College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 11
As postponements and cancellations wreaked havoc on college football's Week 11 slate, every ranked team in action except SMU added a tally in the win column.
It was a road-heavy weekend for Top 25 teams, which included Wisconsin's return from a three-week layoff to wallop Michigan in Ann Arbor. Miami clipped rival Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, and USC scored a late winner for the second straight week.
Oh, and both Indiana and Northwestern are 4-0. Add those records to the list of oddities in this strange year—one that has resulted in a constantly fascinating B/R Top 25.
B/R's five-man panel of experts—David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Joel Reuter and Brad Shepard—each submitted a Top 25 ballot. A first-place vote counted for 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.
B/R Post-Week 11 Top 25
1. Alabama (Last Week: 1)
2. Ohio State (2)
3. Notre Dame (3)
4. Clemson (4)
5. Cincinnati (5)
6. Florida (T-7)
7. BYU (6)
8. Texas A&M (T-7)
9. Indiana (9)
10. Wisconsin (12)
11. Miami (11)
12. Oregon (10)
13. Coastal Carolina (13)
14. Marshall (14)
15. Oklahoma State (15)
16. Liberty (17)
17. Georgia (16)
18. Northwestern (20)
19. USC (18)
20. Oklahoma (23)
21. Appalachian State (21)
22. Louisiana (24)
23. Tulsa (NR)
24. Texas (25)
25. Iowa State (NR)
Others receiving votes: Auburn, Colorado
Who's Hot: Wisconsin Picks Up Blowout Win After 3-Week Layoff
Wisconsin, however, has a much different feel.
Other than Russell Wilson's one year in Madison, the Badgers have lacked a true standout quarterback. Graham Mertz, who tossed five touchdowns in his starting debut Oct. 23, is changing the tune.
Saturday night, he didn't pick apart Michigan or have a stellar box score like his five-touchdown showing over Illinois three weeks ago. But as Wisconsin's offensive line and the running game excelled—341 yards and five touchdowns—Mertz showed great velocity, confidence and supreme command of the system.
That sounds pretty boring! It's also genuine progress for the Badgers at the position.
Mertz ended the 49-11 blowout 12-of-22 for 127 yards and two touchdowns, with zero turnovers.
Next up for Wisconsin is a trip to Northwestern, which is 4-0 and has surrendered just 14 points per game. If Mertz performs this well again, the Badgers will officially be the West Division favorite.
Who's Not: SMU Falls Despite Tulsa's Mistakes
In the first quarter, Tulsa committed two turnovers—including a pick-six—that led to 14 points, and it missed a field goal. SMU seized a 21-0 lead and held a 24-7 advantage at the break. To open the second half, SMU stopped Tulsa on 4th-and-goal.
Common sense suggests it just wouldn't be Tulsa's night. Yet the Golden Hurricane overcame the awful start.
After SMU missed a field goal, Tulsa scored touchdowns on the next two possessions and trimmed the lead to 24-21. Then, the defense forced two turnovers on downs before Zach Smith tossed a four-yard score to James Palmer with 2:11 remaining in the fourth quarter to help give Tulsa a stunning 28-24 edge.
Zaven Collins sealed the victory with an interception, pushing the Golden Hurricane to 4-0 in AAC play and 4-1 overall.
Though several other Top 25 teams survived a scare, SMU was the only ranked team to lose in Week 11.
Fun Fact: Top 10 Miami Won as an Underdog
Virginia Tech entered its rivalry clash with No. 9 Miami as a slim favorite—around two or three points, depending on the site. According to John Ewing of BetMGM, it marked the fifth time since 2005 a Top 10 team was an underdog to an unranked opponent.
Given that Miami had narrowly escaped Pitt, Virginia and NC State, the spread was understandable.
But the 'Canes found a way.
Miami trailed 14-3 and 24-13, but then controlled the last 20 minutes of the contest. The defense finally made a few third-down stops, and quarterback D'Eriq King led two long touchdown drives to secure a 25-24 victory that bumped the Hurricanes to 7-1.
To be sure, this is still a flawed team. Missed tackles hurt Miami throughout the game, and Virginia Tech constantly put pressure on King in third-down passing situations. The 'Canes will not be confused as a championship threat.
But these last four matchups—Pitt, UVA, NC State and Virginia Tech—are the type of games Miami regularly lost in recent years. This is a significant improvement for the program.
While the 'Canes have much to improve, results are more important than aesthetics here. And they keep winning.
What to Watch For: Bedlam, Big Ten and Bearcats
As this weekend showed, be prepared for schedule changes.
Right now, though, we're slated to have Bedlam in the Big 12, a pair of pivotal Big Ten contests and a big test for Cincinnati.
Oklahoma State (5-1) is the Big 12's last College Football Playoff contender but travels to face rival Oklahoma next weekend. The Sooners—who have surpassed 60 points in the last two games—are fighting to stay alive in the conference title race. This contest has enormous Big 12 and reasonably large national implications.
The latter note applies to these Big Ten showdowns.
In the East Division, upstart Indiana (4-0) travels to perennial powerhouse Ohio State (3-0). And in the West, Northwestern (4-0) hosts Mertz and Wisconsin (2-0).
Because of head-to-head tiebreaker value, the winners will immediately be heavy favorites to represent their respective division in the Big Ten Championship Game. And since it's likely the league champion will reach the CFP, the results are immensely important to the national title conversation.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, is hoping to join that discussion.
Taking down UCF would provide a quality win for the 7-0 Bearcats, who need a little chaos but are absolutely on the CFP periphery. This is a massive test for a defense that is allowing just 12.4 points per game; UCF has topped 40 points five times this season.