The dust settles from the damage week 12 caused to some major contenders, as we’re left with just two undefeated teams: Iowa in the Big Ten and Clemson in the ACC, while Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Houston lose for the first time this season, and as a result the rankings will be shaken up quite thoroughly.
The tables have turned in the Big Ten, as Michigan State now take the lead in the East division with their win over Ohio State, who might have seen the last of Ezekiel Elliott and Cardale Jones, with the former unhappy with how little he was used in a 17-14 loss to the Spartans. The funny thing about this win and Michigan State’s victory against Michigan earlier this season, is that in both games they never held the lead while the clock was still ticking. Against Michigan came that fumbled punt as time expired they made the most of, and against Ohio State, besides putting on maybe the most impressive defensive performance of the season, it was a field goal with time running out to turn their entire season around.
Ohio State have Michigan to play in rivalry week; MSU close it out against Penn State, a decent but far from remarkable team, that looked bad for most of its afternoon against Michigan, losing on account of an offensive line that still can’t block. Winning against a red hot Michigan team is difficult enough, but hoping that Michigan State lose at home to the Nittany Lions might be too much to ask. Ohio State haven’t lost a game in over a year, but these ones, right before the finish line, tend to be more painful than others.
Obviously, a lot will have to do with what the rankings say. And it’ll be interesting where Iowa get placed, going 11-0 after a win over Purdue, clinching the Big Ten West, and leaving them with just a difficult visit to Nebraska, a 5-6 team that’s better than that, losing their six games this season by combined 23 points. They’ve won a close one or two as well, including against Michigan State with the officials giving them a hand, but the Hawkeyes visiting Lincoln isn’t going to be an easy game. Far from it.
Things got really complicated in the Big 12. Three teams with one loss. Oklahoma narrowly edges a two-loss TCU who have nothing to play for anymore while Baylor messed things up in Stillwater by beating Oklahoma State, who are no longer undefeated. Who has the edge between the three one-loss teams? Probably the Sooners, who finish the season against Oklahoma State. Baylor play TCU. Do any of the three have a shot of being in the top 4? Notre Dame keep winning, and so do Alabama, at least for now. This season might be the one that leads to a conference championship game, at last.
The Pac-12 won’t be sending a team to the playoffs, we know that. Stanford are going to represent the North division following their win over California, while things are complicated in the South. Oregon beating USC creates a three-way tie that UCLA currently lead after beating Utah. But the Bruins face off against the Trojans. Utah play Colorado, but now they’re out of the picture, stumbling late with three losses in the final five games after a 6-0 start, including two wins over currently ranked teams.
The American Conference won’t be sending anyone to the playoffs, but it sure is fun to watch the battle there, finally over. Navy’s running ways put them in the championship game with Temple, as Houston tumble against Connecticut on a late trick play during a day that had the offense struggling for every yard. Whether or not this season convinces someone to make it a Power 6 thing instead of just five remains to be seen.