We’ve discussed that was not an if, but a when regarding the inevitable exposing of both Oklahoma and Michigan, and much to our satisfaction both teams lost as home favorites on the same day. Michigan State upending the Wolverines wasn’t particularly shocking, but the Sooners suffered one of the most unexpected upsets in recent memory as Iowa State rolled a third-string quarterback into Norman as a 31-point underdog and pulled off the unthinkable. Both Oklahoma and Michigan understandably dropped like rocks in the poll, while teams like TCU, Wisconsin, and Washington State continue to charge hard toward the realm of Playoff consideration. While Alabama, Georgia, and Auburn are taking care of business, the rest of the SEC is not. In fact, the conference has the same number of ranked teams (3) as the American Athletic Conference. We once again have an upcoming weekend lacking in premier matchups, but there are enough interesting games that we can almost feel certain more chaos looms.
1. Alabama (Last Week: 1)
It was certainly the Tide’s most suspect performance yet this season, as they let a 21-point lead whittle to just 8 in the final moments at Texas A&M. The game was never in doubt, but it was a far cry from the beatdowns administered to their previous conference opponents. Clemson’s passing game has come into question recently, but Alabama may be the top-2 team with the bigger issue in that department.
2. Clemson (Last Week: 2)
The Tigers put forth a workmanlike effort, if nothing else, in their win over Wake Forest, gradually building a 28-point lead before surrendering two late touchdowns with the subs in. Kelly Bryant exited the game with an ankle injury midway through the third quarter but should be able to go Friday night against Syracuse.
3. Penn State (Last Week: 4)
The Nittany Lions’ body of work thus far isn’t going to blow anybody away, but the last-second win at Iowa is the only one in which they weren’t reasonably dominant. They get a bye week this week before back-to-back dates with Michigan and Ohio State, followed by a suddenly more daunting trip to East Lansing to face Michigan State. If Penn State can make it through that gauntlet unscathed, it will have more than stated its case.
4. Georgia (Last Week: 5)
The Bulldogs swept the state of Tennessee the past two weeks in impressive fashion and now are treated to consecutive games against the beatable SEC East trio of Missouri, Florida, and South Carolina. I still don’t think Georgia goes to Auburn and wins following that, but it would be truly surprising if they don’t emerge from the SEC East with an outside shot at the Playoff.
5. Washington (Last Week: 6)
The Huskies are getting it done on both sides of the ball against the bottom of the Pac-12 barrel and shouldn’t face much resistance until a three-game stretch of Stanford, Utah, and Washington State to end the season. I think the Huskies are good, but you have to wonder how they will fare in early Playoff polls with a lack of quality wins. You would like to think they could get some “eye test” credit, but we know that only applies for Alabama.
6. TCU (Last Week: 8)
While it got the win it needed, TCU didn’t always look the part of a top-flight team against West Virginia - notably in surrendering more than 500 yards defensively. It won’t be the last potent offense the Horned Frogs see in the Big XII, so improvement is in order if they want to truly threaten the Playoff field.
7. Wisconsin (Last Week: 9)
Strength of schedule is a serious concern for Wisconsin as the CFP rankings creep ever closer, as a home game against Michigan on the season’s penultimate weekend is the only thing on the Badgers’ schedule that would move the needle at all where quality wins are concerned. And who even knows what the Wolverines will be at that point? Sconny is toeing the line that division rival Iowa toed back in 2015, where your easy schedule gives you a good shot to win out - but if you suffer a loss, you may be out of luck.
8. Washington State (Last Week: 11)
The Cougars did well to avoid a letdown after their huge win over USC, and I wouldn’t mind them being a spot or two higher after handling Oregon on the road Saturday night. The tougher half of their schedule still lies ahead, but Wazzu has done all you could ask so far.
9. Ohio State (Last Week: 10)
The Buckeyes are doing their best to make everybody forget about the ugly loss to Oklahoma by slaughtering the Rutgers and Marylands of the world, but we won’t forgive them until they win a game of some significance. This team doesn’t lack for talent, but it’s ranked too highly based on its resume.
10. Auburn (Last Week: 12)
A dominant performance at LSU would help legitimize my belief that Auburn is far from out of this thing.
11. Miami (Last Week: 13)
The Hurricanes seemed doomed to fall short against Florida State yet again before Malik Rosier found Darrell Langham for a touchdown with six seconds left to steal a win in Tallahassee. There is no time to rest on their laurels, however, as an improving Georgia Tech team comes to town this week.
12. Oklahoma (Last Week: 3)
We knew Oklahoma would lose eventually, but never would have dreamed there was a chance on this earth that loss could come at home to Iowa State, which started a senior quarterback that had thrown just two career passes. But that’s the beauty of college football ... and the beauty of Oklahoma being exposed.
13. USC (Last Week: 14)
The Trojans got back on track against Oregon State (You would certainly hope so) and still control their own destiny for the Pac-12 title and, most likely, a Playoff berth. The margin for error is now gone, though, and they need to take care of Utah at home this weekend if they want to stay on pace.
14. Oklahoma State (Last Week: 15)
We’re not buying into the Cowboys until we see some signs of life on defense. They surrendered nearly 40 points per game in their last two outings.
15. Virginia Tech (Last Week: 16)
I wouldn’t have the Hokies inside the top 20 until they beat an ACC team of some consequence. Back-to-back trips to Miami and Georgia Tech to begin November look like a good spot.
16. Notre Dame (Last Week: 21)
Five spots is a nice little jump for beating a pitiful North Carolina team, but we noted last week that Notre Dame has plenty of opportunity to charge toward the Playoff. The question is can they get through their last six games (which include five against current top-25 teams) unscathed?
17. Michigan (Last Week: 7)
We’ve said for weeks we had no use for the Wolverines, and they should be ranked even lower than this after their loss to Michigan State.
18. South Florida (Last Week: 18)
Quietly hoping for a winner-take-all battle between undefeated USF and UCF teams to end the season.
19. San Diego State (Last Week: 19)
The Aztecs continue to roll along, and it would be nice to see them move up some with Stanford’s re-entry into the poll.
20. NC State (Last Week: 24)
The Wolfpack got their signature win thus far, dispatching of Lamar Jackson and Louisville and establishing themselves as the No. 1 contender to Clemson in the ACC Atlantic. I could have seen them sneaking a spot or two higher, but a loss to South Carolina is hard to shake.
21. Michigan State (Last Week: NR)
With an increasingly forgivable loss to Notre Dame its only blemish and back-to-back wins over Iowa and Michigan, Sparty is at least approaching the periphery of the early Playoff discussion. We’ll see if they can ride their current momentum to a 7-1 record before back-to-back games against Penn State and Ohio State. Not sure how you wouldn’t have them ranked higher than Michigan right now.
22. UCF (Last Week: 25)
Scott Frost’s high-scoring squad shouldn’t miss a beat this week when dismal ECU comes to town.
23. Stanford (Last Week: NR)
As it is wont to do, Stanford once again suffered early losses to make people forget about them and is now seemingly turning things around. They still control their own destiny in the Pac-12 North, which could actually be problematic down the road for the conference with regard to Playoff inclusion.
24. Texas Tech (Last Week: NR)
I don’t understand this.
25. Navy (Last Week: NR)
The Midshipmen won an instant classic over Air Force in which they surrendered a 21-point third quarter lead but scored with 15 seconds left to edge the Falcons. This gives the AAC a third top-25 team.