Week 12 in college football further divided the pretenders from the contenders. Ranked teams like Baylor, Minnesota, Auburn, Texas, Kansas State, and Navy fell. Meanwhile, Alabama’s playoff hopes are dwindling. As a one-loss team, with little chance of making the SEC championship game, they now have to rely on a backup quarterback, Mac Jones, for the remainder of the season since Tua Tagovailoa dislocated his hip. This is college football. There’s chaos every week, and nothing remains certain, even for the three remaining undefeated teams, Clemson, LSU, and OSU.
1) Ohio State (10-0) The Buckeyes were without star DE Chase Young yet again but had no problem handling Rutgers 56-21. Although they didn’t cover the spread set at a high 52 points, they thoroughly dominated at every level. While Ohio State doesn’t have the resume of Georgia or win over a top 10 opponents like LSU, they continue to dominate at every level, every game.
What’s next: host Penn State (9-1)
2) LSU (10-0) The Tigers beat Alabama, and they aren’t at the top of the power rankings? That’s right. Rankings are subjective, even these rankings are. It’s challenging to compare teams within different conferences who have no common opponents. The reason LSU isn’t first because they didn’t dominate against Ole Miss. Now Ole Miss might be better than Rutgers, Ohio State’s latest opponent, but the best team in the country should not be allowing over 600 yards to a 4-7 Ole Miss team.
What’s next: host Arkansas (2-8)
3) Clemson (11-0) The Tigers finally played a semi-decent team. They crushed the 7-3 Wake Forest Demon Deacons 52-3. Since barely sneaking past UNC in week 5, they’ve been outscoring opponents by roughly 43 points per game. Clemson hasn’t played any team that will truly test them, and they likely won’t until the playoffs, however, the sheer domination that happens every Saturday should not be overlooked by a weak strength of schedule.
What’s next: bye week
4) Georgia (9-1) The Bulldogs may not have the most impressive offense, but their defense is one of the best in the nation. They shut down Auburn by a score of 21-14. Ever since the eye-opening loss to South Carolina, Georgia has rattled off four straight wins, including two against ranked opponents. Now, Georgia still has a lot to prove. Come playoff time, the fourth seed could be “up for grabs.” Right now Oregon, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Utah, Penn State, and Alabama are in the mix, however, Georgia’s strength of schedule gives them the edge in the playoff committee’s eyes.
What’s next: host Texas A&M (7-3)
5) Oregon (9-1) Say what you want about the Pac-12, but Oregon is on a roll. They cruised by Arizona with a score of 34-6. Ever since losing their first game to Auburn by a touchdown, the Ducks have won nine in a row. They might not have the best strength of schedule or resume but they could be in the same boat the 2014 Ohio State team was in. Both lost week one, so if Oregon can convincingly win it’s last two regular-season games and the conference championship, it would give the committee a tough decision to make.
What’s next: at Arizona State (5-5)
6) Alabama (9-1) The Crimson Tide scored the second-fewest points they have all season, beating Mississippi State 38-7. While a win is a win, Alabama’s chances of reaching the playoffs are slim. Heisman candidate quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is out for the season with a dislocated hip. Alabama’s only hope is for LSU to lose its next two games, but even then, can Alabama beat Auburn without Tua? The Tide can still win out and get into a New Year’s Six Bowl Game.
What’s next: host Western Carolina (3-8)
7) Penn State (9-1) Fresh off an unsettling loss to Minnesota, the Nittany Lions sneaked past Indiana in the 4th quarter 34-27. The Nittany Lions still have a chance to win the Big 10, if they can beat Ohio State. That’s highly unlikely. Even with potentially two losses, Penn State is still a top ten team, with wins over Iowa, Michigan, and Indiana. If Penn State somehow pulls off the upset against Ohio State they could jump into playoff consideration.
What’s next: at Ohio State (10-0)
8) Michigan (8-2) This might be a reach in many people’s opinions but Michigan has impressed ever since losing to Penn State four weeks ago. They blew out Notre Dame 45-14 and have won their last two games by a margin of 82-17. Although Michigan State isn’t very good this year, Michigan won 44-10 against their in-state rivals. With two losses, Michigan will be on the outside looking in. They can’t win the Big 10 at this point. Michigan needs to focus all their attention on beating Ohio State. If they don’t find a way to win The Game, Jim Harbaugh could be out of a job.
What’s next: at Indiana (7-3)
9) Oklahoma (9-1) The Sooners have endured a rough stretch of football, starting with a loss to Kansas State, followed by an off week, a one-point win against Iowa State, and a come from behind win against Baylor. Even if Oklahoma manages to win out and win the Big 12, the committee will look at this four-week span and question how Oklahoma barely held it together. This year’s Oklahoma team is very similar to last year’s Ohio State team. When the Buckeyes lost to Purdue, they followed with several close wins against conference opponents. Another comparison between the two teams is their defenses. The Oklahoma defense has not impressed this season, very much like Ohio State’s last year. Even with a quality win over Baylor, the Sooners haven’t proved consistency.
What’s next: host TCU (5-5)
10) Florida (9-2) Florida had their second straight win since losing to Georgia. They beat Missouri 23-6, assisted by two touchdowns in the 3rd quarter. Unfortunately for the Gators, they won’t be in the playoffs this year. While they don’t have any bad losses, they’re only ranked win is against Auburn. On the bright side, the Gators will be looking for back to back double-digit win seasons for the first time since 2009.
What’s next: bye week
11) Utah (9-1) The Utes are coming off a 49-3 win over UCLA and could be headed into a collision course against Oregon for the Pac-12 championship. Although the Pac-12 is deemed weak for the inconsistencies that plague their ranked teams, Utah has been consistently good all season. (It’s alright to say the voters just got the top 25 wrong at the beginning of the season.) While Utah had a week four loss to USC, the game was held at USC and was decided by a touchdown. Since then, the Utes have won six in a row.
What’s next: at Arizona (4-6)
12) Wisconsin (8-2) The Badgers are coming off an underwhelming 37-21 win against Nebraska. The Badgers must win out in order to make the Big 10 Championship. Two back to back losses to Illinois and Ohio State may have ruined Wisconsin’s playoff hopes but if they can finish the season strong, they could reach a New Year’s Six Bowl Game.
What’s next: host Purdue (4-6)
13) Notre Dame (9-2) The Fighting Irish do themselves some favors when they schedule quality matchups, however, they’ve lost two of them to Michigan and Georgia. They have quality wins over Virginia, Virginia Tech, and most recently Navy.
What’s next: host Boston College (5-5)
14) Auburn (7-3) The Auburn Tigers just endured a one-possession loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. So far, all but one of their games against ranked opponents have been decided by one possession or less. While Auburn has “good losses” to Georgia, LSU, and Florida, they also have quality wins over Texas A&M and Oregon. However, their inability to run away with games against quality opponents has hurt them. They scored 14 unanswered points in the 4th quarter against Georgia, failed to capitalize off an early lead against LSU, and couldn’t score in the second half against Florida.
What’s next: host Samford (5-6)
15) Iowa (7-3) Iowa came away big this week, winning 23-19 over Minnesota, unfortunately, Iowa has often found themselves at the other end of the score. They’ve lost to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Penn State, all games decided by 7 points or fewer. Iowa has endured a tough schedule, but coming up short in games won’t get them anywhere.
What’s next: host Illinois (6-4)
16) Minnesota (9-1) The Golden Gophers finally fell this week to the Iowa Hawkeyes. While they have a win over Penn State, they haven’t played any other quality opponents. They have a gimme game next week vs Northwestern and then a big game vs Wisconsin as they play for the Big 10 West Championship.
What’s next: at Northwestern (2-8)
17) Baylor (9-1) The Bears looked like they were going to cement their spot in the college football playoffs at halftime against Oklahoma, but the Sooners didn’t give up. After a hard-fought battle, Baylor saw its undefeated record wiped away. A quality win over Kansas State and a potential Big 12 Championship won’t do the trick in the eyes of the playoff committee. Baylor’s wins haven’t been all that pretty. A triple-overtime win against TCU and a 17-14 victory won’t do Baylor any favors. While they are a one-loss team, how they’ve won and strength of schedule isn’t on their side.
What’s next: at Texas (6-4)
18) Cincinnati (9-1) The win over South Florida wasn’t pretty for the Bearcats this weekend, however, UC has kept it rolling since losing to Ohio State in week two. As the Bearcats look ahead, they have a very important game at Memphis to end the season. The AAC championship will be on the line, so UC must finish strong.
What’s next: host Temple (7-3)
19) Memphis (9-1) The Tigers defeated Houston 45-27 this weekend, a week removed from their 54-48 win over SMU. With the AAC championship on the line, Memphis must continue to play strong as they look ahead to the game against Cincinnati. They must win out in order to go to the AAC Championship game since they own the tiebreaker against SMU.
What’s next: at South Florida (4-6)
20) Boise State (9-1) The Broncos defeated New Mexico 42-9, continuing this season’s domination. While they squeaked past Wyoming and fell to BYU, they have thoroughly dominated every other opponent, including a win over Florida State. While they don’t have the best strength of schedule and won’t likely gain any support from the selection committee, Boise State should easily win the Mountain West.
What’s next: at Utah State (6-4)
21) Oklahoma State (7-3) The Cowboys cruised past Kansas 31-13 this weekend. They also have impressive victories over TCU, Iowa State, and Kansas State. Unfortunately for them, they also have losses to Baylor, Texas Tech, and Texas. They do have a chance to play spoiler, which they are good at when they close their season against Oklahoma.
What’s next: at West Virginia (4-6)
22) SMU (9-1) The Mustangs are right in the mix with the other AAC teams after a narrow 59-51 victory over East Carolina. Unfortunately, although they only have one loss, they haven’t convincingly won games. Five of their wins have been decided by seven points or fewer. Add in a loss to Memphis, and they’re on the outside looking in, in the AAC championship race.
What’s next: at Navy (7-2)
23) Appalachian State (9-1) The Mountaineers won 56-27 against Georgia State. While they don’t have a formidable strength of schedule, they only have one loss on the season, which will earn them a bowl game.
What’s next: host Texas State (3-7)
24) Virginia Tech (7-3) The Hokies just shut out Georgia Tech 45-0. The easy games are over. Virginia Tech’s next two games will decide who will represent the ACC against Clemson in the conference championship. They play vs Pitt and then travel to Virginia. They have experience in tough games and in tough environments. They kept the game against Notre Dame close and beat a ranked Wake Forest team 36-17.
What’s next: host Pittsburgh (7-3)
25) Texas A&M (7-3) The Aggies could very easily be a five loss team at the end of the season, or they could unlikely be a team with at least one win over a top-five team. (They might even have two wins over top-five teams.) The Aggies just ended an “easy” four-game stretch, capped off by a 30-6 win over South Carolina. Looking ahead, their last two games come at Georgia and LSU.
What’s next: at Georgia (9-1)
On the bubble: Iowa State, Indiana, and Virginia