It certainly wasn’t last week in the drama department. After the SEC world was turned upside down (sans Alabama) a week ago, college football returned to a hierarchy system this time around with a slew of blowouts dotting the Top 25.
Six teams in my Top Ten won by at least four touchdowns, and 12 of the 25 listed held the same distinction. There were upsets, highlighted by Virginia Tech’s surprising loss against Duke and South Carolina staying alive in the SEC East with a 2OT win at Missouri. Overall, though, not much change this week.
- Alabama (8-0, 5-0; W 45-10 vs. Tennessee): Another week, another easy win for the Tide. Ever since surviving the 49-42 clash at Texas A&M, Alabama has outscored its six opponents 246-26. After the game against the Aggies, some started to fear the Bama defense might not have what it takes to finish undefeated or win the SEC. All they’ve done is silence those critics for the last month and a half. They get a well deserved week off before facing another good offense in LSU. That game should give us a good idea of where the Tide are heading into the stretch run.
- Oregon (8-0, 5-0; W 42-14 vs. UCLA): Is there a better 2nd half football team than the Ducks the last few years? At the breakneck pace they play, it’s not uncommon for them to come out slow, yet still win by scores like this. It was just 14-14 at halftime, but Oregon handles its business convincingly against a very good Bruins squad. Florida State keeps nipping on their heels, but the Ducks are answering the bell so far. It won’t be a breeze to the finish by any means. The Ducks get next week off before going to Stanford to try to avenge last year’s big loss.
- Florida State (7-0, 5-0; W 49-17 @ NC State): The last four times a ranked Florida State team played an unranked NC State squad, it was the Wolfpack taking all four wins. This year, the Seminoles didn’t even give the game announcers a chance to dust off that fun little stat before blowing the doors off the home team. Florida State 35-0 after the 1st Quarter, showing they and their redshirt freshman Heisman hopeful Jameis Winston won’t be lulled to sleep in the run at an ACC and possible national title. Up next: a match up of undefeateds at home against Miami.
- Ohio State (8-0, 4-0; W 63-14 vs. Penn State): The latest in potential challenges for the Buckeyes was over almost before it started. The same Penn State team that beat Michigan 43-40 was blitzed from the start in Columbus, trailing 42-0 at halftime. Ohio State needs big wins like this to try to convince voters that they can be a team to be reckoned with if they’re put in a big game. The computers will still be disappointed in the strength of schedule, though, so they’ll need loses from the top three and Baylor and Miami too in order to get a shot at the national title game.
- Baylor (7-0, 4-0; W 59-14 @ Kansas): The Bears scored a disappointing 59 points to drop their season average from 64.7 points per game to 63.9 ppg. For real, though, the Bears have played 28 quarters this year and have been shut out in TWO of them, one of those being the 4th Quarter of their 70-7 win against Louisiana-Monroe. This team shows no signs of slowing down, but the real schedule starts now. They have an off week followed by: Oklahoma, Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma State, @ TCU, Texas.
- Miami (7-0, 3-0; W 24-21 vs. Wake Forest): For the third straight week the Hurricanes stayed undefeated but did so in unconvincing fashion. They trailed Wake Forest for 36:07 before capping a game-winning, 63-yard scoring drive with :53 on the clock. The Canes have been living on the edge for awhile, needing a huge 4th quarter to beat Georgia Tech two weeks ago, then scoring a game-winning touchdown with just :16 left against North Carolina.
- Stanford (7-1, 5-1; W 20-12 @ Oregon State): The gauntlet run continues for the Cardinal. After a loss against Utah and a win against then-undefeated UCLA, Stanford had to travel to Oregon State and beat one of the best offenses in the country. Mission accomplished. The Cardinal defense allowed only 12 points, sending a message to Oregon that the Ducks won’t be getting a free pass to the Pac 12 North title.
- Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2; W 56-24 vs. Vanderbilt): Injured or not, you can’t hold down Johnny Football. Still nursing last week’s injured shoulder, Johnny Manziel started the game 10-10, 70 yd, TD, and posted a 1st Quarter of 15-17, 155 yd, 3 TD. Tech’s loss to Auburn last week takes it out of the conversation for championships of any kind, but they are definitely a team that no one wants to see on the schedule or in a bowl game.
- Missouri (7-1, 3-1; L 27-24 vs. South Carolina 2OT): If Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett is familiar with Ace Ventura at all, he’s probably relating a little bit to Ray Finkle about right now. The sophomore hit the post on the field goal chance that would’ve sent the game against South Carolina to a third overtime, and on replay it was clear the laces of the ball were in, giving him a rough surface to kick. More concerning for the Tigers is how they lost a 17-0 lead once Connor Shaw entered the game for the Gamecocks. Missouri still controls the SEC East, but now USC holds the tiebreaker.
- Texas Tech (7-1, 4-1; L 38-30 @ Oklahoma): The Red Raiders started the big boy part of their schedule, and though they fought valiantly, they are undefeated no more. In their 7-0 start, the best team they played was arguably West Virginia or TCU. Those teams, this year at least, aren’t on the same level as the Oklahoma State, Baylor or Texas teams that remain. Kliff Kingsbury’s done great, but it’s what he does from here on that cements this team’s legacy.
- Clemson (7-1, 5-1; W 40-27 @ Maryland): Florida State didn’t have a post-big game hangover, but the Tigers definitely did. Sure, Maryland is a good team, but the Tigers should have run them out of the stadium, not led 19-13 heading into the 4th Quarter. The good thing for them is that they have no reason to face a serious challenge until closing the season against South Carolina. A win against the Gamecocks (particularly an impressive one) would give them a chance at a BCS at-large.
- LSU (7-2, 3-2; W 48-16 vs. Furman): The Tigers got a breather without having an off week, taking down Furman after letting the Paladins hang around until halftime. LSU’s loss at Ole Miss last week definitely has them just hunting a good bowl game at this point, but they certainly have a chance to spoil some great seasons with tough games remaining at Alabama and against Texas A&M. Like the Aggies, they won’t win any championships this year, but no one wants to see them in a bowl game.
- Louisville (7-1, 3-1; W 34-3 @ USF): It was a great bounce back game for the Cardinals, setting USF straight on the Bulls homefield. Louisville needed to run the table to be in consideration for a national championship, but an AAC title and BCS appearance is still in the cards if they get some help from UCF losses. How good was Teddy Bridgewater against the Bulls? Try 25-29, 344 yd, 3 TD. Not a bad day. He’ll need a few more of them to keep the Cards where they want to be.
- Auburn (7-1, 4-1; W 45-10 vs. Florida Atlantic): Like their SEC West counterparts LSU, the Tigers got a breather this week in a rout over Florida Atlantic. This team was overestimated all season before knocking off Texas A&M a week ago, but they won’t fly under the radar anymore. They shouldn’t have trouble at Arkansas in two weeks. Then, they go to Tennessee before hosting Georgia and Alabama. Win out and its Auburn, not the Crimson Tide, fighting for a spot in the final BCS title game.
- South Carolina (6-2, 4-2; W 27-24 @ Missouri 2OT): How much does that loss at Tennessee sting now for the Gamecocks? A single loss to a Georgia team that was near full strength at the time wouldn’t have derailed their dreams of a national title. That second loss did just that. That aside, South Carolina showed an incredible amount of grit, coming back from a 17-0 4th Quarter deficit when injured starting QB Connor Shaw came off the bench to play. They now hold the head-to-head tiebreaker for the SEC East title if Missouri loses again.
- Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1; W 38-30 vs. Texas Tech): You can’t say the Sooners didn’t get hyped for their first big match up since the blowout loss to Texas. Oklahoma built a two touchdown lead early in the 3rd Quarter before fighting a furious Texas Tech comeback. They successfully handed the Red Raiders their first loss of the season, keeping themselves firmly in the running for the Big 12 title. It won’t get easier, though. They still play Baylor and Oklahoma State, two of the teams right there with them at the top.
- Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1; W 58-27 @ Iowa State): The strong play continues for the Cowboys. They are certainly regretting that one loss against West Virginia, but Mike Gundy’s team isn’t looking back. The Big 12 championship dream is still very alive. With games remaining against all four of the teams joining them at the top of the conference, they control their own destiny. And if they win all those games, and a few teams at the top have missteps, they have a legitimate shot at a national title spot.
- Fresno State (7-0, 4-0; W 35-28 @ San Diego State OT): I actually pegged this as the game where the Bulldogs would lose their undefeated season. San Diego State made it plenty tough on them, but they emerged unscathed with an overtime win. Fresno has a couple challenges left in their quest for a BCS at-large.
- Northern Illinois (8-0, 4-0; W 59-20 vs. Eastern Michigan): Every week, the legend (and the Heisman hopes) of Jordan Lynch continue to grow. After rushing for more than 300 yards a week ago, Lynch became one of only two quarterbacks in the last 10 years to pass for four touchdowns, run for two and catch one in a single game. His efforts also led the Huskies to their first 8-0 start since 1965.
- UCF (6-1, 3-0; W 62-17 vs. UConn): The Knights are looking more and more like the AAC’s best team every week. Louisville was the team that came into the season needing to blow teams out in order to have a shot at the national championship, but UCF is the one coming out and posting those scores. The conference is theirs to lose at this point. They just have to get through the rest of a schedule that isn’t particularly challenging. South Carolina’s happy with their performance too. The Gamecocks’ close win against the Knights looks better each week.
- Arizona State (5-2, 3-1; Off): The Sun Devils had a productive off week. Not only did they get time to rest up for the stretch run. They took over the solo lead of the Pac 12 South Division because of UCLA’s loss at Oregon. Arizona State doesn’t have any bad losses, with their slips up against Stanford and Notre Dame. Road games against Utah and UCLA and a home contest with Oregon State will decide who gets Oregon or Stanford in the conference title game.
- UCLA (5-2, 2-2; L 42-14 @ Oregon): The Bruins aren’t quite ready for prime time. They handled business for five weeks, but back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon show they still have work to do. They now trail Arizona State in the Pac 12 South standings by a game and are tied with USC. They conveniently play those two teams the final two weeks of the season so there’s plenty of drama to come as long as they don’t trip up on the way there.
- Virginia Tech (6-2, 3-1; L 13-10 vs. Duke): Last week Virginia Tech could have argued they were the best team in the ACC’s Coastal Division. This week they lost at home to Duke for the first time since 1981. The Hokies never got it going against a surprisingly tough Blue Devils defense, but Miami is still on the schedule so a win against the Canes puts Frank Beamer’s team back in the driver’s seat to win the division and be in the running for a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
- Michigan State (7-1, 4-0; W 42-3 @ Illinois): The Spartans defense is shaping up as one of the best in the country, and now the offense is starting to roll along as well. This team is looking like it may be the top challenger to Ohio State coming out of the B1G. And if the Buckeyes want to impress people at some point, beating this team in the B1G title game would be a big step.
- Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1; Off): The Badgers got an off week to cure what ails them before hitting the stretch run. Looking at the schedule, it’s not too daunting, but trailing Ohio State by a game and the tiebreaker makes their chances to get to the conference championship pretty bleak.
Others in consideration: Oregon State (6-2, 4-1; L 20-12 vs. Stanford); Notre Dame (6-2; W 45-10 @ Air Force); Texas (4-2, 3-0; W 30-7 @ TCU); Houston (6-1, 3-1; W 49-14 @ Rutgers); BYU (6-2; W 37-20 vs. Boise State); Ball State (8-1, 5-0; W 42-24 @ Akron)