As college football Saturdays go, this past week was set up perfectly for a shakedown and weeding out of pretenders and contenders in the top ten of the sport's rankings. Three of the top seven teams were on the road as favorites against either ranked or spunky unranked (what's up, Iowa State!) foes, and sure enough, the college football gods whacked those three heavyweights, and whacked them good.
Down went Georgia in Baton Rouge to LSU, and in a big way, final score 36-16. Down went undefeated West Virginia in Ames, Iowa, final score 30-14. Finally, down went Washington, in overtime, in Eugene, Oregon, final score 30-27. Throw in Penn State losing at home to Michigan State, and that's four top ten teams that went down this weekend.
So there are names to now toss onto the obituary pile, for sure. Shakedown Saturday, indeed. Here are the latest AP rankings, which we will use to shape our playoff conversation:
1. Alabama (60) 7-0 1524
2. Ohio State (1) 7-0 1457
3. Clemson 6-0 1392
4. Notre Dame 7-0 1355
5. LSU 6-1 1244
6. Michigan 6-1 1146
7. Texas 6-1 1144
8. Georgia 6-1 1085
9. Oklahoma 5-1 999
10. UCF 6-0 979
11. Florida 6-1 931
12. Oregon 5-1 917
13. West Virginia 5-1 700
14. Kentucky 5-1 678
15. Washington 5-2 640
16. NC State 5-0 592
17. Texas A&M 5-2 551
18. Penn State 4-2 523
19. Iowa 5-1 266
20. Cincinnati 6-0 243
21. South Florida 6-0 242
22. Mississippi State 4-2 231
23. Wisconsin 4-2 226
24. Michigan State 4-2 199
25. Washington State 5-1 136
So, with two weeks to go until the first set of OFFICIAL College Football Playoff rankings, here is the overall picture. My four playoff teams remain unchanged (and damn, do I feel smart for not falling prey to the "Georgia is the clear cut second best team" crap that some people were trying to shovel... WOO HOO!):
1. ALABAMA: The Tide finally scored less than 40 points in a game, sleepwalking through the second half of a 39-10 cruise over Missouri this past weekend. All roads lead to Baton Rouge on November 3 right now, an elimination game for LSU, and the first REAL test for Alabama this season.
2. OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes struggled for a half with Minnesota, but straightened things out quickly enough to pull away with a fairly workmanlike 30-14 win. The game at Michigan State on November 10 looks fun, all of a sudden, and the Michigan game, in Columbus on Thanksgiving weekend, should be incredible. Both teams SHOULD be in the top five, by then.
3. NOTRE DAME: The Irish got a scare from Pitt at home this weekend, squeaking out a 19-14 win. Ironically, the last time Notre Dame went undefeated in the regular season in 2012, it involved a severe scare from Pitt at home in a close win, that one in overtime. Notre Dame should be heavily favored the rest of the way, although the final two games — in Yankee Stadium versus Syracuse, and in the LA Coliseum versus USC — present a unique challenge, travel-wise more than anything else, with a cross country trip in a seven day period with Thanksgiving in the middle of the week.
4. CLEMSON: The Tigers were idle last weekend, which was apparently the safest place for a top ten team to be. N.C. State this weekend may be their last real challenge in conference all season.
STRONG PULSE, CONTROLS OWN DESTINY
LSU: Huge win over Georgia in Baton Rouge. With their only loss being to an SEC East team, this means that the Tigers can control all of their tie breakers by sweeping through the games on their side of the conference in the SEC West. Easier said than done, since Alabama looms on November 3, but win that one, and the Tigers are on the inside looking out in the CFB Playoff scenarios.
MICHIGAN: HUGE blowout of Wisconsin this past weekend for Jim Harbaugh. The Ohio State game on November 24 is shaping up as an elimination game, and a de facto Big Ten East title game. Michigan still has the best loss of any of the one-loss teams, a 24-17 loss to Notre Dame in Week 1.
GEORGIA: Even with a 20-point blowout loss, the Bulldogs can still get into the playoff by winning out, which would presumably include an SEC title game against Alabama or a rematch against LSU, which would be ironic considering it was a title game rematch against Auburn, their only regular season loss last season, that got the Bulldogs into the playoff in 2017.
KENTUCKY: A long shot to happen, but undeniably, if Kentucky wins out and wins the SEC, they will be in the playoff. It helps that their one loss is to a team on the other side of the conference in the SEC West (Texas A&M in overtime two weeks ago).
NEED A LITTLE HELP
TEXAS / OKLAHOMA / WEST VIRGINIA: We may as well just throw all these teams into one entry. The Big XII has a nine team round robin as their regular season, so these guys all play each other at some point, and two of them may meet a second time in a conference title game. Right now, the only chance for a conference title game with two one-loss teams is Texas versus Oklahoma since they've played already. Chances are high that the Big XII will cannibalize itself out of the playoff picture.
FLORIDA: Florida needs Kentucky to lose another game (and obviously for themselves to win out). If that happens, the Gators would be a one-loss SEC champ, which is a sure ticket into the dance.
OREGON: Man, the Ducks have to be kicking themselves over that collapse against Stanford a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, that was a huge win in Eugene this past weekend over Washington (who will ultimately be a three or four loss team, they're just not great this season). Justin Herbert might be the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Let's see where this goes.
NEED A LOT OF HELP
UCF: A near loss to Memphis this past weekend. I suppose I need to keep mentioning them, so long as they remain unbeaten.
N.C. STATE: This will end this weekend against Clemson.
WELCOME TO THE PARTY, PAL!
IOWA: Hey, don't look now, but here come the Hawkeyes! I know to anyone who likes football played like in it's in a decade after the 1960s, this is horrible news. There is no more boring team than Iowa. However, we cannot ignore the possibility. Their one loss is to Wisconsin, so they're losing the head to head tie breaker in division right now. However, if the Hawkeyes win out — and aside from an October 27 trip to Penn State, it's VERY doable — and Wisconsin loses a game (the Badgers play at Penn State on November 10), then Iowa would get a crack at (likely) the Michigan vs Ohio State winner in the Big Ten title game. Does a one-loss Big Ten champ get an automatic invite? Probably not automatic, but certainly under heavy consideration. Oddly enough, ti would help Iowa if Iowa State kept pulling off upsets, as the Hawkeyes beat the Cyclones back in Week 2.
WASHINGTON STATE: Damn, I had no idea Washington State was lurking like this, as they squeaked into the Top 25 this week. It will probably come crashing down this weekend against Oregon, but it's fun having Mike Leach in the mix!
WEEK 6 OBITS
WASHINGTON: Like I said earlier, I think this team has at least one, maybe two losses still on the schedule this year. Jake Browning has taken a step backwards in 2018.
PENN STATE: Penn State is done, but as we've outlined here, they'll have a say in who is stays in the hunt, with upcoming games against Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin.
WISCONSIN: The BYU loss exposed this edition of the Badgers. They may still play for a Big Ten title, but a New Year's Six bowl game is now the tippy top ceiling for this season for them.
COLORADO: We now know what Colorado is, after finally playing a team that is among the top fifty or so in the nation (a 31-20 loss to USC) — they're a nice little, middle of the pack, Pac-12 squad.
MIAMI (FL): On the 30th anniversary of "Catholics versus Convicts", it's fun to say that the Hurricanes have been eliminated from any national championship conversation. Enjoy!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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