I'll be honest, guys. This week's article was going to be long. I mean, LONG. There's been a huge shakeup in the rankings this week, and Auburn pulled off a great win against a decent Texas A&M team on the road this week. On top of that, it's UGA week. For those who know me, you know that my distaste for the Dawgs goes wayyyyyyy past that of Alabama. It's a product of me growing up thirty minutes from Athens and almost every single one of my friends and teachers being UGA fans. So when I started writing, all I could think about was writing a UGA Hate Week Article. My intro turned into 400 words of why I hate UGA, and I was still going strong. But, I think you guys get it. I don't need to explain it to you, although if you need a reference, just check out this week's Undercover Barner and the comments below. So let's just get to the rankings, shall we? I promise, it's good stuff.
Drum roll, please...
Well, it's... different. Here's the full Sterritt Score, if you're interested.
Note: All rankings listed within the article are THIS WEEK'S rankings unless otherwise stated.
As you can imagine, Clemson, after defeating #30 FSU, remains at #1. Alabama took on previously #2 LSU in the Game of the Century, Part Too-Many-To-Care, and came away with an (unfortunately) strong win, which was enough to move them to #2 . Baylor, with an uninspiring showing against #78 Kansas State, slipped ever so slightly to #3, while Ohio State followed suit after its good-but-not-great win against #83 Minnesota. Oklahoma jostled its way to #5 after blowing out #95 Iowa State, while Stanford held its ground at #6 despite a sizable win over #88 Colorado.
There are two big things I want to talk about here. One, check out Clemson's Sterritt Score! It is SIGNIFICANTLY higher than even #2 Alabama's. Clemson has earned its spot as the #1 team in the country, and its not even close. More importantly, they don't play much of anyone the rest of the season (#89 South Carolina is the best remaining opponent) until the ACC Championship, which looks like it will probably be against... #13 UNC? That's right, the same North Carolina team that lost to South Carolina in the first game of the college football season has rattled off 8 straight wins, most recently humiliating a pretty decent Duke team by 35 points. Just imagine if the Tar Heels hadn't lost to the Head Ball Coach, we'd be anticipating a top 10 matchup between two undefeateds in the ACC Championship game playing for a berth in the Playoff. But the Committee doesn't seem too fond of UNC, having them at #23 behind several one loss teams. As I've said before, Clemson is really the ACC's only shot at a national title, and the only thing standing in their way at this point is themselves.
The other thing I wanted to bring up is the fact that despite all of the controversy over who "deserves" a Playoff berth right now, the current rankings really don't matter. If you look at it, most of the teams with a legitimate chance to finish in the top 4 have to play someone else (or several someones) that also has a shot at it. In no particular order, #2 Alabama or #16 LSU will play #14 Florida in the SEC Championship, #6 Stanford finishes the year with #7 Notre Dame, the Big 12 essentially has a round robin tournament this month with #3 Baylor, #5 Oklahoma, #11 Oklahoma State, and #20 TCU, the best of #4 Ohio State, #9 Michigan, and #21 Michigan State will have to play #12 Iowa, #8 Navy plays #15 Houston this week, and I've already discussed how Clemson is sitting pretty at #1. What is likely going to happen is that the Committee will have three easy picks in an undefeated Clemson, a one loss SEC champion, and an undefeated or one loss Big 10 champion. Then, the battle for the fourth spot will be as intense as last year. If an undefeated team emerges from the Big 12, they are probably in. If not, and the winner of Stanford/Notre Dame only has one loss, they would get the fourth spot. Simple... right?
Things Got a Little Wacky This Week
If you looked at the rankings for more than a few minutes, I'm sure you noticed a few teams who seem to be out of place. For example, Navy at #8? What about LSU falling from #4 all the way to #16? Those both seem a little absurd, and if I'm being truly objective, I have to agree. LSU lost rather handily, but it was to Alabama, now the #2 team in the country. They should be right around #10, and no lower than #11-12. Unfortunately for the Tigers, their SOS is middling compared to many of the top ranked teams, and while they have for the most part handled teams pretty easily, they only have blown out one team, #63 Auburn. They have had two wins go down to the wire, but they were against #10 Mississippi State (yes, my rankings are pretty bully-ish on them, too) and #14 Florida. They have a solid but yet still manageable finish to the year, with games against #53 Arkansas, #32 Ole Miss, and #47 Texas A&M still on tap. Should they win out convincingly in those games, they still would have an outside shot and finishing in my top 4. Their odds would be significantly helped if Alabama took another loss, allowing LSU another shot to boost their numbers against Florida.
On the other end of the spectrum, how is Navy in the top 10? Sure, they haven't been terrible, but they aren't THAT good, right? Wrong. Their only loss came at #7 Notre Dame by 17 points. Their strength of schedule has been average, but they've exhibited the kind of game control that LSU has been lacking. All of their wins have come by at least two possessions, and in only one game did they wait until the fourth quarter for a knockout, while they've knocked out four teams in the first half. Despite their strong ranking now, this is about the ceiling for Navy. They just knocked off previously unbeaten Memphis, and the rest of their schedule is pretty awful sans a Thanksgiving-weekend matchup with currently undefeated #15 Houston. Their SOS should continue to fall, and it would take Navy averaging a margin of victory of about 20 and knocking out all of their opponents in the first half to even maintain a top 10 ranking. The good news, though, is that the winner of the AAC is all but guaranteed a New Year's Six Bowl game, and Navy still controls its own destiny for that. I, for one, would love to see an Academy in a major bowl game, which hasn't happened since Air Force lost to Tennessee in the 1970 Sugar Bowl.
Once again, not much has changed. The SEC's lead over the Big 10/Big12/Pac12 is shrinking some, but they are still for sure the best conference. As I mention almost every week now, the AAC has nearly surpassed the ACC. The American's teams rank on average only 1.3 spots behind the ACC's. The SEC's lead appears to come from typically larger KO times, as the conference has an average KO time roughly two minutes greater than any other conference. However, the Big 12 has led the way in margin of victory the entire season, winning games by about 4.42 points. If not for the Big 12's sub-0.500 strength of schedule, the conference might even challenge the SEC for the best in the country. Also, the irony of the ACC being the worst Power 5 conference yet still having the #1 team in the country remains.
Games of the Week
This week doesn't have quite the number of headline games, but there are still a handful of them that should be fun to watch. The big matchup in the AAC is #28 Memphis at #15 Houston. The game won't be quite as special with Memphis having picked up its first loss last weekend, but the winner of this one is still in prime position for a New Year's Six Bowl. The SEC East has pretty much played intself out with #14 Florida clenching the division last weekend, but there are several games of note in the SEC West. #16 LSU returns home trying to rebound against #53 Arkansas, which won't be as easy as it sounds. The Hogs have made a habit out of bringing opposing teams down to their level and wallowing in the mud, as five of their nine games this year have been decided in the last three minutes or overtime. Arkansas has won each of the last three of such games, all against SEC foes. The other half of last week's mega matchup, #2 Alabama, hosts #10 Mississippi State this weekend. I can't say I would pick the Bulldogs this week, but it sure wouldn't surprise me if Dak Prescott showed out. I'll certainly be pulling for them. Out west (and luckily not in the middle of the night), #44 Oregon travels to #6 Stanford. This game looked a lot more important in the pre-season, but the Ducks are starting to find their stride the last few weeks. If anybody can pull one over on the Cardinal right now, it might be the Ducks. I wouldn't exactly bet on it, though. None of these compare to this week's Big 12 Playoff game (that's essentially what this is), as #5 Oklahoma travels to #3 Baylor. It'll be interesting to see how freshman QB Jarett Stidham plays against the Sooners. He looked fairly comfortable in last week's game against Kansas State, but something tells me this Oklahoma team is going to be a bit of a stiffer challenge than the Wildcats (like, I don't know, maybe OU bashing Kansas State 55-0 in Week 7?). The winner of this game will continue to keep their Playoff hopes alive, while the other can pretty much kiss those dreams goodbye.
Let's Talk About the Tigers
There sure is something special about playing in College Station, isn't there? Two years ago, it was the catalyst that sparked the magical 2013 season. I remember walking to Toomer's that night thinking that anything after that game would be icing on the cake that year. Little did freshman me know what was about to happen the rest of that fall. This year, hopefully we can bottle up that same magic and finish this year guns blazing. Jeremy Johnson, despite all of our disgruntled sighs after finding out he was starting, had the kind of game we all knew he was capable of two months ago. The defense, on the backs of a healthy Carl Lawson, a linebacking core that looked like it really was anchored by three seniors, and a secondary that was able to make some big plays in the red zone, held the Aggies to just 10 points. Sure, the result of this season may not be a national championship, or a Heisman for our quarterback, but I know I'm as psyched up about the rivalry games this year as I have been in a while.
In the rankings, we only jumped up a few spots to #63. Despite a great KO time of 48 minutes against the Aggies, our margin of victory of 16 points was not quite enough to pull us into the positive range for MOV. We're just 8 points away from making that value positive, so any victory this week along with an easy win over Idaho next week should provide a significant boost in the Sterritt Score. One thing I did notice is that the team directly below Auburn in the rankings, #64 Northwestern, is ranked in the CFP Polls. Even though they are a two loss team with a win over #6 Stanford, they do not deserve to even be sniffing the polls. Their strong win in terms of MOV and KO on the year is against Minnesota (27, 31.7 respectively), and they were a part of two of the most lopsided in-conference losses in the country this year, losing to Michigan and Iowa by a combined 68 points. They also snuck away with three of their wins at the last second over #109 Ball State, #48 Nebraska, and #35 Penn State. In my eyes, they are no more than a top-40 team.
I know I started off hating on UGA, and I will continue to do so all weekend, but I just wanted to take a moment to give a shoutout to my friends who are coming to Auburn for the game. Yes, they're UGA students, and yet somehow they turned out to be decent people. Welcome to Auburn, guys!
Hopefully this is the scene Saturday afternoon, just like it was two years ago. Except, ya know, on a bigger scoreboard.
Questions? Comments? Let me know below or on Twitter @SterrittScore!