Week eleven was in line to be the worst week of what’s been a crazy college football season. The schedule featured only two games between ranked teams, and most playoff contenders were preparing for “résumé building” matchups. If you needed to miss any week of college football this year, this would have been the one. It should’ve been boring. It should’ve been a week to forget. It should’ve went as planned. Well, it wasn’t boring or forgettable, and it certainly didn’t go as planned, and it’s leaving college football fans everywhere saying “we should’ve known better.”
The team to begin the day’s craziness was Clemson, as they lost to Pittsburgh at home, 43-42. The game came down to a field goal, in which Chris Blewitt hit a 48 yard kick with seven seconds remaining. The Clemson defense was abysmal throughout the entirety of the matchup, however it was the offense that might’ve cost the team the game as they were unable to convert on a game ending 4th down run.
A few hours after Clemson came Washington, looking for their first win in six tries over USC. They didn’t get it. Jake Browning struggled throughout the game, throwing two pics in what would end in a 26-13 defeat. Washington’s previous lowest scoring mark was 31.
The night ticked on, and the upsets didn’t stop. Next up was Michigan, playing Iowa in what’s historically proven to be a trap game for the Wolverines. It certainly was a trap game. A week ago, Iowa lost big to Penn State in a game where the Hawkeyes gave up well over 300 yards rushing. Kirk Ferentz had his defense ready to go last night, however, holding the high powered Wolverines to a season low 13 points. Iowa won the game on a last second field goal, set up by what’s being called a “perfect storm of mistakes” by Michigan. Final score: 14-13.
While those three games certainly were the bulk of Saturday’s craziness, top ten struggles continued down the line. Georgia upset (9) Auburn 13-7, and Ole Miss beat (8) Texas A&M 29-28.
So, numbers 2, 3, 4, 8, and 9 all lost Saturday, leaving us wondering only one thing: Who’s in now?
When the polls are released, it will look extremely different from how it does now. That said, this week proved that rankings mean absolutely nothing and that they are fluid to weekly change. What does matter, however, is weeks 12 and 13, where most of the nation’s top talent will continue to be tested.
First and foremost, Alabama is a lock for the playoffs. The Tide plays host to Chattanooga next week before the yearly Iron Bowl matchup against Auburn. If Auburn plays even close to as poorly as they did this week, Alabama will dominate, however if the Tigers somehow pull an upset, the Tide will still be in a good spot to make the playoffs.
Alabama clinched the SEC West following Auburn’s loss to Georgia this past weekend, and the Tide should have the talent to overrun (likely) Flordia in the SEC Championship Game. Worst case, an 12-1 Alabama team will still get a bid in the playoffs. Probably even the number one spot.
Playoff team: Alabama
The two spot in the playoffs will go to either the Big 10 champion or the ACC champion. Considering the two and three teams play each other first round, it doesn’t really matter who gets the bid, so in this case I’ll assume it goes to the stronger conference, which this year is the Big 10.
Two weeks from now, Michigan plays Ohio State in what’s sure to be one of the best games of the regular season. Had Michigan beat Iowa, the winner of the Michigan/OSU game would hold sole possession of the Big 10 East and thus hold a spot in the Big 10 Championship Game. But Michigan lost, meaning that if Ohio State and Penn State are to both win out, Penn State will head to the Big 10 Championship game, holding the head to head over Ohio State.
Michigan controls its own destiny as it has the head to head over Penn State and is yet to play Ohio State. Penn State will make the championship game if it wins out and Ohio State beats Michigan. Ohio State finds itself in the most difficult position needing to beat Michigan and have Penn State lose to either Michigan State or Rutgers, teams with a combined five wins.
In this case, I expect Michigan to win out and head to the Big 10 Championship game (I’ll discuss other alternatives later) where they would likely play Wisconsin, a team they already beat this season. Assuming the Michigan/Wisconsin rematch has a similar outcome to the October matchup, Michigan will grab a playoff spot.
Playoff team: Michigan
Next up is the ACC, which seems to be a race between Clemson and Louisville. Clemson should ultimately get the ACC’s expected playoff spot as they will beat Wake Forest, advance to the ACC Championship game and beat either Virginia Tech or North Carolina. Louisville needs a miracle to find itself in the championship game, however if it wins out, it should find itself in a good spot to steal the fourth playoff spot.
Playoff team: Clemson
Here’s where things get interesting. The fourth playoff spot is completely in question with Washington’s loss, and will have close to no definitive answer until the committee makes its final selection. Might they go with a one loss, at-large Big 10 team in Ohio State, or might they make the same type of selection with a one loss Louisville team?
To add to the complexity, what if Washington wins the PAC-12? Would the committee really leave out a one loss conference champ?
There’s also a bunch of dark horse teams. If Wisconsin wins the Big 10, it’d boast a two loss record with wins over three top ten teams (at the time).
Oklahoma is another team with a chance, as it has won seven games in a row and will probably win out.
Penn State could find itself in an interesting spot if Michigan falls to Ohio State, as it would need one signature win to be crowned the Big 10 Champ.
Lastly, West Virginia has only one loss and plays Oklahoma this Saturday. A signature win over the Sooners and an undefeated end to their season would give them a great chance.
Likely playoff scenarios:
- Michigan and Clemson win their conferences: Alabama, Michigan, Clemson, Ohio State/Louisville/Washington
- Ohio State beats Michigan: Alabama, Clemson, Louisville, Ohio State/Washington
- Clemson loses: Alabama, Big 10 Champ, Louisville, Washington/Oklahoma/West Virginia/Big 10 at large
Worst case scenarios for each conference:
- SEC - Alabama loses to Auburn, and then falls in championship game
- ACC - Clemson loses championship game
- BIG 10 - Ohio State beats Michigan, Penn State beats Wisconsin in championship game
- PAC 12 - Clemson wins conference, Michigan wins conference, Alabama wins conference, Louisville wins out
- BIG 12 - Well, their worst case already happened; they don't have much of a chance