Penn State shocked the nation by knocking off Ohio State thanks to a blocked fourth-quarter field goal returned for a touchdown. Alabama ran away from Texas A&M to further cement its No. 1 status, and there seems to be a consensus top four ... for the moment. Why just for the moment? Because every remaining undefeated team plays its next game on the road, with Clemson, Washington, and Nebraska facing especially tough tests this week against top-20 opponents.
Alabama trailed Texas A&M by a point early in the second half but dominated the rest of the way, taking a stranglehold on the SEC West for the time being. A road trip to LSU in two weeks is one of the last remaining hurdles for the red-hot Crimson Tide. It’s hard to see Bama suffering a regular-season loss at this point, but LSU and Auburn - with whom the Tide closes the season - both look more formidable than they once did.
The Wolverines continue to dispose of the dregs of the Big Ten with little trouble, and this week’s opponent, Michigan State, technically falls into that category. Can Sparty muster any kind of opposition for its archrival in what has been a season to forget in East Lansing?
Clemson has been derided for lackluster performances on a number of occasions this season, but you may be hard-pressed to find any remaining detractors if the Tigers can take down Florida State in Tallahassee this weekend. The rest of the schedule isn’t a cakewalk, but the Seminoles are clearly Clemson’s biggest obstacle left.
The Huskies have remained comfortably in the Playoff picture since back-to-back drubbings of Stanford and Oregon, but as those “signature” wins retroactively become worse with each passing week, we’re forced to accept the reality that there is not a ton of meat to this Washington resume other than lopsided scores. We think the Huskies are a Playoff team as it stands now, but a road win at Utah would add a much-needed victory over a quality opponent.
Louisville’s burgeoning at-large Playoff case didn’t lose any steam this week as the Cardinals steamrolled NC State, a team that took Clemson to the brink just a week earlier. We maintain, however, that as Louisville’s strength of schedule number will take an absolute beating in the coming weeks, and they will become more and more reliant on the “eye test.” There is a path to the Playoff for the Cardinals, but it is still very much dependent on things that are beyond their control.
6. Ohio State
It’s hard to believe the Buckeyes dropped just four spots after their loss to Penn State - a team that Michigan dismantled in a 39-point beatdown a few weeks prior. Ohio State is far from out of the Playoff race, as winning out would likely be enough to clinch a spot. They will just have to be a lot better than the team we saw Saturday night.
Just call us unimpressed with a 13-point home win over Purdue in which you trailed at the half. Being undefeated is cool and all, but this a team that has achieved its 7-0 record by beating absolutely nobody. We hope Wisconsin will end the madness this week.
It’s nice that Baylor actually has to play a football game this week, albeit it against a floundering Texas team that shouldn’t pose much of a threat.
9. Texas A&M
We knew Trevor Knight and the Aggies would meet their match at some point, and they ultimately didn’t have enough in their arsenal to hang with Alabama.
10. West Virginia
The Mountaineers scored perhaps their most impressive win yet, handling TCU from start to finish in a 34-10 victory. Still plenty to prove, but we are a bit more accepting of West Virginia after that performance.
‘Sconny bounced back from a gut-wrenching loss to grab a not flashy, but solid win at Iowa to keep itself in the mix in the Big Ten West. The Badgers are still ranked too high for a two-loss team with one and a half good wins, but there also isn’t a whole lot to choose from in the 11-20 range of teams.
12. Florida State
Florida State, for all it’s struggles this season, still has the pieces of a top-10 team and will be a very tall task for Clemson this weekend. While a conference championship is a long shot for them at this point, the Noles still have a potential New Year’s Six spot to play for - not to mention the opportunity to spoil Clemson’s undefeated season.
13. Boise State
While some remain unimpressed with Boise’s resume, the Broncos added a good win over BYU this past week, incredibly overcoming a minus-5 turnover margin and escaping with a one-point victory.
While the Gators’ toughest games still lie ahead of them, they can take another step toward securing a berth in the SEC Championship Game with a win over Georgia in whatever they call that game now. We don’t think too much of this Florida team, but it’s technically not out of the national title picture.
Raise your hand if you saw that coming. Auburn rushed for an impossible 543 yards on its way to a where-did-that-come-from 56-3 win over Arkansas, and don’t look now, but the Tigers are rolling and get a chance to kick SWAG while he’s down when they travel to Oxford this weekend.
Speaking of ludicrous box scores, I guarantee you have never seen anything like this. Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for 734 yards in a loss as Baker Mayfield posted seven touchdown passes to help Oklahoma outlast the Red Raiders 66-59. Each team had 854 total yards in the biggest affront to defense we have ever witnessed on a college football field.
The bizarre stat lines continue as Utah running back Joe Williams, who quit football a month ago, rushed for a school-record 332 yards to lead his team to a 52-45 win over UCLA. The Utes will get their chance to initiate a late Playoff push when Washington comes to town Saturday, but that defense will have to bring more to the table than it did against the Bruins, as the Huskies offensive attack is far superior.
It would be a shocker if the Vols didn’t win out and finish the regular season 10-2. If that happens, it would only take one Florida loss (which isn’t hard to fathom) for Tennessee to clinch a shot at the SEC title.
Much like Auburn, LSU is looking better with each passing week as Coach O’s audition for the head job on the bayou continues. Leonard Fournette returned from injury to post a stupid line of 284 rushing yards and three touchdowns on just 16 carries while doing mean things to helpless Ole Miss defenders. The Tigers get a week off before providing Alabama with its final road test of the season.
20. Western Michigan
It’s hard to see the Broncos moving much higher than this in the rankings, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still have a New Year’s Six chance.
21. North Carolina
The Tar Heels disposed of Virginia in expected fashion and remain very much in the thick of things in the ACC Coastal, but they still need another Virginia Tech loss to clear their path.
Navy’s impressive two-touchdown win over Memphis put the Midshipmen firmly in the driver’s seat in the AAC’s West division, but a sneaky tough Friday night road test at South Florida awaits them this week.
The Buffaloes’ 10-5 win at Stanford was an eyesore, but it helped them keep pace with Utah in the Pac 12 South.
24. Penn State
While it’s tough to call Penn State a quality team simply because it knocked off Ohio State, the Nittany Lions actually have a relatively easy remaining schedule that could lend itself to an 8-4 or 9-3 finish if they can ride their sudden wave of momentum.
25. Virginia Tech
The Hokies dispatched of Miami in their first of back-to-back Thursday night games, and they now travel to Pitt while trying to maintain control of the ACC Coastal.