Another thrilling college football regular season is reaching its end.
The cloudy playoff picture is slowly beginning to take shape.
As teams battle for conference supremacy, here are some of the winners and losers of the week.
The Badgers are one of only three undefeated Power 5 teams, but have been hampered by a lackluster résumé. Going into the weekend, their best win was over Northwestern, a team on the fringes of the top 25 playoff rankings. Wisconsin scored an impressive 38-14 win over Iowa, who came ranked 20th fresh off the heels of their 55-24 destruction of Ohio State. The Badgers are currently 5th in the AP poll, and will likely claim that spot in the playoff rankings. They’ll get another chance to gain national respect next week when they face off against an improved Michigan team. If the Badgers roll through the regular season, they are likely headed for a showdown against Ohio State who is likely out of the playoff discussions, but still has the talent to be a major spoiler.
The Sooners are the highest ranked one-loss team in the nation. Their inexplicable home loss to Iowa State as a 31-point point favorite doesn’t look so bad now as the Cyclones have proven to be a legitimate team. In addition to Oklahoma’s quality loss, they also have a cache of quality wins, including a 38-20 win over 5th ranked TCU. The Sooners are back in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot, which seemed highly unlikely after their stumble against Iowa State. The Sooners close with Kansas and West Virginia, then get a rematch against Oklahoma State or TCU to further boost their bona fides for the playoff selection committee. Baker Mayfield’s Heisman stock is also on the rise as he continues to rack up gaudy numbers and other contenders struggle to keep their campaigns afloat.
No team in college football has had a better two-week run than the Miami Hurricanes. Going into last week, the Hurricanes were 7-0, but were largely considered the most overrated team in the country. They didn’t have any wins against ranked opponents, and struggled to close out games against teams that are having poor seasons. Miami began to change its perception by handily beating 13th ranked Virginia Tech. The nation still wasn’t convinced. College football pundits almost universally selected 3rd ranked Notre Dame to beat Miami at home. Then the game happened. The Canes dominated the Fighting Irish in a frenzied atmosphere that harkened back to the late ‘80s. Miami’s defense led the team to a dominant 41-8 victory, catapulting the Hurricanes to #2 in both the Coaches and AP polls. Miami also clinched the ACC Coastal, which guarantees them a showdown with defending national champion Clemson in the ACC title game in Charlotte, NC.
Even college football analyst Paul Finebaum, arguably Miami’s staunchest critic, was impressed by the rout:
Yo, @finebaum, we got to work on those moves 😂 (via @BillyM_91) https://t.co/f8BpavyGGd
The Bulldogs were riding high at 9-0, but finally ran into a buzzsaw in Auburn. The Tigers shredded Georgia 40-17 before a rabid home crowd. The loss knocks Georgia to 7th in the AP poll, and drops them from the top spot in the upcoming playoff rankings. Georgia has been able to impose its will on opponents and run down their throats without having to expose true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm to making mistakes. The 10th ranked Tigers have a stout defense, and weren’t going to let Georgia’s ground game bury them. Fromm had to throw, and he looked like a freshman. The Bulldogs are still in good position because they’ve clinched the SEC East and have a chance to get back in the playoff discussion if they can win the SEC Championship game, but this performance has to shake their confidence.
It doesn’t appear as if the Huskies will be returning to the playoffs after a 30-22 loss against Stanford. The game wasn’t even that close, as the Huskies scored late to embellish the final score. This was a revenge game for the Cardinal, who suffered a humiliating 44-6 to the Huskies last year. The Huskies still have an outside shot at winning the PAC-12 North, but they’re going to need some help. They have to defeat a tough Washington State team in the Apple Cup, and they need struggling Cal to beat Stanford in the “Big Game,” which doesn’t seem likely. This has to be a frustrating result for a team that had its sights on returning to the playoffs and atoning for a feeble showing against Alabama in the semifinals.
The Volunteers finally hit rock bottom in a 50-17 loss to Missouri. The loss triggered the school to put embattled coach Butch Jones out of his misery. His ouster means the school can officially court suitors to steer one of the top programs in the SEC. As history has proven, good coaches can turn programs around quickly. If Tennessee makes a shrewd hire, they could easily be back in the conversation in the SEC East. If not, the program could spiral, which will make the rebuilding effort that more difficult. As for this past weekend, the Volunteers looked completely uninspired in their blowout loss. The defeat drops Tennessee to 0-6 in SEC play, and makes bowl eligibility a dicey proposition. The Volunteers must defeat an improving LSU team next week (as well as Vanderbilt the last game of the season), otherwise they’ll be home for the holidays.
A harbinger for the failed season was probably Tennessee’s ill-conceived “turnover prop.” A growing trend around college football is for teams to incentivize turnovers with some type of fun accessory for the defensive player who notches an interception or fumble recovery. For their prop, the Volunteers chose…a trash can.
Somewhere Butch Jones watches these Miami games and wonders why the chain became a thing but the trash can did not.