Can the PAC-12 ever get out of its own way? It seems that no one in that conference wants to see each other make the College Football Playoff, as Washington beat Oregon and Arizona beat UCLA, placing the conference’s hopes of a playoff bid in the hands of Lincoln Riley and USC. Elsewhere, conference championship game matchups began to become clearer, with the ACC and SEC already knowing who will be in Charlotte and Atlanta, respectively. There were many upsets in the lower portion of the rankings, with NC State, Kentucky, Illinois, and Tulane all losing. Let’s take a look at how our voters see the Top 10 after Week 11 (bonus question at the end):
Last Week STS Poll: 1
Current CFP Ranking: 1
Avg. Rank: 1.04 (96% of First-Place Votes)
Last Week: W @ Mississippi State, 45-19
Georgia cruised this week, beating up Mississippi State by 26 points in Starkville. Stetson Bennett went 25/37 for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns to go along with a rushing touchdown, while Ladd McConkey totaled 141 total yards and 2 touchdowns. As dominant as the Bulldogs looked, Stetson threw two interceptions and fumbled (recovered by Georgia). I have no reservations about Georgia, and two turnovers will not change my mind, but if Georgia is going to repeat, Kirby Smart will want his quarterback to take better care of the ball. Stetson Bennett is a good quarterback, but he needs to remember with the way the Dawgs are built, he doesn’t need to be Superman. Take care of the ball moving forward, and Georgia will be hard to beat.
Next Up: @ Kentucky, 3:30 PM, CBS
Most Unique Writer’s Opinion: David Hood (TigerNet) was the only person to have the Bulldogs not at #1 (he had them at #2)
2. Ohio State
Last Week STS Poll: 2
Current CFP Ranking: 2
Avg. Rank: 2.21 (4% of First-Place Votes)
Last Week: W vs. Indiana, 56-14
Poor Indiana. Ohio State definitely heard the criticism from last week and kept in the back of their minds as they throttled the Hoosiers in Columbus, 56-14. C.J. Stroud threw for 297 yards and 5 touchdowns as the Buckeyes hit Indiana early and often. As a team, Ohio State ran the ball 43 times for a whopping 340 yards, averaging 7.9 yards/rush. Marvin Harrison Jr. has continued his ascension to the top of one of college football’s best receiving rooms, finishing with 135 yards on 7 receptions and 1 touchdown. Quick shoutout to Indiana’s punter, James Evans, who almost doubled his team’s yardage on 11 total punts (500 yards punting, 269 yards of total offense)! I hate to say it, but Ohio State looks dangerous.
Next Up: @ Maryland, 3:30 PM, ABC
Most Unique Writer’s Opinion: John McElhaney (STS) has Ohio State at #4, the lowest among our voters
Last Week STS Poll: 3
Current CFP Ranking: 3
Avg. Rank: 3.38
Last Week: W vs. Nebraska, 34-3
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Michigan relied on their run game and defense to stifle their opponent and win big. Michigan has definitely found its identity as a team that wants to dominate you physically from the first whistle to the last. Blake Corum rushed for 162 yards on 28 carries, also finding paydirt once. This one may have looked close on the scoreboard at halftime, but the result of the game was never in doubt. Nebraska finished with a combined 146 yards of offense (71 passing, 75 rushing). The Wolverines will face their toughest challenge this season with Illinois coming to town (the Fighting Illini defense averages 85.9 rushing yards allowed per game). In a true battle of strength on strength, who will get the upper hand? (Spoiler: Michigan is gonna blow ‘em out).
Next Up: vs. Illinois, 12:00 PM, ABC
Most Unique Writer’s Opinion: Marty Coleman (Rubbing the Rock), Alex Craft (STS), and Qualk (105.5 The Roar) all have the Wolverines at #2
Last Week STS Poll: 4
Current CFP Ranking: 4
Avg. Rank: 3.67
Last Week: W @ #18 Texas, 17-10
This game did not go the way most TCU games have gone this year, but I don’t think anyone in Fort Worth is going to be complaining about it. TCU’s defense held Texas to 199 yards total (only 28 on the ground), and the offense did just enough to squeak by in a tough environment. Kendre Miller ran for 138 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown, and Quentin Johnston contributed 66 yards and a receiving score as the Frogs weathered a tough game from Max Duggan. Duggan threw for only 124 yards and a score while finishing with a whopping -41 yards rushing. That’s right, TCU went into a raucous environment and beat a ranked Texas opponent while their quarterback contributed *checks notes, does math* 83 yards. 83. They also clinched a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game, setting up a more stable path into the Playoff. If TCU wins out, they will be in.
Next Up: @ Baylor, 12:00 PM, FOX
Most Unique Writer’s Opinion: Nick (me) and John McElhaney (STS) have TCU at #2 - John I think you’re incredibly smart!
Last Week STS Poll: 5
Current CFP Ranking: 5
Avg. Rank: 4.88
Last Week: W vs. Missouri, 66-24
Tennessee used this week as a bounce-back performance, beating up Missouri by 42 points. Hendon Hooker threw for 355 yards and 3 touchdowns and the defense bent but didn’t break. It was a welcome sight for the Vols, as they looked like a shell of themselves in Athens last week. Despite Tennessee’s dominance all year except for one game, this week’s matchup against U of SC (not the real USC) has become rather important. Due to Clemson finding its way to stay in the Top 10, Tennessee must find a way to keep its resume better than a Clemson team that could impress the committee should it win a presumed Top-10 matchup in Charlotte. One way to do that is to look better against common opponents. With the Palmetto Bowl following this week’s matchup, Tennessee needs to stomp on the ‘Cocks to show the committee their merit over our Tigers (not saying I’m rooting for USUCK, but if they can make Tennessee look bad, I would appreciate it greatly).
Next Up: @ South Carolina, 7:00 PM, ESPN
Most Unique Writer’s Opinion: Houston (Rubbing the Rock) has Tennessee at #3
Last Week STS Poll: 8
Current CFP Ranking: 7
Avg. Rank: 6.83
Last Week: W vs. Colorado, 55-17
USC opened the weekend on Friday night with a thrashing of Colorado, 55-17. Caleb Williams threw for 268 yards (on 14 completions) and 3 touchdowns in the win. Unfortunately, Travis Dye, the running back transfer from Oregon, was carted off with a serious-looking leg injury. That will be a tough blow to the Trojans as they head into the toughest stretch of their season (UCLA, Notre Dame, PAC-12 Championship). USC is now the PAC-12’s only hope for a Playoff bid, as Oregon lost to Washington and UCLA lost to Arizona, giving both teams 2 losses. Who could’ve predicted the PAC-12 would cannibalize themselves and keep each other out of the playoff??? Answer: everyone. It’s a yearly tradition at this point.
Next Up: @ #16 UCLA, 8:00 PM, FOX
Most Unique Writer’s Opinion: Ryan Kantor and Nick Tully (Clemson Pawcast) slotted the Trojans down at #10
Last Week STS Poll: 7
Current CFP Ranking: 6
Avg. Rank: 7.42
Last Week: W @ Arkansas, 13-10
LSU used its defense to get past Arkansas in Fayetteville. I was watching this game at my family’s tailgate before the Clemson game this past weekend. All I really want to say is that LSU’s defense looked incredible (no K.J. Jefferson), and that they solidified the SEC Championship Game matchup in December (LSU vs. Georgia). The leading passer for both sides in this game was Cade Fortin for Arkansas. He finished with a whopping, and I mean whopping… 92 yards. I guess it’s true that defense is King in the big bad SEC! I think LSU is a good football team, but I also think they are going to get smoked in Atlanta, especially if the offense does what they did last week. The only spotlight I’ll throw to a player is Josh Williams, as he ran for 122 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown for the Tigers.
Next Up: vs. UAB, 9:00 PM, ESPN2
Most Unique Writer’s Opinion: David Hood (TigerNet) ranked LSU at #10, the lowest ranking for them in our polls
Last Week STS Poll: 10
Current CFP Ranking: 9
Avg. Rank: 7.71
Last Week: W vs. Louisville, 31-16
Before I say anything, I am praying that Malik Cunningham is okay. He left the game at halftime and came back in street clothes after being injured on his last-second scramble. With that being said, that’s how you respond! The offense did what it needed to do, and the defense held stout as Clemson won 31-16 to extend the nation’s longest active home winning streak to 39 games. Will Shipley had the highlight of his career when he hurdled a Louisville defender that was practically standing up, split two defenders, and scampered into the end zone. Not to be overlooked, Phil Mafah ran like a grown man all night, leading the Tigers in rushing yards and proving that the running back position, at the moment without Kobe Pace, is more than one man.
Barrett Carter had the game of his life, finishing with 3.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, and 1 interception, becoming the first Power 5 player to do that against a Power 5 opponent since South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram in 2011. If Clemson can continue to play like this, they can put up a fight with anyone. Miami and South Carolina, both at home, remain for Clemson. Quick shoutout to one of the best uniform combinations I have ever seen, the purple jerseys with orange britches stole my heart.
Next Up: vs. Miami, 3:30 PM, ESPN
Most Unique Writer’s Opinion: Jay (STS), Matt (STS) and Qualk (105.5 The Roar) put Clemson at #6 this week
Last Week STS Poll: NR
Current CFP Ranking: 8
Avg. Rank: 9.33
Last Week: W @ #11 Ole Miss, 30-24
Despite trailing for a large portion of the game, Alabama did Alabama things and beat Ole Miss on the road to secure second place in the SEC West (moral victories, Alabama). Credit to Ole Miss’s defense, as Alabama had trouble consistently moving the ball. Bryce Young’s 3 touchdown passes were enough for the Tide to avoid a losing streak and potentially stay on track to make a New Year’s 6 bowl. Quinshon Judkins continued his stellar freshman year with 135 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns.
Next Up: vs. Austin Peay, 12:00 PM, ESPN+/SECN+
Most Unique Writer’s Opinion: Will Harper (STS) put Alabama at #13!
10. North Carolina
Last Week STS Poll: NR
Current CFP Ranking: 13
Avg. Rank: 11.08
Last Week: W @ Wake Forest, 36-34
North Carolina is quietly in a spot where they can be a dark horse playoff team. After beating Wake Forest on the road, the Tar Heels officially secured a spot in Charlotte at the ACC Championship game, winning the Coastal. Drake Maye continues to put the college football world on notice, throwing for 448 yards and 3 touchdowns to go along with 71 rushing yards and a touchdown. Josh Downs showed why he is Carolina’s #1 playmaker, finishing with 154 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.
Sam Hartman looked good despite the defeat, throwing for 320 yards and 4 touchdowns. If North Carolina can win out, and then beat Clemson in the ACC Championship, they might have a legit case for a playoff spot. I would’ve said you were crazy if you said that to me after seeing the defense play all year.
Next Up: vs. Georgia Tech, 5:30 PM, ESPN2
Most Unique Writer’s Opinion: Three voters had UNC in single digits: Ryan Kantor (#8), Nick Tully (Clemson Pawcast) (#9), and David Hood (TigerNet) (#9)
This week, we also had our voters give their opinions on two questions:
Who would you pick to win in a neutral site bowl game? Clemson or Alabama?
Who would you pick to win in a neutral site bowl game? Clemson or LSU?
Our voters spoke: 63% picked Alabama compared to 37% picking Clemson in a hypothetical matchup between the Tide and Tigers; 75% picked Clemson compared to 25% picking LSU in a hypothetical matchup between the two Tigers.
What do you think of our rankings? Who do you think would win in those hypothetical matchups? Let us know in the comments!