College Football Rankings 2018: Bleacher Report's Week 11 Top 25
Week 10 of the college football season had a promising slate of games on paper, and it produced entertainment and answers alike. Key Top 25 matchups featuring elite teams from every conference began to shape how the season's final month will play out.
Alabama and Clemson have continued to separate themselves from the pack, as they're playing at an elite level entering the home stretch. Notre Dame, Michigan and Georgia will vie for the final two College Football Playoff spots but can't afford slip-ups.
Ohio State, UCF and West Virginia survived but are on the outside looking in as of this week. The Mountaineers narrowly escaped the Texas Longhorns' grasp with Will Grier's last-minute touchdown heave, shocking the Longhorns on their home field.
A bevy of other Top 25 teams lost, causing havoc in our poll. Group of Five squads have begun to invade the rankings as major conferences have worn thin. This gives lesser-known schools hope they can boost their prestige and bowl profile.
Bleacher Report's panel of experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—voted on the action. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.
Here is our Week 11 poll:
1. Alabama (last week: 1)
2. Clemson (2)
3. Notre Dame (3)
4. Michigan (6)
5. Georgia (5)
6. Oklahoma (7)
7. West Virginia (10)
8. Ohio State (8)
9. UCF (9)
10. LSU (4)
11. Washington State (12)
12. Kentucky (11)
13. Syracuse (21)
14. Boston College (NR)
15. Fresno State (25)
16. Utah State (20)
17. NC State (24)
18. Iowa State (NR)
19. Cincinnati (NR)
T-20. Purdue (NR)
T-20. Texas (15)
22. Mississippi State (NR)
23. Buffalo (NR)
24. Penn State (13)
25. UAB (NR)
Others receiving votes: Michigan State, Washington, Army, Auburn, Florida, Boise State, Texas Tech
Who's Hot: Michigan on Its Revenge Tour
One of Saturday's most hyped games ended up being a major statement win for the Michigan Wolverines. Jim Harbaugh's team has exacted revenge on three of the opponents it fell to in 2017. All that's left to complete the tour is to defeat Ohio State on November 24.
Amid their 42-7 pulverizing of Penn State, the Wolverines lacked a dominant offensive performance from any individual. The running game established the offense's tone by featuring a physicality the Nittany Lions had no answer for. The execution on both sides of the ball was on par with that of other elite teams.
A total of 95 rushing yards came on three plays, and the offense only needed a few chunk plays from quarterback Shea Patterson to put the game well out of reach in the second half.
Most impressive was coordinator Don Brown's defense. The Nittany Lions have had success with finding solutions as games have progressed, but Brown's unit continued to swarm quarterback Trace McSorley. There isn't a single positive the Nittany Lions can point to, except for Tommy Stevens' late touchdown.
The Wolverines own their destiny. With Rutgers and Indiana on deck before Ohio State, they just have to stay healthy and hungry. The Buckeyes look vulnerable, but The Game is always hotly contested.
Harbaugh and his staff deserve great praise for not succumbing to external pressure after an early loss to Notre Dame. This team has steadily improved throughout the year and continues to impose its will.
Who's Not: SEC Pretenders
The two marquee matchups in the SEC went chalk, as both Alabama and Georgia throttled their respective opponents. Alabama continues to stymie LSU's offense on a yearly basis, as the Tigers found little space to operate in a 29-0 loss. For Kentucky, the lack of depth and team speed kept them from giving Georgia a better game than the 34-17 final.
LSU and Kentucky will still loom as second-tier competitors, even as Alabama and Georgia are on a crash course for the SEC title game.
Beyond them, it wasn't an ideal day for the rest of the SEC pretenders.
Florida seemed to forget it had a game Saturday, losing in an embarrassing outing against Missouri in front of its home crowd. While it was surprising to see Tigers quarterback Drew Lock have a good performance against a quality defense, the Gators made it easy for him, allowing receivers to spring open throughout the afternoon.
Another embattled SEC quarterback shined as an underdog. Texas A&M collapsed again in the fourth quarter, as its offense stalled and its defense eased up too much. Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham finally looked like the gunslinger the team hoped he'd become when he transferred from Baylor in July 2016. He was a major difference-maker with his tight-window throws on the Tigers' final two drives.
The only squad that stood out beyond that was Mississippi State, which beat Louisiana Tech 45-3.
The conference is deep with defense-first teams, but the lack of consistent offense from Florida, Texas A&M and Auburn led to this cannibalization. They need to continue to evolve their passing games to maximize the impressive defensive personnel they've built up. Otherwise, Alabama and Georgia will continue to dominate the conference.
Fun Fact: And Then There Was One
The 2018 Heisman Trophy race has lacked drama because of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's brilliance, and it now looks finished, barring a wild final month from fringe contenders. Alabama's beatdown of LSU continued to feed Tagovailoa's highlight reel as he totaled 344 yards and three touchdowns. His 44-yard rushing score was the final blow to seal the lead for the Crimson Tide and stood as a Heisman moment.
Tagovailoa's statistics are absurd, even though he threw his first interception Saturday. He's totaled 2,361 passing yards and 27 touchdowns through the air even as he's yet to be asked to throw the ball in the fourth quarter of a close game. In fact, the LSU contest was the first time he's played in the fourth quarter at all this year.
His complete control of a dominant Tide offense has left no room for debate as to who is most deserving of the Heisman.
Some of his peers have fallen off, strengthening his claim.
West Virginia's Will Grier led a miraculous comeback against Texas this week, including an incredible game-winning touchdown pass with 16 seconds left on the clock. But his three-interception outing against Kansas and 100-yard performance against Iowa State are smears on his resume.
Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins has also been fantastic. But the Buckeyes have crumbled around him, and he hasn't been nearly as good as Tagovailoa. The Tide QB has set a silly bar.
What to Watch For: Top 10 Upheaval
Fresno State at Boise State (10:15 p.m. ET on Friday): Two Mountain West competitors square off an in important game Friday night. Fresno State has a one-game lead over San Diego State for the West division, while Boise State needs a win to keep up with Utah State. The Bulldogs haven't had a competitive game since their Week 2 loss to Minnesota, so this figures to be their first in quite a while.
Auburn at Georgia (TBD): Alabama demolished LSU, so the focus turns to the next-best crop in the SEC. Auburn had an impressive fourth-quarter comeback behind Jarrett Stidham's stellar performance against Texas A&M. If he can replicate that performance, the Bulldogs will have to work hard for a home win. Georgia's demolition of Kentucky was a good reminder of its upside, but it can't get caught sleeping.
Mississippi State at Alabama (TBD): Will there be any emotional drop-off for the Crimson Tide after a masterful performance? Unlikely, but the Tide will face a physical Bulldogs team. MSU head coach Joe Moorhead will have to manufacture passing production somehow, or else this game will be another blowout by the start of the fourth quarter.
Clemson at Boston College (8 p.m. ET on Saturday): There's no question that Clemson has found its rhythm in recent weeks. It appears to be the second-best team in the nation. Two exquisite running backs will take center stage, as Travis Etienne and AJ Dillon—as long as Dillon (ankle) is healthy enough to play—look to carry their teams to an crucial win. Boston College would represent the ACC Atlantic division in the conference title game if it wins out.
Washington State at Colorado (TBD): Any hope the Pac-12 has in making the College Football Playoff rests with Washington State. Mike Leach's Cougars are well-rounded and capable of winning the rest of their games. But Colorado isn't a pushover, especially if star receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. is healthy enough to play.
Ohio State at Michigan State (TBD): The cure for an ailing offense lately has been to play the Buckeyes. Michigan State hopes that'll continue, as it has cycled through two largely inept quarterbacks this year. These teams usually play defensive struggles against each other, but the Buckeyes have had to win in shootouts most weeks. The seat continues to get warmer for the Ohio State defensive staff, so a solid performance would be helpful for their cause.