Here we are... For all intents and purposes, this is the last weekend of the college football regular season. Outside of the context of being an Auburn fan, this has been a great year. There have been marquee matchups nearly every weekend, huge upsets, giants that have fallen, and relative unknowns that have become forces to be reckoned with. Personally, I've been able to have a little fun with all of the chaos through these rankings and this article. And even after three months of craziness, things are as wide open as ever. By my count, there are upwards of 10 teams that could fight their way into the playoffs. There are still FOURTEEN undefeated or one-loss teams, with all but three of them being in power 5 conferences, and cases could be made that a handful of two loss teams are still alive, too. Let's take a look at this week's rankings, shall we?
And per usual, the full rankings if you feel so inclined.
*something something something* CLEMSON *something something* ALABAMA *something something* BEST TWO TEAMS IN THE COUNTRY, WIN AND THEY'RE IN. Okay, now that I've covered that for the umpteenth time this year, let's get to the interesting part. Baylor at 3? How are they even ahead of the Sooners, Oklahoma beat Baylor just last week! I'll tell you why. The #79 Texas Longhorns. Even when they can't even sniff the top 25, they're still wreaking havoc on the national landscape. Unless you've erased any memory of 2015 Longhorn football out of your memory, which might not be a terrible decision, you'll know that Texas beat Oklahoma. This is the same Texas team which is 4-6 and was shut out 24-0 by Iowa State, who despite beating Texas, fired their coach this week. What I'm saying is, Oklahoma, as good as you've looked recently, we know your dark secret. You can't outrun it. Or out-pass it, as those in the Big 12 may tend to do. The fact of the matter is, these Baylor and Oklahoma teams are good. They're outscoring opponents by about 25 points per game and knocking them out around halftime. Baylor's schedule, as everyone has mentioned, is among the easiest in the country, but they've been lights out against everyone except the Sooners, when they were playing a true freshman quarterback.
Just outside the top 4, several teams are vying for a spot in the playoffs. Like I said before, there are eleven undefeated or one-loss Power 5 teams, meaning currently seven of those teams won't get into the Playoff. At minimum, four of those teams will take a loss, although in Clemson and Iowa's case, a loss still keeps them as a one loss team. So let's say, for maximum #TeamChaos entertainment, that #1 Clemson loses to #9 UNC, and #14 Iowa loses to #7 Ohio State or #17 Michigan State in their respective conference championships. That still leaves up to nine one-loss P5 teams. Good luck, committee! On the off chance any of you are listening, I vote for Navy. Wouldn't it just be more fun with them in the Playoff?
Group of 5 Madness
I've always been a little wary of how these rankings portray the Group of 5 schools, as too often I see a decent team destroy its conference and sneak up the rankings late in the season. This week, seven teams from the G5 conferences have made the top 25. I think we've talked about Navy enough over the course of this year for you guys to know that I think they belong near the top of the rankings. The other teams, though, such as #11 Western Kentucky, #18 Marshall, and #25 San Diego State, have no real marquee wins, and have just blasted extremely weak schedules. Perhaps there is a tweak to be made for next season, but for now, I'm going to appreciate the seasons these teams have put together. After all, the original point of this poll was to determine how much a team dominated their schedule, and these guys are doing just that.
Not much changed at the top, besides the Big 10 finally claiming the #2 spot, although not by much. The SEC is still the obvious choice for the best conference. What is really interesting is the #5/6 spots... Do you see it? The American has finally jumped the ACC! Despite the ACC leading in average margin of victory, average KO time, and strength of schedule, the teams in the AAC have put together a slightly better record in the win column. I don't have the time to do it this week, but I would be interested to see what a team by team matchup of the AAC vs ACC would look like. Another interesting thing of note is that every team except the Sun Belt has a ranked team. Somehow, I don't quite see any human poll having the guts to do that.
Games of the Week
Oh boy. This week should be a doozy. It's rivalry weekend, and several major rivalry games have some big implications on the playoff picture. The ACC's most exciting game looks to be #9 UNC traveling to #30 NC State. The Tarheels Playoff hopes aren't quite dead yet, but a convincing win over a decent rival would go a long ways towards them getting a spot. The AAC has a winner take all game for the Western division, as #5 Navy travels to #15 Houston in a noon game on Friday. The Big 10 has #7 Ohio State headed to the Big House to face #10 Michigan. While neither team controls their destiny, the winner of this game would end up going to the Big 10 championship if #44 Penn State could take down #17 Michigan State in East Lansing.
Whichever of those three teams will then face a likely undefeated #14 Iowa next weekend. The Big 12 round robin November continues, as this week we get #3 Baylor traveling to so-not-rival #28 TCU. #4 Oklahoma heads over to #16 Oklahoma State for Bedlam in a game that essentially decides the Big 12. With an Oklahoma win, they win the conference, but if State wins, Baylor would win the title, assuming that they take care of business against TCU and Texas next week. If Baylor were to drop a game, then Oklahoma State would be Big 12 champs. In other action, #7 Notre Dame takes on #9 Stanford. Both teams here are still alive in the Playoff hunt, although Stanford is only hanging on by a thread with two losses. By the rankings, the best PAC 12 game of the weekend is the battle for Los Angeles as #29 UCLA takes on #24 USC for the right to take on Stanford in the PAC 12 Championship game. However, my bet is that #39 Washington State #52 Washington for the Apple Cup will be the game to watch.
In the good ole' SEC, there are a bunch of fun matchups, but unfortunately none of them really matter in terms of who will be in Atlanta next weekend. Unless... well, you know. Unless Gus is Gus and pulls out every page of the playbook for the Iron Bowl. Unless Jeremy Johnson finds himself this week and plays like he did against Arkansas 15 months ago. Unless Carl Lawson plays like, well, Carl Lawson. And even then, it may take a miracle to keep the #2 Crimson Tide out of Atlanta... Or maybe only a second.
Questions? Comments? Let me know below or on Twitter @SterrittScore! May all of your turkeys be juicy and never dry.