The narrative was set. Alabama and Ohio State would keep rolling over everyone on their respective schedules (although Michigan might make it close), and seemed like they were on a collision course for the title game. That can still happen, but Penn State’s shocking upset over the Buckeyes now makes it much more challenging for Urban Meyer’s team to make the playoff.
College basketball season is just around the corner, so this might be one of the last times this is a football-centric post. This week, West Virginia enters these rankings for the first time. Let’s get into it.
10. West Virginia (Last Week: Not Ranked)
The Mountaineers remain incredibly unique–a Big 12 team that plays defense. Their latest victim was TCU, who turned it over three times in a 34-10 thrashing. At this rate, it’s entirely possible that the Big 12 ends up getting a de facto championship game when West Virginia meets Baylor in the season finale. But first, the Mountaineers are tasked with slowing down Oklahoma State’s offense (41.1 points per game).
9. Nebraska (Last Week: 10)
Nebraska trailed at halftime before coming back to beat Purdue, which is bad–but not quite as bad as actually losing to Purdue. The Cornhuskers have certainly taken advantage of their soft schedule, but now comes the part of the season where they have to prove their legitimacy. Back to back road games against Wisconsin and Ohio State will either vault Nebraska into the playoff hunt or prove that the Huskers are punching above their weight.
8. Wisconsin (Last Week: 9)
If you watched a lot of Wisconsin’s 17-9 win over Iowa, I can only assume that you had money riding on the game. The biggest takeaway I had from that eyesore is that Corey Clement is all the way back. A week after running for 164 yards against Ohio State, Clement turned in a workmanlike 35 carry, 134 yard performance against the Hawkeyes. Wisconsin’s offensive success hinges on Clement’s durability, because even with a 10/10 name Alex Hornibrook isn’t ready to lead the offense by himself (he even split time with Bart Houston on Saturday). Wisconsin next plays host to Nebraska in a game with huge Big Ten West title implications.
7. Baylor (Last Week: 8)
After an incredible third straight bye week, Baylor is finally back to playing football and travels to Texas this week. It’s a battle of the top two rushing offenses in the Big 12 (Baylor is first), but running the ball is just about the only thing Texas does well. Baylor needs this game to bolster its pretty thin resume, and Charlie Strong needs this game, period.
6. Ohio State (Last Week: 2)
Penn State took a break from honoring the enabler of a child molester to pull off a shocking upset of the Buckeyes. Ohio State controlled the ball for nearly 15 more minutes, outgained the Nittany Lions 413-276, won the turnover battle–and lost. Now Urban Meyer finds himself in a familiar position. The last three seasons he has had what is clearly one of the best teams in the country, only to suffer a head-scratching loss during the regular season. Two years ago, the Buckeyes ran the table after the Virginia Tech loss and won the inaugural playoff. Last year, Ohio State couldn’t regain its spot in the playoff after losing to two Michigan State backup quarterbacks. There’s plenty of time for the Buckeyes to right the ship this season, but there is now zero room for error. This week a resurgent Northwestern team comes to The Horseshoe.
5. Louisville (Last Week: 6)
Remember one long week ago when NC State nearly beat (and should have beat) Clemson? Lamar Jackson made sure Louisville suffered no such scare. Jackson had four touchdowns by halftime (Louisville led 44-0 at the break) to break Louisville’s single-season record. Reminder: this was only the seventh game of the season. With Houston’s continued struggles, the Cardinals’ remaining schedule keeps looking more and more manageable. Jackson next takes his talents to Virginia.
4. Michigan (Last Week: 5)
Jeff George Jr. started at quarterback for Illinois last week. It did not go well, unless you think a first half stat line of 0-7 with an interception is good. Large child Jim Harbaugh still found a reason to complain about the officials, but this game was never in doubt. Consider this win probability graphic from Saturday’s game, also known as either the most hilarious or depressing representation of Illinois football:
Michigan now travels to face Michigan State, a team that is surprisingly just as bad as Illinois. Expect Harbaugh to try to run up the score after what happened last year.
3. Washington (Last Week: 4)
Washington beat up on Oregon State in a game that was over by halftime, but it still seems like the Huskies are flying under the radar a bit. Washington is blowing teams out by an average of 34 points per game–but many still are talking about Chris Petersen’s team like it’s unproven. The toughest remaining test of the regular season will take place this week when Washington visits 7-1 Utah. Win this, and the Pac-12 championship game is just about all that stands between the Huskies and the playoff. Lose, and the critics will be vindicated.
2. Clemson (Last Week: 3)
The Tigers had a week off to prepare for the game that everyone circled before the season as the ACC game of the year. While Clemson’s trip to Florida State is still huge, it’ll be tough to top Clemson-Louisville from an entertainment standpoint. Deshaun Watson should have a field day against FSU’s beleaguered defense; it’ll be interesting to see what the Dalvin Cook and the Seminoles can get enough going against Clemson’s vaunted defense to keep up.
1. Alabama (Last Week: 1)
Texas A&M’s offensive line has had a phenomenal season. It came into Saturday’s game spearheading the best rushing attack in the SEC and had only given up six sacks in six games. Then Alabama happened:
The Crimson Tide sacked Trevor Knight five times and held A&M to just three yards per carry in a 33-14 win. Alabama is good, folks.