Anyone can have a regular ol’ Top 25 poll, but I like to do things a little differently. I’ve selected the top team in each Power 5 conference, the best team out of the G5 schools and also assembled my own national top 10. And, unlike the College Football Playoff weekly show, this won’t take up an hour of your time. This week saw some upsets, some near upsets and plenty of drama across the country. Let’s get right to the rankings this week.
You can check out last week’s rankings here.
Best of the Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners
My Big 12 pick changes on a weekly basis but it’s simply because the most impressive team changes on a weekly basis. Oklahoma State topped the Big 12 last week, and they are still undefeated despite Iowa State giving them all they could handle this weekend. TCU won to maintain a one-loss record, but they barely squeaked past my beloved Kansas Jayhawks, winning by a mere six points at home (granted, they did lose Trevone Boykin early in the game). But after OU’s impressive victory over previously undefeated Baylor I have the Sooners at the top of the conference. Baker Mayfield was electric to say the least at McLane Stadium on Saturday, passing for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns, while running for 76 yards and another score. He’s making a late-season push for the Heisman Trophy, and this is going to likely go down as his signature win/performance. Of course he was helped out by the phenomenal Sterling Shepard, who caught 14 balls for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Baylor defense. The Bears played well but, led by true freshman Jarrett Stidham, could not come back late to overcome a deficit which lasted for much of the game. In a conference which has been ridiculed all season for a lack of defense, the Sooners’ D stepped up when they most desperately needed to. Since losing to Texas in the Red River Shootout (which seems like an unfathomable result in retrospect), Oklahoma has been unrelenting on offense, averaging a ridiculous 55.2 points per game. Undefeated OK State is right on their heels, but I’m giving the nod to the Sooners this week.
Playoff Scenario: A few things will have to fall into place if Oklahoma is to make it into the College Football Playoff. First (and most importantly), they will need to win out, which means they will have to defeat TCU and Oklahoma State in the next two weeks. Additionally, they will likely need to rely on Stanford to upset Notre Dame in their final game of the season if they wish to usurp the Irish and slip into the playoff. For Oklahoma State, they will need to win out to give themselves a good chance at a playoff berth.
Best of the SEC: Alabama Crimson Tide
There really isn’t much competition for this position in the SEC any longer. LSU faltered badly against Arkansas at home (at night nonetheless, when the Tigers are supposed to be at their strongest). Florida has wrapped up the SEC East and won over South Carolina on the road this weekend, although they nearly allowed the mighty Perry Orth to lead a big second half comeback. The fact of the matter is that Bama has been dominant since losing their third game of the season against Ole Miss. Since that loss the Crimson Tide is allowing less than 12 points per game while averaging over 31 offensively. Derrick Henry has also emerged as one of the the front-runners (if not the top candidate) for the Heisman, as he’s compiled 1,254 yards this season, averaging 5.75 yards per carry (he’s also scored 17 touchdowns with at least 1 in every game). The defense is seemingly impenetrable at this point, after allowing just two field goals to Mississippi State on Saturday and after they plowed through LSU a week ago. Alabama just has Charleston Southern and the Iron Bowl against a meek Auburn team left this season; I can’t foresee them losing this top spot.
Playoff Scenario: Assuming Bama takes care of the last two teams on their scheduled slate (which they should be able to do with relative ease), they will just need to take down Florida in the SEC Championship Game to advance to the College Football Playoff for the second consecutive season. Otherwise, it’s essentially impossible that they miss the playoff.
Best of the Pac-12: Stanford Cardinal
The Cardinal lost this week in an upset against Oregon, which effectively knocked Stanford out of contention for the College Football Playoff. Utah would do their part a few hours later to not only eliminate themselves from contention as well, but they destroyed the conference’s chances as a whole as well; their double overtime loss against Arizona this weekend served as the death knell for the Pac-12 Conference. With the best record in the conference being one with two losses, it’s a near impossibility at this point for the Pac-12 to make it to the playoff. But, while that dream is effectively dead, a Rose Bowl berth is still on the line in the next few weeks. I’m still giving the nod to Stanford as the best team in the league, although the underrated and under-acknowledged Utes are breathing down the Cardinal’s collective neck. Christian McCaffrey probably is not contending for the Heisman Trophy following this most recent Stanford loss, but he’s still undeniably one of the best backs in the country, only exacerbated by another 100+ yard performance this weekend, his eighth straight. Travis Wilson and Devontae Booker is a QB/RB tandem that is somewhat comparable to the Kevin Hogan/McCaffrey duo, but based on the eye test for me, as well as who these teams lost to (Stanford to now-ranked Northwestern and streaking Oregon, Utah to unranked USC and unranked Arizona), I’m giving the nod to Stanford for now.
Playoff Scenario: It would take an unbelievable amount of chaos for the Pac-12 to even sniff a playoff berth at this point.
Best of the Big Ten: Ohio State Buckeyes
Did Ohio State lose? No, so they’re maintaining the top spot in the Big Ten this week. Iowa is definitely close by, considering they are undefeated just like OSU, but I’m going to keep ranking the Buckeyes higher until someone knocks them off. JT Barrett returned and helped lead Ohio State to an all-around thumping of Illinois this weekend in Champaign. You can argue about the quality of Ohio State’s schedule, but they’ve done what they needed to do over the last few weeks: they dominated lesser conference opponents. In their last four games, the Buckeyes allowed just 8.5 points per game while winning each contest by an average of 27.25 points. As good as the JT Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott-led offense is (and can be), the defense may be even more impressive; the Joey Bosa and Darron Lee-led squad had reached the #9 position in Football Outsiders’ S&P+ defensive ranking entering this week. Ohio State has cruised through much of this season, justifying their ranking as the best team in the conference, but their final two (and possibly three) matchups will be their toughest tests yet; next week they will take on one-loss Michigan State at home before traveling to the Big House on November 28 to take on Michigan.
Playoff Scenario: Ohio State controls their own destiny at this point; they just need to keep winning. They could potentially make it in if they lose one of the next two games (likely the Michigan game, due to the fact it is a rivalry game on the road versus a ranked opponent and also the fact that this scenario indicates Michigan State would have two losses, Ohio State just one). For their simplest path to the playoff: beat Michigan State, beat Michigan, beat the West division winner (likely Iowa). It’s as simple as that, Buckeyes.
Best of the ACC: Clemson Tigers
The top-ranked team in the first College Football Playoff poll this year, Clemson continued their winning season with a closer-than-expected victory on the road against Syracuse on Saturday afternoon (shout out to Zack Mahoney, Syracuse’s quarterback from this past weekend, who I went to elementary school with). It wasn’t the Tigers’ finest win but it was on the road, they remain undefeated and frankly there’s only one team remotely close to them in the ACC, that team being North Carolina. There really isn’t much more to say about Clemson that I haven’t already said in the last several weeks; they’re a talented team, led by arguably the best dual-threat quarterback in the country in Deshaun Watson, in a weak conference which will help them cruise to the playoff.
Playoff Scenario: North Carolina is a legitimately good team, and the fact that they lost to South Carolina in the season’s first game is truly baffling given where the two teams are now. UNC is the only real test left for Clemson and that will be in the ACC Championship Game. The last two games in the regular season for Clemson are a home game against anemic Wake Forest and an away game to close the season at South Carolina (to be fair, while Clemson should handle the Gamecocks with ease, rivalry games can bring on some crazy results). All this being said, it shouldn’t be too difficult of a road to the College Football Playoff for the Tigers.
Best of the G5: Houston Cougars
I so, so badly wanted to slot Navy in here after they trounced SMU 55-14 at home. Not to mention this game saw Keenan Reynolds break Montee Ball’s record for the most rushing touchdowns in a career; the record was 77 until Reynolds scored 4 today, giving him 81 for his career to this point. If it wasn’t for one small thing, I’d definitely have the Midshipmen slotted here; that one small thing, however, is the fact that Tom Herman’s Houston Cougars are undefeated. After escaping this weekend’s game against Memphis 35-34, Houston remains the only G5 team without a blemish on their record this season. Despite losing last week to Navy, Memphis is undeniably a very good team, but what makes this win a little more impressive is the fact that Houston played most of the game with a backup quarterback. After Gary Ward Jr. was knocked out of the game early, Kyle Postma stepped in and played quite well, throwing for 236 yards, a touchdown and assembling a passer efficiency rating of 133.7. These are both very good teams and the Best of the G5 spot will likely be decided for good on November 27, when Navy travels to Houston to take on the Cougars (first, Navy needs to thwart Tulsa on the road and Houston must take down UConn). Based on their undefeated record, Houston remains atop the G5 standings for now.
Playoff Scenario: Let’s not kid ourselves, there is no chance that even an undefeated Houston makes it to the College Football Playoff. Not even a dark horse, outside chance. The best team from the G5 conferences will be headed to a New Year’s 6 bowl game, but a playoff berth? Sadly, that’s nothing more than a pipe dream.
Top of the Charts: This Week’s Top 10 (note: this poll was created the night before the release of the AP Poll; the fact that they are nearly identical is pure coincidence).
- Clemson Tigers (NC)
- Ohio State Buckeyes (NC)
- Oklahoma State Cowboys (NC)
- Alabama Crimson Tide (NC)
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+1) (Join a conference, assholes)
- Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
- Oklahoma Sooners (Unranked)
- Florida Gators
- Michigan State Spartans
- Baylor Bears
Just missing the cut: TCU Horned Frogs, Michigan Wolverines, Houston Cougars
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Photo courtesy of The Oklahoma Daily.