Q. What impact will No. 5 Tennessee’s loss have on the next college football playoff rankings?
The top 4 stay the same. Georgia, Ohio, Michigan and TCU. All four put on less than impressive performances on Saturday, but they are the only undefeated teams left. So right now it’s a seven-team scramble for the top four spots, with USC likely to jump to No. 5, LSU still in the mix — but only if the Tigers go ahead with two losses to Texas A&M Saturday and then batted Georgia in the SEC championship game — and Clemson, who is still hanging 10-1 on the playoff periphery.
What makes fifth place so important this week is the showdown between Michigan and Ohio State this Saturday in Columbus. USC and Clemson can claim a top-four spot if they win, with the loser from Ohio State and Michigan unlikely to finish in the top four.
The only way for a team outside of those seven to get involved — say, an Alabama — is if TCU, USC and Clemson all lose and the Michigan-Ohio State game is one-sided.
Q. What was so unusual about the games that the Army, Navy and Air Force attended on Saturday?
For one thing, all three service academies won. What made these victories unusual was that all three won without completing a pass. They were a 0-on-5 combo pass and it didn’t matter. For what it’s worth, Navy is now 8-1 when failing to complete a pass under coach Ken Niumatolo.
Q. How is the Heisman Trophy race shaping up?
Things took a dramatic turn on several fronts this weekend. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker was forced out of the game against South Carolina in the fourth quarter after suffering a non-contact knee injury (announced today as a cruciate ligament tear that will sideline Hooker for the remainder of the season). North Carolina QB Drake Maye didn’t throw a TD pass for the first time this season and had a season-low 202 passing yards in an upset loss to Georgia Tech that derailed the Tar Heels’ playoff hopes. Michigan RB Blake Corum went down against Illinois with a knee injury and came back with just a carry in the second half. He had 108 rushing yards. And frontrunner CJ Stroud was fine again in a volatile season for Ohio State. Stroud has seven TD passes in his last four games and is yet to run for a touchdown. The best player in college football? Let’s see what happens for Stroud and Corum on Saturday when Michigan heads to Ohio state.
USC QB Caleb Williams looked pretty special in the Trojans’ 48-45 win at UCLA. He rushed for 470 yards and two points while rushing for 33 yards and a TD as USC improved to 10-1. He has two big stages left to make his case: Notre Dame on Saturday and the Pac-12 championship game.
Georgia QB Stetson Bennett produced a crafty performance – nothing special – in the Bulldogs’ 16-6 win in Kentucky and Alabama QB Bryce Young seems unlikely to have a chance to repeat.
The great unknown – much like his team – is TCU quarterback Max Duggan. He led the comeback from eight points behind in the Finals 2:07 as the Horned Frogs walked away with a 29-28 win at Baylor over Griffin Kell’s 40-yard field goal on time. Duggan passed for 327 yards and a TD and rushed for 50 yards and a score, but the quality of the TCU competition — the Big 12 is mediocre at best from top to bottom and looking more and more like the Mountain West in quality — remains a nagging problem . TCU’s best win was by 10 points over Kansas State 8-3 – a team the Horned Frogs may have to face again in the Big 12 title game.
Q. What got into South Carolina quarterback Shane Rattler?
The Oklahoma youth transfer this year has been average at best for the Gamecocks. He entered Saturday’s game against Tennessee at number 5 with nine touchdown passes and eight interceptions for the year while passing an average of 198 yards per game. He went on to go 30-of-37 for 438 yards with six touchdown passes and no interceptions in the Vols’ stunning 63-38 excitement. Next up for 7-4 USC: 10-1 Clemson.
Q. Can anyone explain what David Shaw’s thought process was when he let Joshua Karty kick a 61-yard field goal in the final game of Stanford’s 27-20 loss to California?
Sorry, but the optics on this one are bad. Cal had a 27-17 lead. Stanford had one game left. So Shaw had Karty attempt a 61-yard field goal, which he made. That made the final 27-20. The over/under of the game was 46. Cal covered the five-point spread either way, but the over/under went from undercover to overcover due to a very odd coaching decision that didn’t affect the outcome of the game above .
As a side bet note on Saturday, the Iowa-Minnesota over/under was 31 1/2 — the lowest ever for an FBS game, according to FanDuel. It was still setting when Iowa won 13-10.
who is hot
Former quarterback from Oklahoma
USC’s Caleb Williams and South Carolina’s Shane Rattler combined 64 of 80 for 908 yards with eight TD passes and one interception in significant wins. The 10-1 Trojans beat UCLA, 48-45; the 7-4 Gamecocks stunned No. 5 Tennessee in a 63-38 loss.
Notre Dame CB Benjamin Morrison
The 6-0, 179-pound freshman, who had his first two career interceptions two weeks ago against Clemson (one a 96-yard pick 6), had three interceptions in the Irishman’s 44-0 loss to the Boston College.
Texas RB Bijan Robinson
The 6-0, 220-pound junior, who was held for 29 yards with 12 carries a week ago against TCU, dominated in a 55-14 win over Kansas, rushing for 243 yards and four touchdowns with 25 carries.
who does not
Arizona QB Jayde de Laura
So here’s the deal: de Laura, last season’s Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, was transferred from Washington State to Arizona in January. He was caught four times against his old team in a 31-20 loss to the Cougars on Saturday. A year ago, while he was in Washington state, he threw four TD passes against Arizona.
Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin
Sure, the guy knows insults. But he can pretend to just care a little bit about defense? Ole Miss ran for 463 yards, had two—yes, two—200-yard rushers in the same game and totaled 703 yards of offense. . . and still lost 42-27 to Arkansas. The Rebels were at times trailing by 36. Is that really what Auburn wants?
Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State QB
His nightmarish first half and coach Mike Gundy’s glaring failure to get the Cowboys ready to play Oklahoma in a rivalry game were the reasons for a 28-13 loss to the Sooners. Sanders was intercepted four times as OU took a 28-3 lead at halftime. So it didn’t matter that the Sooners were thoroughly overplayed in the second half. The damage had been done by the QB and the head coach.
Scroll to Next
State of Florida
The Seminoles have won four straight games, all by 25 points or more, and go into the regular-season finals 8-3 against Florida. A good job from coach Mike Norvell after a mid-season slump that could have unraveled this team.
Beavers improved to 8-3 after Saturday’s 31-7 loss at Arizona State – after losing 19 of their previous 20 trips to Tempe. They have won five of their last six (the only loss at this stage was a three-point loss in Washington) before taking on rivals Oregon in Saturday’s home game.
After a 4-1 start to a season that looked set to have an unforgettable ending, the Black Knights improved to 4-6 with a 34-17 win over UConn. With 1-10 UMass and Navy, participation in the left bowl is within reach.
who does not
A 15-14 loss to Wisconsin dropped the awkward Cornhuskers to a 3-8 aggregate before entering the Children of the Corn game in Iowa, which must win to clinch the Big Ten West title. Nebraska’s three wins came over North Dakota, 4-7 Rutgers and 4-7 Indiana – and the record includes a loss to 1-10 Northwestern.
Wildcats started the season 1-0 by beating Nebraska. They are now 10-1 away from the regular-season finals against Illinois. It’s ugly in Evanston.
There was a time in the mid-2000s when this was a nationwide program. The Bulls’ loss to Tulsa dropped them to 1-10 overall. They will carry a nine-game losing streak into the regular-season finals against UCF.
Play forward (all times Eastern)
Tulane in Cincinnati, noon, ABC
They sit 6-1 at the top of the AAC standings, with the winner hosting the championship match. Tulane must win to secure a rematch.
South Carolina at Clemson, non, ABC
The 10-1 Tigers are suddenly back in the playoff mix. The 7-4 Gamecocks come off a stunning excitement from Tennessee at No. 5.’
Michigan, Ohio, noon, Fox
That’s it — a pair of 11-0 playoff hopefuls in a showdown that’s been building since the start of the season. Heisman voices are also up for grabs here for CJ Stroud and Blake Corum.
Georgia Tech in Georgia, noon, ESPN
The final obstacle to another perfect regular season for the Bulldogs. Yellow Jackets come from a North Carolina excitement.
Oregon in the state of Oregon, TBA
Ducks need a win to return to the Pac-12 title game. Beavers, 8-3, are a dangerous opponent.
Auburn in Alabama, 3:30, CBS
An Iron Bowl that few outside of state lines care about.
State of Iowa at TCU, 4 p.m., Fox
Cyclones are having a bad year, but TCU makes every game interesting. Horned Frogs are looking to a 12-0 finish to the regular season here.
LSU at Texas A&M. 7 p.m. ESPN
It’s nowhere near the dangerous game it once was for LSU, who must win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Notre Dame at USC, 7:30 p.m. ABC
Perhaps the most entertaining game of the day. The 8-3 Irish are on the right track; USC is 10-1 and needs to win this and the Pac-12 title game to have any chance of making the playoffs.
Tom Luicci covered college football for The Star-Ledger from Newark, NJ from 1979 to 2014