Another exciting week in the world of college football, filled with upsets, ended playoff bids and contending teams continuing a push for the postseason. The conference and national rankings are getting mixed up today after this week’s games. Let’s dive in and see what this week’s rankings look like, shall we?
You can see our Week 11 rankings here.
Best of the Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners
I had the Sooners atop the conference last week and after the events that took place across the state of Oklahoma this Saturday, they are now the undisputed conference leaders. OU held on to defeat TCU despite only having Baker Mayfield available for one half and having their devastating backfield duo broken up at times throughout the game due to injury. Over in Stillwater, Baylor won over the previously-undefeated Oklahoma State Cowboys, rendering the conference without any more undefeated teams. When the entire team was on the field and healthy, the Sooners clearly outmatched TCU, even though the Frogs were missing stud quarterback Trevone Boykin.
This week’s game against the Horned Frogs proved just how valuable Baker Mayfield is to Oklahoma, as the offense struggled in the second half with Trevor Knight at the helm. Assuming Mayfield is healthy going forward, OU can compete offensively with any team in the nation. The team needs to be worried about the health of both Semaje Perine and Joe Mixon, each of whom had to leave Saturday’s game at some point due to injury (Perine would return to action). But again, assuming they are both healthy in the coming weeks, the two backs combine with Sterling Shepard, one of the nation’s best receivers, to form a lethal arsenal of weapons for Mayfield, and this group can compete with any team, anywhere. Defensively, OU is easily the best team in the Big 12, expressed here by their placement in Football Outsiders’ S&P+ defensive rankings. Oklahoma State did not play nearly well enough this week and Baylor lost head-to-head against the Sooners, thus confirming Oklahoma as the best team in the conference today.
Playoff scenario: The Sooners absolutely have to win their final game, Bedlam versus Oklahoma State in Stillwater this coming weekend. Winning that game would give OU three consecutive wins over ranked teams and would bolster their resume. The Texas loss from earlier in the season is tough but not insurmountable and they could make it in just by winning next week, but Notre Dame losing to Stanford certainly would not hurt. (It also would help the team if Texas ends up making it to bowl eligibility).
Best of the SEC: Alabama Crimson Tide
There really isn’t a whole lot to say about the SEC at this point. Alabama played Charleston Southern this week and cruised to a 56-6 victory over the FCS team. Not that the rest of the conference were playing world-beaters themselves; there were only four intraconference matchups this week, none of which were particularly competitive outside of the shootout between Arkansas and Mississippi State. The other teams that even come close to challenging Alabama are so far away that they’re barely worth mentioning. Florida needed overtime to defeat Florida Atlantic at home, LSU lost their third straight game, falling to Ole Miss, the only team who could potentially unseat Alabama as the SEC West champion this season. It should be noted that Auburn would need to defeat Alabama in next week’s Iron Bowl, while Ole Miss would have to take down Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl for this to come to fruition. This is unlikely, to say the least.
The top defensive team in the nation according to the S&P+ rankings, Alabama’s offense has become solid-at-worst lately, thanks to the work of Heisman Trophy favorite Derrick Henry. Jacob Coker will need to continue to play well down the stretch if Bama plans on making a run at the national championship. Assuming Coker is at least serviceable, it’s going to be very hard to contain the Crimson Tide going forward.
Playoff scenario: Unfortunately for Alabama, they do not have the benefit of not being forced to win both of their remaining games considering they already have one loss. That being said, all they need to do to make it into the College Football Playoff is to win against Auburn and against Florida in the SEC Championship Game, neither of which should be much of a challenge for this team.
Best of the Big Ten: Iowa Hawkeyes
I’ve been saying for weeks that until they lost, Ohio State would be my top team in the Big Ten. Well what do you know, Ohio State was defeated by Michigan State in Columbus on Saturday, snapping their 23-game win streak and ending this year’s undefeated campaign. Iowa, on the other hand, handled Purdue with relative ease en route to a 40-20 victory at home. Kirk Ferentz’s squad has proven that they can win close games as well as finish off blowouts, both of which are critical for a contending team. Michigan State still has an argument for being the best team in the league, one only strengthened by their win over the Buckeyes, while a single loss for Ohio State shouldn’t completely eliminate them either. But the fact of the matter is Iowa does what is asked of them every week and that is win; Ohio State lost against the toughest team they’ve faced this season and Michigan State did falter against a bad Nebraska team.
An offense without any true superstars, C.J. Beathard has held the offense together all season, leading the team through consistency and limiting turnovers (he’s thrown just three interceptions all season). The team’s corps of running backs, led this season by Jordan Canzeri, has been productive all season, averaging about 192 yards per game this season, while avoiding the AIRBHG (Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, for those of you not in the know), about as well as they can. Add in a defense that is allowing just over 18.5 points per game this season and Iowa is as formidable of a team as you will find anywhere in the nation (as crazy as that may sound).
Playoff scenario: It’s simple for Iowa: win and you’re in. Nebraska shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, although that was said about the Huskers’ game against Michigan State, and of course you also must account for chaos when it comes to rivalry games. I don’t see the Big Ten being left out of the College Football Playoff, but there is a scenario in which Iowa loses to Nebraska, wins the conference championship game, Notre Dame beats Stanford, a Big 12 team is selected and Iowa is left on the outside looking in. It’s a doubtful scenario but it can’t be completely discounted. Make it simple for yourselves, Hawkeyes; just win your last two games.
Best of the Pac-12: Oregon Ducks
The Pac-12’s hopes at a berth in the College Football Playoff died last week when both the Stanford Cardinal and Utah Utes lost, leaving the conference with no teams possessing a record of one or less losses. Last week’s top team in the conference, Stanford, was able to stave off Cal in this year’s edition of The Big Game, thanks in large part to another stellar performance by Christian McCaffrey, while Oregon manhandled USC en route to a 48-28 victory. Stanford still has a one-game lead in terms of record over Oregon, although the Ducks hold the tiebreaker thanks to their win in Week 11. UO will need help if they want to make it into the Pac-12 Championship Game this season, but it’s hard to argue that there are few teams playing better right now than Mark Helfrich’s Ducks.
It was a slow start to the year for Oregon, but one has to wonder if they would be in a much better spot, record-wise at least, if Vernon Adams had been healthy throughout the entire season and they hadn’t needed to rely on Jeff Lockie midway through their campaign. After a monstrous performance by Adams against USC, in which he completed 80% of his passes with 6 touchdowns and just 1 interception, giving him a passer efficiency rating of 288, it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t be in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 North title had he been healthy, and you can even speculate that they may be keeping the conference’s playoff hopes alive in that scenario. Alas, this is all fantasy and Oregon now must rely on two things to make it to the conference title game and a potential Rose Bowl: they must take care of business in the Civil War this coming weekend against Oregon State, while simultaneously hoping that Notre Dame can take down the Cardinal in Palo Alto. Despite their outside chance of winning the conference, it’s hard to deny how well the Ducks have been playing as of late.
Best of the ACC: Clemson Tigers
You weren’t expecting someone else, were you? There’s not much at all that could have come close to knocking the Tigers down a peg this week. Is there concern that this team isn’t blowing out its opponents by ridiculous margins? No, not really. The fact of the matter is that Clemson is the best team in the country right now. Just because they only beat lowly Wake Forest by 20 this weekend doesn’t mean there’s some sort of cause for concern, because Deshaun Watson is still putting up absurd numbers (343 passing yards. 3 touchdowns, 44 rushing yards and another score on the ground) and the defense has been suffocating teams as of late.
One of only two schools with offensive and defensive rankings in the top 15 in the S&P+ rankings entering Week 12 (the other being Oklahoma), Clemson has proved this season that they can beat anyone. Their final regular season game is this coming Saturday in the Palmetto Bowl, when they will travel down to Columbia to take on the hated South Carolina Gamecocks, who lost at home this week to The Citadel, an 8-3 FCS team. Needless to say, it won’t be until the ACC Championship Game that the Tigers will have very threatening competition (although, as we’ve seen countless times throughout history, chaos does reign in rivalry games).
Playoff scenario: Just like Iowa’s situation, win and you’re in, Clemson. After the South Carolina game, Dabo Swinney’s crew will venture to Charlotte for the conference title game against North Carolina, who just ruined Frank Beamer’s final home game and have been playing incredibly well since their absolutely baffling loss to South Carolina. This is the final team Clemson has to beat before reaching the College Football Playoff as the likely number one seed. We’ll soon find out if “Clemsoning” still exists or whether or not the Tigers will finally get over the hump.
Best of the G5: Navy Midshipmen
Now this is exciting! In a week when Memphis’ season continued its rapid downward spiral in a loss to Temple, who itself was already effectively knocked out of the race for a New Years Six bowl a few weeks ago. Houston also lost to UConn in one of the most surprising upsets of the weekend, ending their undefeated season. Meanwhile, Navy just keeps chugging along, taking care of business against Tulsa in a 44-21 victory. Led by potential Heisman Trophy candidate Keenan Reynolds, the Mids just keep winning, their lone blemish in 2015 being a loss to Notre Dame on October 10. In the five wins since that game, Navy is winning by an average of 21.6 points per game in a surprisingly strong American Athletic Conference.
Next week Navy travels to Houston to take on the Cougars in easily the biggest G5 game of the season. A win for the Midshipmen likely knocks Houston out of contention for a New Years Six bowl game, but the same can be said for Navy. The thing that’s difficult for Navy is the fact that not only do they have to take on Houston this coming Friday, but they also will have to go on and win the AAC Championship Game, then they will have to go on and face Army, which sets a very interesting precedent: assuming they win their next two games, is it practical and reasonable to assign Navy to a NY6 bowl before they play their final game? Should they wait to set the bowl games until after Army/Navy? We’ll find out how the CFP committee deals with this situation soon enough, but first things first: Navy needs to handle Houston on the road this coming weekend.
Top of the Charts: Week 12
- Clemson Tigers (NC)
- Alabama Crimson Tide (+2)
- Iowa Hawkeyes (+3)
- Oklahoma Sooners (+3)
- Michigan State Spartans (+4)
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-1)
- Baylor Bears (+3)
- Ohio State Buckeyes (-6)
- Oklahoma State Cowboys (-6)
- Florida Gators (-2)
Just missing the cut: Michigan Wolverines, Navy Midshipmen, North Carolina Tar Heels
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Featured photo courtesy of Fox Sports.