Without a doubt, the biggest beneficiaries of a wild Saturday that saw seven Top 25 teams go down were the entrenched names bandied about for the playoffs: Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, and — to johnnies-come-lately, a team we’ve loved all season, the Fighting Irish.
A badly needed quality win for Clemson went down...hard, when ND smacked around the Hokies. That team can be a terrifyingly difficult matchup if it gets out of its own way and stops being cute. Alabama would win, H2H. But, it would be a 43-27 kind of game. Miami, the class of the Coastal looked terrible against the hapless Seminoles and relied on an iffy flag to bail them out of a bad home loss. One of Clemson’s “good wins” looked pretty terrible, as the Orange were outhustled by the blah Pitt Panthers. This whole conference is an absolute mess. The joke for 20 years was FSU and the eleven dwarves. Replace that with Clemson, and it’s the same as it ever was. Still, the Tigers do need to beware a dangerous set of afterthoughts who can light up their awful secondary: the BC Eagles and particularly the NC State Wolfpack
In the P12, a much-needed quality win for the Huskies evaporated, as Utah exposed Stanford...again. But, the home win over Utah looks better, at least. And, by proxy, the Doogs’ “good loss” looks worse with each week that passes on the Plains. No one can make sense of the Pac 12, but through it all we have the Buffaloes. The schedule is awful, to be sure. But 5-and-0 is still 5-and-0. While ASU aren’t world beaters, at least it was a team with a pulse.
In the G5, UCF and USF are on their collision course again, but Cincinnati is lurking and can potentially wreck the dreams of both. The Bearcats are just a really good team and they’re playing great ball. Boise State got worked over on the Smurf Turf by the physical Aztecs; Fresno State continued to strangle everything in its path. While Hawaii and Buffalo keep lighting up the hapless.
Some Longhorns team from Austin won, so that’s nice. #TexasBack? But, even so, the OSU Cowboys were roughed up at home by a freshman quarterback for the one-win Iowa State Cyclones. And, through it all, the Mountaineers continue jumping up on teams and then taking their foot off the gas, for reasons known only to Holgo. This is a playoff contender people pay the least attention to: It’s understandable. The ‘Eers always fall flat and lack consistency. But this team just feels different — from DL to RB to the passing attack, it has a lot of ways to hurt you. Until Texas played soft the last 6:00 Oklahoma found out that it’s harder to score against a team with a pulse.
|1||Alabama Crimson Tide||1|
|2||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||2|
|3||Ohio State Buckeyes||5|
|4||West Virginia Mountaineers||7|
|13||Penn State Nittany Lions||11|
|17||San Diego State Aztecs||19|
|19||Fresno State Bulldogs||21|
|20||Mississippi State Bulldogs||--|
|24||Washington State Cougars||--|
|Wisconsin, Utah, Texas A&M|
|Stanford, Boise State, Okie Lite, Virginia Tech|
Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good. Alabama and Notre Dame are both very, very good. And both were very, very lucky — turning potential catastrophes into 28 points between the two of them.
I really don’t like Georgia’s headspace right now. They’re doing that thing again where they add a bunch of late touchdowns to try and fool everyone into believing that there aren’t systemic weaknesses here. The ‘Dogs are winning with superior talent (pssst, I saw that same trick too, Ohio State).
And, I hate to put Florida ahead of Kentucky, and LSU ahead of Florida — but, at the end of the day, the body of work for the Gators is just behind the Tigers, and both are probably a little ahead of Kentucky. But, you could convince me of any order here and it would be just as valid or invalid as I have it. Also, if you only give Benny Snell 13 carries, you deserve to lose. And, if you want Joe Burrow to throw 34 passes, ditto.
LSU, Auburn, Kentucky, Notre Dame have the best sets of wins in the country. But it’s hard to argue with Texas too. Hence, their ranking so high. The last three weeks they have given the business to three bowl teams — one of whom was a playoff darling. Barring a collapse, I’m willing to admit I was wrong here and undersold the ‘Horns — also, teams are allowed to improve as the season wears on.
Another team in this category is Ann Arbor. The Wolverines are starting to get cranked up. That was a quality, smothering win over the Terps for Harbaugh’s crew. Meat Chicken should go into the ‘Shoe 10-1 or 9-2 at worst. They will do filthy things to Sparty next week and then to Wisconsin. Speed usually kills Michigan, not paleo ball with questionable secondaries — and that describes both the Badgers and Michigan State.
As usual, the road Wazzu Cougars’ defense is a tire fire. It’s a different animal at home. But, through it all, Gardner Minshew has been a beast. This offense is somehow even better than last year’s iteration.