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Week 9 college football takeaways: Pac-12 keeps CFP hopes alive
1:22 | College Football
Week 9 college football takeaways: Pac-12 keeps CFP hopes alive
Sunday November 1st, 2015

After nine weeks of football, the SEC race is beginning to clear up. The ACC? Not so much. Here are three takeaways from a packed Week 9:
 
1. Florida is close to clinching the SEC East, but the West is undecided
 
Florida’s matchup with rival Georgia was billed as a de-facto elimination game for a spot in Alanta for the conference title game, and the Gators survived. Their stifling defense held the Bulldogs to 3.98 yards per play and forced five turnovers in a 27-3 victory. The win pushed Florida even further ahead in the SEC East with a 5-1 conference record, while Georgia dropped to 3-3 in the SEC.
 

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Of course, coach Jim McElwain’s program didn’t officially sew up the division on Saturday. It still needs to beat either Vanderbilt next week or South Carolina the following week (or have the Commodores lose one conference game) to win the East. But the Gators’ only loss this season has come on the road against a still-unbeaten LSU team. Given the way Florida is playing, it’s safe to assume it can beat one of either the Commodores or Gamecocks.

 
Meanwhile, Ole Miss remains the most intriguing team in the SEC West. The Rebels have played inconsistently this season but still beat Auburn 27-19 on Saturday. That means they still control their destiny in SEC play. Ole Miss (4-1 in SEC) sits tied with Alabama for second in the division, but the Rebels hold the tiebreaker due to their win over the Crimson Tide earlier this season. Plus, Coach Hugh Freeze’s squad has yet to play LSU, which leads the SEC West.
 
If Ole Miss runs the table, it would win the SEC despite two losses. That’s very likely a nightmare scenario for the league. It’s hard to envision the selection committee slotting a two-loss conference champion into the playoff bracket, even if those losses came to ranked opponents like Florida and Memphis. So from this point forward, you can bet the SEC is rooting against Ole Miss.
 
2. Miami's controversial finish against Duke could have a rippling effect
 
If you missed the way Miami’s wild 30-27 upset of Duke ended, take a moment and relive the madness. The Hurricanes fielded a kickoff and tossed eight laterals before Corn Elder ran in the game-winning touchdown. ACC referees confirmed the score on review, but it’s entirely possible poor officiating cost Duke a victory.
 

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After the game Fox Sports rules analyst Mike Pereira took to Twitter to offer his take on the finish. Pereira believed a Miami player’s knee appeared to be down before a lateral. Officials also used review to pick up a flag on a block in the back, but that situation isn’t reviewable, according to Pereira. “In the end,” he tweeted, “the ACC has some explaining to do to Duke and to others.”

 
Unfortunately the loss is a blow to Duke’s ACC title hopes. Miami’s upset leaves North Carolina (4-0 ACC) as the only team in the Coastal Division without a conference loss. Next week the Tar Heels welcome the Blue Devils to Chapel Hill, a game that would’ve featured two unbeaten teams vying for a spot in Charlotte. Now Duke enters that matchup saddled with an ACC loss it might not deserve. It will be interesting to see how Duke and the conference react to the fallout from such a wild finish.

3. The Pac-12 remains in the hunt for a playoff berth but faces an uphill battle

The Pac-12 entered Week 9 on the outside looking in for a spot in the playoff. After all, it was the only Power Five league without an unbeaten team. The conference maintained the status quo on Saturday, which is good news for its playoff hopes. But it’s still hardly a guarantee that the Pac-12 is represented in the bracket.

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Utah, the current leader in the Pac-12 South, moved to 7-1 after a 27-12 win over Oregon State. Meanwhile, Stanford barely escaped Washington State with a 30-28 win after the Cougars missed a 43-yard field goal as time expired. That close win pushed its own record 7-1, as well. Assuming the selection committee shies away from two-loss teams, the Cardinal and the Utes are still the best-positioned Pac-12 programs to slide into the playoff bracket.

What’s unclear is how the committee would view either squad as a Pac-12 champion. The Utes have a strong nonconference win over Michigan, but they also boast a 42-24 setback against a three-loss USC team. Meanwhile, Stanford’s season-opening 16-6 loss to Northwestern remains a black mark on an otherwise impressive résumé. Even with a Pac-12 title in hand, both programs might have to wish for a few more one-loss Power Five champs. Otherwise it’s entirely possible the conference misses out on playing for the national championship.

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