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NATTYCAP: Rethinking the Top of the Rankings

We lost the Pac-12, two of the top three, and Michigan State might be dead.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Multiverse theorists would have you believe that there are incredibly similar universes running parallel to ours. If such a thing exists, there is a world in which college football’s top 10 is still nice and tidy, with some separation between the Alabamas, Georgias, and Clemsons of the world and the large pile of anonymous humanity beyond.

In this universe, though? Chaos. #1 Georgia and #3 Notre Dame chose to lose in blowouts, and raising questions as to whether they’d be the top one and two loss teams, respectively, going forward. With Stanford’s home upset over #9 Washington, the Pac-12 is irrelevant to any national championship discussion. Oklahoma is sitting pretty in the Big XII...but is destined to have to beat TCU or Oklahoma State twice in a month because of the silly Big XII championship game.

What else was readily apparent in Week 11?

ACC

The biggest news here, obviously, was the Thursday night thriller that pulled Carolina off the schnide in ACC play. Our writers covered that well.

I didn’t expect Florida State to roll over the way they did against Clemson, and I’m not entirely sure why. Clemson’s D-line versus Florida States O-line was a war crime, as the Tigers tallied 5 sacks and allowed 21 yards on the ground. The Tigers rendered N.C. State’s close win over Boston College moot, as they clinched the ACC Atlantic for the third straight year.

Unlike two years ago, Clemson does not have a two-week jump on buying ACC Championship tickets. Miami eviscerated Notre Dame in what, to me, was the most shocking mollywopping in a Saturday full of them. The U’s 43-8 win firmly established (assuming the Canes get by Pitt and Virginia) the ACC Championship as a top-5 national quarterfinal.

Georgia Tech’s win over Virginia Tech was the best noon game on the slate, as a late VT pick-six was immediately wiped out by an 80-yard Ta’Quon Marshall touchdown pass and some late shenanigans. I’m all for bad things happening to Virginia Tech. Wake beat Syracuse by a score their two basketball teams may not reach.

Tl;dr: the ACC is sitting pretty to reach the CFP for the fourth straight year.

SEC

You can blame Dan Mullen for not making this part of the column more fun to write. With 6:30 left in a tie game, the Bulldogs opted to play field position when faced with a 4th and 3 from the Alabama 42. Nick Fitzgerald and Aeris Williams were consistently churning out 5-6 yards a run on Bama’s defense, and that conservatism led to the inevitable Alabama death march two drives later. Got to love the 23-yard net punt when you have the best team in the land on the ropes.

Georgia...umm...speaking as an alumnus...that game didn’t happen. Coming into the season, the big question about the Dawgs was the O-line. Through nine games, it exceeded expectations. In game 10, not so much. The Dawgs’ dominant attack managed just 46 yards rushing, 230 total, while Auburn outflanked the Georgia back seven all afternoon. Auburn settled for field goals on their first three possessions, but was clearly the better, more aggressive, more schematically competent team from the jump.

We’re still set for a Georgia/Alabama playoff eliminator...unless Auburn puts on a similar show two weeks from now in the Iron Bowl. After what I just saw, the league still has three legitimate final four contenders.

Elsewhere, Mizzou put the final nail (I mean, right?) in Butch Jones’ coffin— I’d expect that news to break before this is posted— in a 50-17 thrashing. Randy Shannon proved he has no designs on being a head coach as Florida lost again, this time to South Carolina.

Big Ten

Speaking of two-loss teams with a playoff shot, Ohio State is set to make a jump as they killed Michigan State about 20 times in a 48-3 #BEATEMDOWN. Somehow I’m still convinced that the B1G gets someone into the playoff.

Wisconsin did not fall victim to Iowa City at night as so many others have, as they took care of business beating their first ranked opponent of the year, 38-14. Their game against Michigan next week looms hella large.

Mike Riley is probably done at Nebraska, or he should be after a hapless 54-21 loss to Minnesota. Saquon Barkley was again exposed as Heisman Fake News, amassing just 35 rushing yards, but Penn State rebounded against Rutgers.

We’ll get to it below, but this is the third conference who still has an inside track to the CFP.

Big XII

In a 38-20 spanking of #6 TCU, Oklahoma will slide quite comfortably into the top 4 this week. With games remaining at Kansas and home against West Virginia, the Sooners are a ‘win and in’ team.

Oklahoma State’s 49-42 road win over Iowa State was the best game I didn’t get to watch yesterday, and the Pokes are still alive but will need some help in the form of Texas Tech or Baylor knocking off TCU...I don’t see that happening, so we’ll likely see OU/TCU for a second time in December.

Other football happened, as West Virginia stayed technically alive, getting to 5-2 in XII play with a 28-23 win over Kansas State.

Pac-12

Its officially a mess. USC clinched the South with a tidy 38-24 win in Boulder. Khalil Tate earned a trip to the Heisman ceremony, as he again rushed for 200+ yards.

Then...there’s the Pac-12 North. Stanford’s upset over Washington pulled them into a three-way tie in the loss column with the Washingtons, and the Apple Cup will determine the champion (assuming no further chaos, which is not a safe assumption). Assuming form holds, a Washington State win puts the Cougs in (as they handled Utah in a tough road environment after bedtime), and a Washington win sends Stanford to the San Francisco burbs.

Its all for naught, though, as the Pac-12 winner will have to settle for a NY6 bowl that is not the Rose Bowl— the Rose is one of the year’s semifinals.

Elsewhere

Basically, this is where we yell at the committee for underranking UCF, who beat Connecticut and continues to cruise. Upcoming games with South Florida and (presumably) Memphis should provide the Knights with two ranked wins and, if nothing else, a chance to shout into a wind tunnel that they should be in the top four.

Boise State took control of the Mountain West with a win over Colorado State, Lane Kiffin’s FAU is 6-0 in C-USA, #MACTION got weird on Wednesday with Toledo getting blown out, and...try to parse what’s happening in the Sun Belt. Go Georgia State Panthers.

Can You Guess the Top 25?

Hit the comments section for your best guess— I have no idea how this is going to shake out on Tuesday.

LSU Miss State Mich State Michigan Wash State Memphis NCSU NW VT USF

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Miami
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Georgia
  7. (this is where I start throwing darts) Notre Dame with the best two-loss resume?
  8. Auburn
  9. Ohio State
  10. USC
  11. TCU
  12. Penn State (rolls eyes)
  13. Oklahoma State
  14. UCF (!!!)
  15. Washington
  16. (pulls out second dartboard) Washington State
  17. LSU
  18. Michigan State
  19. West Virginia
  20. Michigan
  21. Mississippi State
  22. Memphis
  23. Northwestern
  24. N.C. State
  25. Arizona
  26. South Florida (who should be top-20), South Carolina, and...really it would be hard to justify anyone else, so watch Minnesota or someone equally ineffectual from the Big Ten jump in to boost the league’s collective resume.

Heisman Race

  1. Baker Mayfield— may as well go ahead and engrave his name on the trophy.
  2. Bryce Love— let’s hope another Wake Forest High School running back has a similar impact in college.
  3. Khalil Tate— RichRod not starting him for the first three games should be a fireable offense.
  4. ...J.T. Barrett? Saquon ‘overhyped’ Barkley? I’m honestly good with three guys going to NYC.

Can we go ahead and kick off Week 12 now? You’d think we have a pretty clear picture going forward, but college football proved again yesterday: we know nothing.