Sooners now have double-digit wins over Ohio State, Oklahoma State and TCU. All three teams will be in the top 15 of Tuesday’s rankings. While Clemson’s wins look good — or at least did at the time — Oklahoma’s victories look better right now. Especially when you consider two of them came on the road.
The Sooners also have the best player in the country in quarterback Baker Mayfield and, potentially, the best offense in the country. Oklahoma’s defense hasn’t been the greatest throughout the season but was stingy against the No. 6 Horned Frogs on Saturday night. The Sooners sat on the ball in the second half because its defense had kept TCU under wraps.
At No. 5, Oklahoma was also ranked ahead of both Miami and Wisconsin entering Week 11 and had a more convincing win over a better team than No. 4 Clemson did. We’ll see if that matters.
Previous ranking: 8
Saturday’s result: 38-14 win over Iowa
Best Win: Iowa
Case for No. 2: The Badgers’ best case for No. 2 is to simply point to its status as the only undefeated team in a deep Big Ten.
That looks good on the surface, but the Badgers still have the flimsiest of the cases to be No. 2 among the four teams unless you think Iowa’s performance against Ohio State in Week 10 wasn’t a huge flash in the pan.
Yes, the Hawkeyes two touchdowns came courtesy of Josh Jackson interception returns for touchdowns. But those picks were thrown by Wisconsin, after all. While the Badgers’ run game is very good, its pass game isn’t. Especially without WR Quintez Cephus, who’s now out for the season.
And while Wisconsin keeps winning, it’s doing so in the Big Ten West, not the Big Ten East. If the Badgers beat Michigan convincingly in Week 12 and win the Big Ten Championship Game to move to 13-0, then they’ll be in the playoff. That’s pretty much a guarantee. But asking them to be at No. 2 on Tuesday is a stretch.
Here are this week’s winners and losers.
Washington State: Wazzu went on the road to Salt Lake City on Saturday and emerged with a hard-fought 33-25 victory. Now at 9-2 overall and 6-2 in Pac-12 play, the Cougars are tied with Stanford for first place in the Pac-12 North. But since WSU owns the tiebreak over Stanford, WSU only needs to knock off rival Washington in two weeks in the Apple Cup to win the division and face USC in the Pac-12 title game.
Lamar Jackson: It’s easy to gloss over Louisville games lately, but the talent of the Cardinals’ quarterback never ceases to amaze. With 195 passing yards and 147 rushing yards, Jackson became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons during Louisville’s 38-21 victory over Virginia. The win means UofL is bowl eligible once again, which means we all get to see Jackson, who scored four touchdowns in the win, dominate defenses just a little bit longer.
Bradley Chubb: When the NFL Draft rolls around and clips of college players run on a constant loop, you’ll see a ton of Bradley Chubb vs. Boston College. The senior defensive end was compared to JJ Watt more than once on the broadcast Saturday as he racked up eight tackles (five solo), including 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. NC State escaped with a 17-14 victory, moving the Wolfpack to an impressive 7-3 (5-1) record. The biggest reason for that is the defense, and the best defender is Chubb.
Wake Forest: All of a sudden, Wake Forest has a high-powered offense. The Demon Deacons trounced Syracuse 64-43 on Saturday and put up a whopping 734 yards of offense in the process. Quarterback John Wolford led the way with 363 passing yards, 136 rushing yards and six total touchdowns. Additionally, Matt Colburn wracked up 237 rushing yards in the win, which improved Wake to 6-4 on the year to clinch bowl eligibility for a second straight season.
David Sills: David Sills’ remarkable season for West Virginia continued on Saturday. In WVU’s 28-23 win over Kansas State, Sills caught two more touchdown passes, giving him 18 on the season. That’s seven more than anybody else in the country. This four-yard TD in the second quarter was a thing of beauty.
Indiana: Tom Allen’s first season as head coach has been rough, but the Hoosiers finally won their first Big Ten game of the season on Saturday, beating Illinois 24-14. IU is 4-6 and there have been a lot of close losses along the way. There’s still hope for a bowl game, too. The Hoosiers close the regular season at home against Rutgers before traveling to Purdue. A 6-6 record is within reach.
Dameon Baber: The Wolf Pack defensive back tied an NCAA record for return touchdowns in Nevada’s 59-14 win over San Jose State. Babers scored three touchdowns off returns. Two came on interception returns — including a 100-yard score — and another came on a blocked punt. If that wasn’t enough, he also had an interception that he didn’t return for a touchdown. The win means Nevada has two wins on the season and will not be the worst team in the Mountain West this season. Both teams entered Saturday’s game with just one win each.
Turnover Chain Dog: Good dog.
This very good boy at GameDay has himself a Turnover Chain because, Miami. pic.twitter.com/g3uappuXum
— Christy Chirinos (@ChristyChirinos) November 11, 2017
Washington: The Huskies’ 30-22 loss to Stanford Friday night was brutal for UW’s CFP hopes. And especially more so 24 hours later.
Thanks to losses by Georgia, Notre Dame and TCU, the Huskies stood a chance of moving up all the way to No. 6 in Tuesday’s CFP rankings from No. 9 if they would have beaten Stanford. Alas, Washington will fall out of the top 10 and probably won’t even be the highest-ranked Pac-12 team. That honor will likely go to USC, a team Washington could meet in the Pac-12 title game if it beats Washington State in two weeks.
Iowa and Iowa State: The state of Iowa’s turn in the spotlight was fun while it lasted. The Hawkeyes and Cyclones were both handed crushing losses in very different fashions on Saturday. No. 21 Iowa State watched another upset chance slip away in a 49-42 loss at No. 15 Oklahoma State, while No. 20 Iowa proved inept on offense in a 38-14 loss to No. 8 Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes gained just 66 yards total against the Badgers. It’s likely both teams fall out of the top 25, but they gave college football quite the ride over the last few weeks. Neither team will face a top opponent the rest of the way, so the chaos in the heartland is most certainly over.
Bret Bielema and Butch Jones: It’s going to be a slog for either of these two B-initialed coaches to get their teams to a bowl game in what could be the final season for each at their respective schools.
Bielema’s Arkansas team fell 33-10 on the road to LSU on Saturday. The Razorbacks are now 4-6 and has to beat Mississippi State and Missouri just to get to 6-6 and bowl eligibility.
That Missouri team blew out Jones’ Tennessee 50-17 on Saturday to drop the Vols to 4-6. That means Tennessee has to beat LSU and Vanderbilt over the next two weeks to get to a bowl game.
Missouri was also Tennessee’s last SEC win. The loss means Tennessee’s most recent game against every other SEC opponent has been a defeat. That’s brutal.
Tennessee's most recent game vs each SEC team:
Alabama – L 45-7
Arkansas – L 24-20
Auburn – L 55-23
Florida – L 26-20
Georgia – L 41-0
Kentucky – L 29-26
LSU – L 38-7
Mizzou – L 50-17
Miss State – L 41-31
Ole Miss – L 34-3
SCar – L 15-9
Texas A&M – L 45-38
Vandy – L 45-34
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) November 12, 2017
Virginia Tech: The Hokies pulled off the improbable on Saturday, getting beat by notoriously run-heavy Georgia Tech through the air. No. 17 Virginia Tech struggled all game on offense but even that isn’t as bad what happened to its defense. Yellow Jackets quarterback TaQuon Marshall completed just two passes on the day and finished with 140 yards and two touchdowns. After a 7-1 start, the Hokies have now dropped two in a row.
Nebraska: What do you say after giving up 500+ yards of offense to a mediocre Minnesota team? At this point it’s obvious that things need to change across the board for Nebraska, but it remains to be seen if Mike Riley will be shown the door before the end of the regular season (new AD Bill Moos has said he does not like to fire coaches mid-season). The Cornhuskers looked completely disinterested even with bowl eligibility on the line and dropped to 4-6 on the year. With two final games remaining against Penn State and Iowa, it’s hard to see Nebraska getting a back to a bowl game.
Kansas State: The Wildcats are going to need to pull a massive upset to get to a bowl game. After a 28-23 loss to West Virginia, Kansas State is 5-5 through Week 11. And its next two games are against Oklahoma State and Iowa State, two of the top four teams in the Big 12.
If KSU doesn’t make a bowl game it’ll be the first time the team hasn’t gone to a bowl since 2009 — the first season of coach Bill Snyder’s second tenure with the school. Given the injuries Kansas State has experienced at QB this season — third-string QB Skylar Thompson started on Saturday — maybe 5-5 at this point in the season is a win.
Kansas: Congratulations, Jayhawks. The longest road losing streak in the FBS is all yours. Texas’ 42-27 victory over KU avenged last year’s inexplicable loss and handed Kansas its 45th consecutive loss away from Lawrence. KU has one road game left this year, so it’s possible the streak could end in 2017, but that game is at Oklahoma State so it’s very likely the Jayhawks enter 2018 without a road win since 2009.