Last week some idiot said no one in the AAC could compete with Houston (yes, it was me). It took no time at all for Navy to prove me wrong. Houston entered last weekend with the nation’s top-ranked rushing defense, but apparently forgot that Navy runs the triple option. The Midshipmen shredded Houston for 306 yards on the ground and effectively eliminated the Cougars from playoff contention.
Houston is out of these rankings this week as is Tennessee, who almost completed yet another improbable comeback but fell just short. Wisconsin returns and Nebraska makes its debut. Let’s get right into it.
10. Nebraska (Last Week: Not Ranked)
Mike Riley’s team enters these rankings for the first time, mainly because Oregon coach Mark Helfrich doesn’t know what a PAT is. As ridiculous as it is to say, Nebraska will get its biggest test to date Saturday in Bloomington. Tommy Armstrong Jr., the Big Ten’s leader in total offense, goes against Indiana’s revamped 4-2-5 defense–featuring a surprisingly stout (so far) back seven. Armstrong might be without two of his favorite weapons as Jordan Westerkamp and Cethan Carter are doubtful for Saturday’s tilt. This blogger will be live on the scene for homecoming to cover all the action (Read: tailgate heavily).
9. Wisconsin (Last Week: Not Ranked)
Wisconsin had a bye sandwiched in-between games against Michigan and Ohio State. After the Buckeyes largely quieted the high-powered offense of Indiana (though to be fair the Hoosiers didn’t exactly help their cause), it’s hard to imagine Wisconsin getting much going offensively. The only way the Badgers pull off an upset is on the strength of their defense.
8. Baylor (Last Week: 10)
The Bears had a week off to prepare for Kansas, who surprisingly gave TCU all it could handle. Kansas’ pass defense is stronger than you would expect (22nd according to S&P+), which might help keep this close for a half. After that, however, Baylor should have little trouble.
7. Texas A&M (Last Week: 8)
I thought for sure A&M was different. That the Aggies would be able to protect a huge lead against Tennessee and wouldn’t let the Vols improbably come back yet again. Of course, the opposite happened. A 28-7 A&M lead turned into a 35-35 tie at the end of regulation, before the Aggies won 45-38 in 2OT. While John Chavis definitely needs to tweak some things defensively after allowing nearly 700 yards, he at least has a couple weeks to do so. The Aggies have a bye before a huge showdown with Alabama.
6. Louisville (Last Week: 7)
The Cardinals enjoyed a perfectly timed bye week to unwind from its thriller at Clemson. This week, Lamar Jackson gets to unleash retribution on Duke–a team with a typically unforgiving run defense. Speaking of Duke…
…the kick was good.
5. Michigan (Last Week: 5)
Folks, last week’s worst prediction is a doozy:
The balls that it takes to watch Rutgers lose 58-0 to Ohio State and say “you know what? This team can definitely knock off a top-5 football team” almost makes me respect this.
I don’t know what’s more impressive–that Michigan dropped 78 points or that the Wolverines held Rutgers to 39 total yards. There was just so much to be amused by in this game: Jim Harbaugh going for two when his team is already up 27-0, Harbaugh clearly trying to score 78 after Ohio State dropped 77 in a game earlier this season (because Harbaugh turns everything with Urban Meyer into a dick measuring contest), and Rutgers’ quarterbacks finishing a combined 2-18 for five yards.
For its efforts in destroying all hope in Piscataway, Michigan is off this week.
4. Washington (Last Week: 4)
I didn’t think it was possible for Washington to exceed (or even replicate) its performance against Stanford. But on the road, in a rivalry game, the Huskies did just that by hanging 70 on Oregon. While the Ducks and Cardinal are having down years (really weird that both are happening simultaneously), Washington just outscored the two traditional Pac-12 powers 114-27. It looks as though the Huskies have one of the more manageable remaining schedules out of the playoff contenders, and that starts this week when Oregon State visits.
3. Clemson (Last Week: 3)
After a bit of a slow start to the season, Clemson’s offense has had huge performances in back-to-back weeks. The Tigers blasted BC 56-10, thanks to Deshaun Watson tossing four touchdowns against one of the country’s best defenses. Next up is NC State, who beat Notre Dame last week inside a hurricane.
2. Ohio State (Last Week: 2)
Ohio State kept rolling by knocking off Indiana, thanks to a dominating rushing attack and some questionable red zone play calling by IU coach Kevin Wilson. What makes JT Barrett so dangerous is that he is a true dual threat. The Hoosiers took away the Buckeyes’ aerial attack, so Barrett ran 26 times for 137 yards and a score. Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber added 82 and 71 yards, respectively. Indiana’s overmatched front four could do nothing to slow Ohio State down. The Buckeyes may again find yards hard to come by against Wisconsin, but should have too much firepower for the Badgers.
1. Alabama (Last Week: 1)
The rest of the SEC is having a down year, which makes Alabama look even more dominant than usual. The Tide went into Fayetteville and knocked off Arkansas 49-30, making sure Bret Bielema didn’t win 1,000 free pizzas. Alabama plays Tennessee this week, so of course the game will be on CBS. As shocked as I was that Tennessee came back and almost beat A&M, I would be even more shocked if the Vols can do something similar against Alabama. A small part of me does want to see that happen, simply for the legendary Saban meltdown that would occur.