It was a wild Saturday for college football that saw a handful of ranked opponents squaring off against each other and one major contender taking a huge step back in the race for the College Football Playoff. As power conferences like the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 begin to take shape, we take a look back on the weekend that was and try to make sense of it all.
1. #1 Alabama, #2 LSU Continue To Dominate The Standings
Top ranked Alabama squared off against some stiff competition (finally) and easily took care of #24 Texas A&M 47-28, with Heisman front runner Tua Tagovailoa putting up 4 TD’s and becoming the program’s all-time passing touchdowns leader. The Tide have been rolling lately and their next two opponents, Tennessee and Arkansas, have a combined record of 4-8. Aside from this past weekend’s game against the Aggies, most of the opponents have been pretty pedestrian but that will change in the coming weeks. Everyone in the country is waiting for them to square off against conference rival #2 LSU on November 9, but for now Nick Saban and Co. are sitting pretty in the driver’s seat.
Speaking of LSU, the Tigers continue to light up scoreboards after a very impressive 42-28 victory over #9 Florida but don’t be fooled by the score; it wasn’t easy. At one point they were down 28-21 in the third quarter but they managed to get some big stops late in the game to seal the win. QB Joe Burrow was virtually perfect, throwing for 293 yards and 3 TD’s on 21-24 passing. That’s the kind of performance that puts you in the discussion for the Heisman, and if he wasn’t already in it he may as well be right behind Tagovailoa for award. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching those two go head to head in a couple of weeks but it will be interesting to see which defense can step up and stop one of these surging quarterbacks.
2. South Carolina Upsets #3 Georgia, Changes Course of College Playoffs
Many people had Georgia penciled in as a sure thing this week, myself included. A 21-point favorite at home, with LSU and Florida battling on the same day, the Bulldogs were supposed to take care of business and notch another win in an extremely competitive conference… only to lose 20-17 in 2OT to a 2-3 Gamecocks squad. It wasn’t just that they lost, it was an ugly loss as South Carolina dominated them for the majority of the game. The playoff committee definitely saw that, and with LSU beating Florida pretty convincingly, Georgia is no longer the sure thing many experts thought they’d be. They’re not out of it just yet, however; they have #9 Florida and #22 Missouri around the corner and can make up enough ground in the SEC East to get into the SEC title game but they are going to have to play damn near perfect if they want to stay in the CFB Playoff Picture.
Speaking of which, The SEC was projected to have two teams make the playoffs this year. With Georgia’s loss, I don’t see that happening unless they play convincingly enough (and win, of course). The upcoming battle between LSU and Alabama will almost certainly decide the fate of one of those team’s chances of making the final four, but is there a possibility that a one-loss Tigers or Tide team can make it even without playing in the conference championship? It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but it would make up for an interesting debate all season and would surely screw over a well deserving team in the process.
3. Boomin’ Sooners
It’s always nice to get a win on Saturday. It’s even better when that win comes against a hated rival. #5 Oklahoma and #15 Texas met up in Dallas over the weekend for another chapter in the historic Red River Rivalry, with the Sooners coming out on top 31-24. QB Jalen Hurts was a beast on the field once again, scoring 4 total touchdowns and dominating the game with his both his arm and his legs. His 131 rushing yards were the most by any player in the game, and the Longhorns had no answer for him as he picked apart their defense with ease. The guy is, after all, a National Champion when he played with Alabama. Maybe there’s room in his trophy case for a Heisman?
The Sooners aren’t the only undefeated squad in the Big 12. #18 Baylor squeaked out a win in Lubbock against Texas Tech to improve to 6-0 on the year. The two unbeaten teams will play each other in Waco next month, but there’s still a chance for Texas to fight their way back to a Big 12 title game. They, too, face Baylor next month and if they can win out we might be seeing a rematch of Saturday’s game in the Big 12 Championship. As of right now, however, Oklahoma is playing lights out and doesn’t look like they have much competition. If they continue to dominate, there’s no question they will be one of the final four teams to compete for the National Championship.
4. Four Unbeaten Teams In The Big 10
You read that heading correctly: there are currently four unbeaten teams in the Big 10, three of which are in the top 10. With #4 Ohio State taking a break from obliterating opponents, Wisconsin and Penn State took care of business to improve to #6 and #7, respectively. The Badgers, led by star RB Jonathon Taylor, looked dominant as Taylor rushed for two scores and the defense pitched another shut out, the third of the year. Penn State meanwhile had their hands full against #23 Iowa’s stingy defense but their defensive corp was equally impressive, coming away with a 17-12 victory, their first against a ranked opponent.
It remains to be seen if any of these teams can truly compete with Ohio State, but the Buckeyes will get their chance against both of them on their home turf. The Badgers will take their shot first on October 26 and a loss wouldn’t necessarily negate them from the Big Ten Championship game — although #20 Minnesota is also quietly 6-0, albeit against weaker teams, and in the same division. Penn State has more to worry about: they take on divisional foe #16 Michigan this weekend and will also have to face the Buckeyes in late November. There’s still a chance one of these teams can make the College Football Playoff, but all roads go through Columbus in order to get there.
5. Clemson Gets Back On Track, ACC Is A Wasteland
Clemson hasn’t quite lived up to the public’s lofty expectations for the year and many have started to label them as slightly overrated. Well, the Tigers heard what everyone was saying about them and after having the week off they destroyed the Florida State Seminoles 45-14. QB Trevor Lawrence only threw for 170 yards but he found the end zone four times. RB Travis Etienne had a nice day on the ground with 127 yards, but the real story of the game was Clemson’s defense, as Tigers shut down the Noles and created 4 turnovers in the process. It was an easy win to say the least, but I don’t think it is going to change people’s perception of the team.
By all accounts, the ACC has been pretty dreadful this season. Virginia’s ugly loss on Friday to Miami bounced them out of the top 25, while Wake Forest also found themselves on the outside looking in after giving up 62 at home to Louisville in a wild game where they had to come from behind more than once. It’s hard to get a read on this conference and pinpoint who exactly the second best team is. Preseason, it was Miami. Then it was Virginia. Then, quite briefly, it was Wake Forest. Who will it be next? Regardless of who you want to throw in there the fact remains that Clemson is playing in a league of their own right now and don’t look to be challenged the rest of the way. God forbid they lose to one of these teams, though; with the way these teams in other power conferences are battling, one could argue that a one-loss Clemson team shouldn’t compete in the CFB Playoffs.
Other News and Notes
The Pac-12 is shaping up to be a pretty fun race, with four teams in the top 25. #12 Oregon and #13 Utah both cruised to wins over the weekend, but #17 Arizona State had another big win on Saturday after a winning a very fun game against Washington State. The Sun Devils travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Utes this weekend in a huge divisional game that could decide either team’s fate for the conference title game. The Ducks, meanwhile, go on the road this weekend to face #25 Washington in a pivotal Pac-12 North game. If the Ducks want to solidify their place in the title game, a win against the Huskies would certainly do that.
#9 Notre Dame kept it’s playoff hopes alive this weekend with a 30-27 win over rival USC, however looking at their schedule paints an odd picture and doesn’t necessarily help their cause. They currently sit at 5-1, with their only loss coming from a hard fought game on the road against Georgia, but their wins don’t look as impressive in hindsight. They beat then #18 Virginia, who showed over the last two weeks that maybe they aren’t as good as advertised. They let a big lead slip this weekend against the Trojans and with the way the Bulldogs looked this weekend, it feels like this Irish team could’ve won that game a couple of weeks ago. Even if they win out, that loss is going to be the thing that keeps them from making the playoffs.
The AAC has some good competition brewing thanks to the solid play of #19 SMU and #21 Cincinnati, the latter of which beat conference opponent Houston 38-23 thanks to a clutch 4th quarter from QB Desmond Ridder and his 3 TDs on the day. SMU had the week off but they will face a pretty tough task this weekend against a solid Temple defense that just knocked Memphis out of the Top 25. We may not see these two teams play each other until the conference championship — if they both make it — but SMU’s high powered offense against Cincinnati’s stifling defense will make for one of the more underrated matchups of the year.
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