Saturday’s biggest loser? The Big Ten.
Saturday’s biggest winner? The ACC.
Saturday’s parting gift? The possibility of a Mark-Richt-vs.-Georgia semifinal.
The losses suffered by Ohio State and Penn State mean that the Big Ten is down to one playoff possibility – Wisconsin, which has played nobody and was, despite being undefeated, slotted behind seven teams bearing losses in the first set of rankings. A Wisconsin that finishes undefeated, which presumes a victory over Ohio State/Michigan State in the Big Ten title tilt, would have a chance to crack the field of four. But only a chance. That’s apt to be the only ranked opponent the Badgers play.
Ohio State is done. You can’t get in with two blowout losses. Penn State is done. You can’t get in with two losses, period. Same with Michigan State. With four weeks to go (counting conference championships), the Big Ten has been reduced to Wisconsin or nobody, which is close to being reduced to nobody.
The Pac-12 stayed mostly status quo. Every team except Washington has two losses, and U-Dub hasn’t played a ranked opponent. Stanford’s loss to Washington State means the Cardinal will be unranked when the Huskies arrive in Palo Alto on Friday. The best Washington, which lost to Arizona State, can do is beat Washington State for the Apple Cup and then USC for the league title – both Wazzu and the Trojans have two losses – and hope against hope.
The Big 12 saw Oklahoma win a classic Big 12 game – halftime score: 38-all – in Stillwater, thereby dealing Oklahoma State a second loss. But Oklahoma’s greatest strength – a victory over Ohio State in Columbus – got devalued, and now the Sooners will have to beat TCU on Saturday and then maybe TCU again. (The 10-team Big 12 doesn’t have divisions but has reinstated its conference championship game.) If the Horned Frogs finish 12-1 with two victories over Oklahoma, they’d have a playoff shot, but it’s hard to imagine them winning in Norman this weekend.
The ACC was twice-blessed Saturday. Clemson winning in Raleigh was essential for the conference’s profile. (North Carolina State, you’ll recall, lost non-league games to South Carolina and Notre Dame.) And Miami’s dismissal of Virginia Tech tees up an ACC title match of Clemson-Miami, which would be the second-best conference championship on this year’s card. Clemson will make the playoff at 12-1. Even though the unbeaten Hurricanes were ranked No. 10 this week, they’ll move up after beating VPI, as we old-timers once called the Blacksburg school, and they’ll face Notre Dame in Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday. If Miami finishes 13-0 with victories over Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Clemson, it will make the playoff. And it could face …
Well, you know who. Georgia figures to stay No. 1 for another week. Alabama’s 24-10 victory over LSU was slightly less emphatic than the Bulldogs’ 24-10 handling of South Carolina. Bama was outgained by an opponent that lost to another Alabama-based team, meaning Troy State. Jalen Hurts didn’t complete half his passes. If not for two game-ending kneel-downs, Georgia would have doubled the Gamecocks in yardage, and Jake Fromm, alleged non-thrower, completed 16 of 22.
The playoff committee’s second set of rankings should see the top five stay the top five: 1. Georgia, 2. Alabama, 3. Notre Dame, 4. Clemson. 5. Oklahoma. Figure TCU slides up to No. 6, with Miami at No. 7, Wisconsin at No. 8 and Washington at No. 9. And No. 10 should be Auburn, which plays Georgia on Saturday. But you knew that already.
From Saturday: Keep chopping. No. 1 Georgia is now SEC East champ Georgia.