Oh, the drama.
Week 10 in college football was filled with results that separated the contenders from the pretenders. There's only one place to start, and that's at the top. The No. 1 Clemson Tigers came back from a 10-6 halftime deficit to defeat the No. 16 Florida State Seminoles 23-13.
After another rock-solid game (297 passing yards, TD and no interceptions), Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson should be strengthening his Heisman Trophy case.
The Tigers moved to 9-0 overall, 6-0 in the ACC, and they clinched the ACC Atlantic title. They may have also hurdled their last major impediment on the way to the College Football Playoff (CFP). The Tigers have three remaining games at the Syracuse Orange, at home against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and another road game at the South Carolina Gamecocks.
In the ACC Championship Game, the Tigers will more than likely be facing the No. 21 North Carolina Tar Heels. Expect the Tigers to be the heavy favorites to run the table and remain in the top spot. After the big win, Clemson head coach indicated his Tigers are just getting started, per ESPN College Football:
ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit feels the win was enough to keep the Tigers atop the poll:
Here's a look at the latest Bleacher Report polls:
The coaches' poll won't be released until noon ET, and the Associated Press rankings are revealed at 2 p.m. ET. You can see all conference standings at ESPN.com. All ranking references in the text were as of Saturday morning.
Bama Rollin', LSU Slipping
What team could dream of knocking Clemson off its perch after such a big victory? The No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide might have a legitimate case. On Saturday, they spanked their rivals and No. 2 LSU Tigers 30-16 behind 210 yards and three rushing touchdowns from Derrick Henry.
Bama improved to 8-1 while knocking LSU from the ranks of the unbeaten at 7-1. While Bama did lose to No. 15 Ole Miss earlier this season, it still has four wins over ranked opponents. Three of those have come over teams ranked in the Top 10.
Clemson's big victory was just its second over a ranked opponent. It doesn't have another on the regular-season schedule, though North Carolina would fit the bill should that matchup materialize in the ACC title game.
In any case, Bama would likely have a better resume if it wins out. The Tide have the No. 22 Mississippi State Bulldogs next and the No. 10 Florida Gators in the SEC Championship Game—barring a loss in one of Bama's final two regular-season conference games.
If Bama wins out, it will deserve the top spot by season's end.
As for LSU, it could still theoretically find its way into the CFP, but it will likely need carnage to ensue in the Big 12. We saw a little of it take place on Saturday.
Big 12 Will Devour Itself
The No. 8 TCU Horned Frogs (8-1) fell 49-29 to the still-unbeaten and rising No. 14 Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-0). Led by Mason Rudolph (352 passing yards and five touchdowns) and James Washington (five receptions for 184 yards and three touchdowns), the Cowboys offense was just too dangerous for a leaky Horned Frogs defense.
Because the Big 12 doesn't have a conference championship game, matters have to be settled in the regular season. After the No. 6 Baylor Bears eked out a 31-24 win over the unranked Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday, they and the Cowboys are the last two unbeaten teams in the conference.
That may not last long.
Baylor, a team playing without star quarterback Seth Russell, still has to beat the No. 15 Oklahoma Sooners, the Cowboys and the Horned Frogs over the next three weeks.
The Cowboys have the Iowa State Cyclones before the Baylor matchup, and they finish with the rival Sooners. If the Bears or Cowboys lose any of those games, you'd have to think a one-loss LSU team beats them for a third or fourth spot.
Big Ten Looking Like a One-Team Conference
As long as the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes don't falter at the Illinois Fighting Illini, at home against the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans or at the Big House against the No. 17 Michigan Wolverines, the defending champions should claim a spot in the playoff.
They moved to 9-0 with a 28-14 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Spartans looked all the more beatable after being upset by an unranked Nebraska Cornhuskers team on Saturday, 39-38. In a complete choke job, the Spartans likely watched their playoff hopes slip away as they were outscored 19-7 in the fourth quarter.
With the loss, there's almost no way the Big Ten gets more than one team in the CFP this year.
Don't Forget About Notre Dame, but Forget About the Pac-12
The No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish are right where they need to be. A 42-30 win over the Pittsburgh Panthers moved them to 8-1 this season. Notre Dame has two wins over ranked teams, and its only loss was a two-point setback at Clemson.
Losses don't come more respectable than that.
After home games against Wake Forest and the Boston College Eagles, it will all likely come down to the battle at the Stanford Cardinal in the season finale for the Irish. Because of the draw Notre Dame delivers, if it finishes 11-1, there's no way it won't make the CFP over a one-loss Big 12 champion that hasn't solidified itself with a postseason conference championship.
That said, a one-loss LSU Tigers squad should get the nod if its only loss is to the team that is ranked No. 1 in the final CFP poll. A two-loss Stanford team and the No. 12 Utah Utes would then be the Pac-12's best hopes for a CFP representative.
There's a fat chance of either team being chosen for the CFP.
As of today, the most logical prediction for the four playoff teams at the end of the season figures to be:
- Ohio State
If this scenario plays out, there are going to be some very unhappy folks in South Bend, Stillwater and Pac-12 country.
How about an eight-team playoff?