After week 10 of the 2015 college football season, we’re left with just six undefeated teams: Ohio State and Iowa in the Big Ten, Clemson in the ACC, Baylor & Oklahoma State in the Big 12 and Houston in the American Conference. But as the first edition of the rankings by the College Football Playoff committee showed us, losses aren’t the only thing that matters.
Who did we lose this week? Five teams. The weekend began on Thursday night, with Toledo losing at home to Northern Illinois, a team that’s used to dominating the MAC and couldn’t see someone else go through the regular season undefeated. Phillip Ely had his worst day of the season, and Joel Bouagnon punched in a two-yard touchdown run with less than two minutes to go in what might be Toledo’s last visit to the rankings this season, having being placed at number 24 before the week.
The big drama happened on Saturday, as three top 10 teams lost (two of them to other ranked opponents, including one undefeated team) and also Memphis, crushed by the power running game of Navy, something we said might happen. Memphis scored just 20 points in the 45-20 rout, giving up 374 rushing yards. Navy are now 5-0 in conference play, and play at undefeated Houston in three weeks in what should determine the American West title.
But there were bigger games. Like the one in Tuscaloosa, as the usual battle for the SEC West between Alabama and LSU went to the team it usually goes to: Alabama. The Crimson Tide and the Tigers are similar teams, but Nick Saban simply does it better. Alabama (ranked 4th) crushed LSU 30-16 in what should enough for them to take over the second place (at least), as Derrick Henry ran for over 200 yards and three touchdowns, while Leonard Fournette and the entire LSU offense looked like a team that doesn’t belong in such quality competition.
The other clash of ranked teams in Stillwater brought us a surprise. Oklahoma State (14th before this week) outgunned TCU (8th) 49-29, as Trevone Boykin threw four interceptions while the Cowboys offense played like a good Big 12 team’s offense should play. A lot of time in the air, and some of it on the ground after things open up. After such a loss, there won’t be a lot of listeners to Gary Patterson when he tries to campaign for his team’s title chances, even if they beat Baylor and Oklahoma State lose somewhere along the way.
And then there was Michigan State. Leading 38-32 going into the final seconds of their visit to a rowdy Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, with over 90,000 in attendance. Brandon Reilly caught the game winning touchdown from Tommy Armstrong despite stepping out of bounds (not pushed) before the catch. The officials missed it, Nebraska finally caught a break in a tragic type of season for them with close loss after close loss, and Michigan State are no longer undefeated, with their entire season riding on their game against Ohio State. Even a win might not be enough.
As for the rest of them? Clemson manhandled Florida State to finally win that game and clinch the division title, probably setting them up with North Carolina in the ACC championship game. The FSU defense didn’t make it easy, but this year’s Clemson team, especially with Florida State still not fully recovered from losing Jameis Winston to the NFL, looks like the real deal, immune to any historic Clemsoning along the way.
Ohio State didn’t look too smooth in their win over Minnesota, but shouldn’t fall out of the top 4 with their 28-14 win. Baylor beating Kansas State could help them get in instead of LSU, but Oklahoma State made a strong case for themselves to be considered the best in the conference right now. Iowa will move up a bit after an easy win over Indiana, and so will Florida after an UGLY win against Vanderbilt. But clinching the division and a spot in the SEC title game (against Alabama probably) should count for something.
Notre Dame have one loss, just like Alabama, but the committee seems to like them right now. They looked great in the win over Pittsburgh and were fifth going into the week. Is it enough to put them in the top 4? Probably. The big issue will be whether or not their lack of championship game will hurt them. It probably did with Baylor and TCU last year, and without an undefeated team the Big 12 might not be able to get one in this time as well. Does the same kind of logic work with the Fighting Irish, or do they get special treatment, obviously depending on the others as well?