Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press
On a day when No. 1 Georgia went down, No. 2 Alabama had to sweat out two Hail Mary attempts to put away Mississippi State on the road, and No. 3 Notre Dame was hammered, two underappreciated unbeatens stood out.
Wisconsin’s defense dominated Iowa a week after the Hawkeyes put up video game numbers against Ohio State to keep the Badgers unblemished. Miami took the fight out of the Irish to stay unbeaten and thump Notre Dame from the College Football Playoff picture.
Oklahoma kept rolling and looking like a sleeper for the playoffs.
It was another wacky day in college football. And with next week’s slim slate of marquee games, it’ll have to be enough to tide us over until the rivalries commence in two weeks.
Again, college football writers Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Greg Wallace tried to chronicle the chaos and rank the teams, with a first-place vote counting for 25 points, a second-place worth 24, and so on.
Here’s our updated poll. Who’s rising? Who’s falling? Take a look:
- 1. Alabama (Last week: 1)
- 2. Clemson (4)
- 3. Miami (6)
- 4. Oklahoma (5)
- 5. Wisconsin (7)
- 6. Georgia (2)
- 7. Auburn (10)
- 8. Ohio State (13)
- 9. Notre Dame (3)
- 10. Oklahoma State (15)
- 11. UCF (11)
- 12. Penn State (17)
- 13. TCU (8)
- 14. Stanford (NR)
- 15. USC (18)
- 16. Washington (9)
- 17. Washington State (16)
- 18. Michigan (25)
- 19. West Virginia (NR)
- 20. Memphis (19)
- 21. Mississippi State (20)
- 22. Michigan State (12)
- 23. LSU (23)
- 24. NC State (NR)
- 25. South Florida (21)
Who’s hot: Miami Hurricanes
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
“U” gotta believe now.
The Miami Hurricanes aren’t just some feel-good story anymore. They’re a legitimate national champion contender, and anybody who doesn’t believe that just needs to get in their way and see what happens.
Miami’s defense went wild again on Saturday night, forcing at least four turnovers for the fourth consecutive game on its way to a convincing 41-8 win over Notre Dame. The loss likely dropped the Fighting Irish out of the College Football Playoff race.
It also put the Hurricanes front and center.
It seems that throughout the past few weeks, each Miami win included the “yeah, but” subtext. Now, the story is about how many of college football’s top teams have a loss. The next sentence now reads, “Yeah, but Miami is still unbeaten.”
The job head coach Mark Richt has done in his second year in Coral Gables is remarkable, especially with the season-ending injury to offensive star Mark Walton and the fact that his quarterback, Malik Rosier, is a first-year starter.
The Hurricanes have the attitude without the negative attention of the “convicts” label placed on the Miami teams of yesteryear.
Miami Hurricanes @MiamiHurricanes
This… We can get down with this. #OnlyInMiami (Photo: @NBC6Sports) https://t.co/J9VdWwjEn5
The Hurricanes’ swagger is growing each week, and you don’t have to believe if you don’t want to. They do, and that’s all that matters.
Who’s not: Georgia Bulldogs
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Sometimes, teams can’t handle success.
Everybody talked about Georgia all week leading up to the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” game against Auburn, and the Bulldogs jumped out of the gate with a convincing 70-yard touchdown drive.
Then, everything fell apart in epic fashion. The Tigers dominated the Bulldogs, who’d come into the game ranked first in the College Football Playoff polls, by a final score of 40-17. It was about as thorough as possible, too.
Maybe UGA had a down week. Maybe it’s a flawed football team that won a huge road game against Notre Dame but otherwise feasted on a weak SEC East slate. Whatever the case, Saturday wasn’t pretty.
The nation’s eighth-ranked rushing attack ran for just 46 yards against Auburn. Freshman Jake Fromm looked like a green signal-caller who hadn’t played in important games. Georgia was whipped on both lines of scrimmage.
Auburn was terrific, and the Tigers are in a prime spot two weeks before the Iron Bowl. Meanwhile, Georgia has to be searching for answers. That’s just the type of game that could see UGA tumble out of the Top Four.
Marc Weiszer @marcweiszer
Kirby Smart after Georgia’s worst loss to Auburn since 1990: “This team will be defined by how they respond, not how they did tonight.” https://t.co/jPxepsslKJ
Maybe Coach Smart is right, but the Dawgs certainly didn’t respond well to being one of the nation’s darlings. They were dealt the largest setback of any CFP top-ranked team since the rankings came out in 2014.
Fun fact: Alabama has never allowed three rushing touchdowns in a game under Nick Saban until Saturday
SEC Country MS State @SECCountryMSU
Mississippi State rushes for 3 touchdowns, first time against a Nick Saban Alabama team #HailState https://t.co/TCFKIFwo2u https://t.co/Rez1pRfIQE
As close as Mississippi State came to upsetting Alabama in a cowbell-clanging Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday, nobody wanted a moral victory.
But that doesn’t take anything away from how well the Bulldogs played against a ‘Bama team that has looked invincible at times this year.
The Bulldogs scored three touchdowns on the ground in a 31-24 loss that wasn’t decided until MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald overthrew a Hail Mary do-over after Alabama was called for pass interference in the end zone on the first attempt.
That underlines just how good of a job MSU coach Dan Mullen has done in Starkville this year, but it also is a great example of how relieved Alabama should feel after surviving. Any team that plays for a championship is going to have to make it through difficult, unexpected tests like the Crimson Tide did Saturday.
Alabama survived; Georgia didn’t. That may be because ‘Bama has been there so many times before and didn’t panic.
Keep an eye on: Central Florida Knights
Alex Menendez/Getty Images
There are plenty of reasons to watch the nation’s most electrifying offense, the Central Florida Knights, but there may be some interest for the more analytically minded as well.
With the turmoil that has consumed college football all season, it’s going to be tough to keep undefeated teams out of the College Football Playoff hunt. If Wisconsin and Miami remain spotless, they’ll find a way in there.
But will the Knights?
The American Athletic Conference isn’t going to win any brownie points with the committee, but after UCF’s 49-24 win over UConn on Saturday, the Knights are 9-0. They’ve got a monstrous season-ending game against South Florida and then the AAC Championship Game. But will those wins be enough?
A year ago, Western Michigan proved that a Group of Five team could hang with the big boys when it lost 24-16 to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. Of course, UCF is a different team in a different year, but could that strong showing by P.J. Fleck’s team help at all?
It’s hard to be more impressive than the Knights have been. Will the improbable undefeated run by Scott Frost’s team get them to the playoffs?
What to watch for: Michigan at Wisconsin
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Call it “Slacker Saturday.” Next week is probably the least appealing slate of games all season. Without much excitement on the surface with marquee matchups, the most interesting storyline may be major upsets the week before all the big rivalries end the season.
The most intriguing game could be Michigan traveling to Camp Randall to take on Wisconsin. The Badgers are still sporting a spotless record after a dominating defensive performance against an Iowa team that boat-raced Ohio State last week.
Now, the Badgers will host a Wolverines team that has quietly regained its early-season form. Michigan is 8-2 and ends the season with two huge games against Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Wolverines would love nothing more than to upset Wisconsin and keep their Big Ten rival out of the College Football Playoff.
As bad as Wisconsin’s nonconference schedule is, it’ll be tough for it to make it into the Top Four with a loss, and coach Jim Harbaugh’s team defense is good enough to make it a tough day for Alex Hornibrook.
This one is worth watching for upset possibilities.