College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Takeaways from Week 5

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2015

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 03: Laquon Treadwell #1 of the Mississippi Rebels is stopped by Daniel McMillian #13 and Jalen Tabor #31 of the Florida Gators during the first half of the game on October 3, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Rob Foldy/Getty Images

Week 5 looked great on paper and lived up to the hype on the field.

Starting Thursday night in Cincinnati, where the Bearcats handed Miami its first loss of the season, and extending well into Saturday evening, the week that was featured shocking results across the board.

Most of those results don't have a national impact, but some throw a wrench into the College Football Playoff discussion and affect what we knew—or thought we knew—about the best teams in the country.

On that front, here is what we learned.

The Favorites Are No Longer Favorites

BLOOMINGTON, IN - OCTOBER 03:  Braxton Miler #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes ais tackled by Rashard Fant #16 of the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The supposed No. 1 team in the country, Ohio State, struggled for the fourth time in as many games and barely beat Indiana, 34-27.

The supposed No. 2 team in the country, Michigan State, struggled for the fifth time in as many games and barely beat Purdue, 24-21.

The supposed No. 3 team in the country, Ole Miss, struggled for only the first time but lost at Florida, 38-10.

Who are the playoff favorites? That question has been a theme this entire season but crescendoed in Week 5. The more games we play, the closer we inch to a repeat of 2007—the wackiest season in recent memory and perhaps one of the wackiest ever.

ESPN's Jake Trotter said the following of the top three's struggles:

Jake Trotter @Jake_Trotter

Given how mediocre Ohio State, Michigan State and Ole Miss have looked today, TCU and Baylor oughta get some first-place votes tomorrow.

Good point, Jake. And also a perfect segue…

Big 12 Leads the Country in Top-Flight Contenders

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 03:  Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs looks for an open receiver against the Texas Longhorns in the second quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The SEC, from top to bottom, remains the best conference in college football. The Pac-12 is not far behind. 

But the Big 12 has the strongest top 30 percent.

TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma looked keen in their conference openers, beating Texas (50-7), Texas Tech (63-35) and West Virginia (44-24), respectively. The Sooners won by the smallest margin but played the only ranked opponent. All three looked equally impressive.

All three are playing like playoff contenders.

The defenses all need work, but they're coming along and have the talent to support each team's offense. The winner of the Big 12 will likely depend on whose defense comes the furthest the fastest.

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

In order to beat the other two—which the Big 12 desperately hopes one team does—each defense will have to contain a pair of high-flying offenses. But "contain" is different than "stop." Baylor head coach Art Briles alluded to something similar after allowing 35 points against Texas Tech, an offense on par with any in the country.

"I thought our defense made the plays," he said. "You know, if you can get two or three stops, you can flip the game."

That's all these defenses need to do.

And all three are good enough—potentially—to do that.

The Big 12 should squeeze at least one of these programs into the CFP.

Clemson Has the Inside Track on a Playoff Berth

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 03:  Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers runs with the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during their game at Clemson Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Clemson cleared one of two major hurdles left on its schedule, racing to a big lead over Notre Dame and then holding on for dear life late, winning 24-22.

The Tigers won after stuffing the Irish on a two-point conversion, capitalizing on Brian Kelly's decision to not kick an extra point earlier. But, really, the game should never have even gotten to that point, as Clemson was the better team throughout.

With Georgia Tech and South Carolina struggling, the only major challenge left on Clemson's regular-season schedule lies on the first Saturday in November, when Florida State comes to Death Valley. The Seminoles have won three straight conference titles but do not, despite their 4-0 record, look like the same team in 2015.

Like I wrote in my earlier game story, "The Tigers and Seminoles both needed late stands to seal their wins; only the former sealed its win over a College Football Playoff contender, while the latter sealed its win over Wake Forest."

Heavy advantage: Clemson.


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