On paper, Week 12 looked like one of the blandest slates of the 2017 college football season. It featured only one matchup of ranked teams (using the latest College Football Playoff Top 25), and only four matchups of Power Five teams with winning records. And, to be frank, it unfolded about as many expected.
Only three teams ranked in the CFP Top 25 fell, and while a pair of Top 10 teams (Miami and Notre Dame) faced upset-minded foes, both were able to turn them away and hold serve. Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma all demolished overmatched opponents and stayed on course for playoff bids entering the final two weeks of the regular season.
But there were a few noteworthy developments. Wisconsin made its statement to the College Football Playoff committee, one Big 12 team's title dreams died, and a Group of Five team showed its athletic director why he might be making another coaching search in the next month.
All of the above helped shape our Bleacher Report Top 25 for Week 13. College football writers Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Greg Wallace each submitted ballots in which a first-place vote counts for 25 points, a second-place one is worth 24, and so on.
Here's our updated poll. Who's rising? Who's falling? Take a look:
- 1. Alabama (Last week: 1)
- 2. Clemson (2)
- 3. Oklahoma (4)
- 4. Miami (3)
- 5. Wisconsin (5)
- 6. Auburn (7)
- 7. Georgia (6)
- 8. Ohio State (8)
- 9. UCF (11)
- 10. Notre Dame (9)
- 11. TCU (13)
- 12. Penn State (12)
- 13. USC (15)
- 14. Stanford (14)
- 15. Washington (16)
- 16. Washington State (17)
- 17. Memphis (20)
- 18. LSU (23)
- 19. Northwestern (NR)
- 20. Mississippi State (21)
- 21. South Florida (25)
- 22. Michigan State (22)
- 23. Oklahoma State (10)
- 24. Boise State (NR)
- 25. San Diego State (NR)
Also receiving votes: Iowa State, Virginia Tech, Florida Atlantic, NC State.
Who's Hot: Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin was one of only four remaining FBS unbeatens entering this week, along with Alabama, Miami and UCF. However, the Badgers entered this week behind one-loss Clemson and Oklahoma teams in the College Football Playoff rankings, largely because of their weaker schedule. Wisconsin had only one win over a team in this week's CFP Top 25, a 33-24 win over Northwestern (the Badgers belted then-No. 20 Iowa 38-14 last week as well).
Saturday's visit from No. 24 Michigan was an excellent opportunity for the Badgers to burnish their CFP resume with the nation watching; it was the only matchup of ranked teams on an underwhelming slate. Wisconsin did its part, overcoming a 10-7 third-quarter deficit and scoring the game's final 17 points for a 24-10 victory. The Badgers held Michigan to 58 rushing yards and controlled the game with physical defense.
Freshman tailback Jonathan Taylor rushed for 132 yards on 19 carries, his eighth 100-yard rushing effort this season. With Minnesota on deck in the regular-season finale, the Badgers are a strong bet to enter the Big Ten title game 12-0. Will it be enough to impress the playoff selection committee? That remains to be seen, but Paul Chryst and Co. have held up their end of the bargain.
Who's Not: Oklahoma State Cowboys
Three weeks ago, Oklahoma State was in position to win the Big 12 and make a charge toward the College Football Playoff. The Cowboys had Oklahoma in Stillwater for Bedlam, and a win would have catapulted them into the Top 10 and given them a strong push to the league title game. However, they couldn't stop Baker Mayfield, giving up 598 passing yards in a 62-52 defeat.
They survived Iowa State 49-42, sealing the game on a last-minute end zone interception of a 50-50 ball, but it appears that these Cowboys are all hat and no cattle. Saturday, an average Kansas State team marched into Boone Pickens Stadium and upset OSU 45-40. Senior quarterback Mason Rudolph threw for 425 yards and three scores, but his two interceptions helped K-State build a 42-13 third-quarter lead before the Cowboys made a face-saving comeback.
The Cowboys dropped nine spots in our B/R poll, the biggest fall of the week. Instead of a New Year's Six bowl, Oklahoma State will likely be relegated to a second-tier Big 12 bowl and spend the holidays wondering what might have been, especially if it had a capable defense.
Fun Fact: Memphis Is a Cradle of Coaches
Six years ago, Memphis was one of the worst programs in college football. Larry Porter was fired after an ugly 3-21 two-year tenure, and the Tigers had squandered any momentum from Tommy West's tenure, which included four winning seasons and five bowl appearances.
Memphis made an inspired hire in TCU offensive coordinator Justin Fuente, who needed a little time to rebuild (seven wins in two seasons) but caught Power Five programs' attention with 19 wins over the next two years. It might have been a little too good for Memphis' tastes; Fuente was snapped up by Virginia Tech and immediately led the Hokies to an ACC Coastal Division title in his debut season.
Now, Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen might have the same problem with Mike Norvell. The former Arizona State offensive coordinator picked up right where Fuente left off. Following an 8-5 record in 2016, the Tigers are 9-1 this fall after Saturday's 66-45 win over SMU. They won the American Athletic Conference West Division and will face either UCF or South Florida in the AAC title game Dec. 2.
After losing to UCF 40-13 on Sept. 30, Memphis has won six consecutive games, scoring 50.8 points per game in the process. That has put Norvell squarely on the radar of programs looking for a new leader; Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida and perhaps Arkansas and Texas A&M will be undertaking coaching searches this winter. Norvell is a strong candidate for a Power Five role, no matter how Memphis finishes up. Here's hoping Bowen has his short list ready. It's hard to believe, but Memphis has become a cradle of football coaches.
Keep an Eye On: Louisville Cardinals
This hasn't been the season that Louisville and Bobby Petrino hoped for. Even with Florida State suffering through a down season, the Cardinals are destined to be no better than tied for third in the ACC Atlantic behind both Clemson and NC State. Poor defense (Louisville entered Saturday allowing nearly 30 points per game) assured that. But even off the radar, the Cardinals are showing they're worth watching.
Saturday, Lamar Jackson enjoyed another amazing effort against Syracuse, spearheading a 56-10 win and accounting for 381 total yards and four touchdowns in just over three quarters of play. While Jackson hasn't received as much national attention, he's having an excellent junior season, as he's thrown for 3,273 yards with 23 touchdowns against six interceptions and rushed for 1,287 yards and 17 scores.
Through 11 games, he's accounted for 4,560 total yards and 40 total touchdowns. By comparison, he had 5,114 yards of offense and 51 total scores in 13 games during his Heisman-winning 2016 campaign.
Jackson is now Louisville's all-time yardage leader with 12,474 yards and is in third place all-time in the ACC. Meanwhile, the 7-4 Cardinals can match their 2016 win total with a victory over Kentucky and a win in their bowl game. They're flying under the radar, but Jackson is still worth watching while you can in a collegiate setting.
What to Watch For: No. 1 Alabama at No. 6 Auburn
The Iron Bowl is always one of the most meaningful games on the college football calendar. The state of Alabama obsesses over it for 364 days per year, until the next Iron Bowl is played and the cycle starts all over again. It brings the Yellowhammer State to a grinding halt for three-plus hours, and this year, it carries huge national stakes.
No. 1 Alabama has established itself as the nation's best team and an excellent bet to reach its third consecutive College Football Playoff title game. No. 6 Auburn has steadily improved throughout the season with quarterback Jarrett Stidham, a great defense and a powerful running game led by tailback Kerryon Johnson. Auburn's only losses were a 14-6 decision at No. 2 Clemson and an odd 27-23 loss at LSU, but the Tigers showed they must be taken seriously with a 40-17 demolition of then-unbeaten rival Georgia.
Alabama is 11-0, 7-0 in SEC play, but the Tigers can win the SEC West by beating the Crimson Tide, setting up an SEC Championship Game rematch with the Bulldogs. Win that, and it'd be hard to keep Gus Malzahn's crew out of the playoff. Alabama has the stronger all-around team, but strange things happen in Jordan-Hare Stadium in this game (Kick Six, anyone?). Expect a physical, exciting game that should come down to the final minutes.