Major shuffle at top of Power Rankings after chaotic Week 11
- After Clemson, Michigan and Washington all lost in Week 11, Ohio State and Louisville moved into the top four in SI's Power Rankings.
What a week, huh?
Given the dearth of top-notch matchups in Week 11, it was supposed to be a relatively quiet Saturday. So of course the Nos. 2–4 teams all lost in the same week for the first time in 31 years.
The thing is, not a whole lot has changed in the bigger picture—yet. Clemson, Michigan and Washington are all still in good shape in the College Football Playoff race provided they win out, particularly the Tigers and Wolverines. What Saturday’s results did do, however, was open the door for a radical reshuffling should more chaos occur. Now, a loss by any of the top contenders will throw a ton of doubt into the eventual four-team field. There’s no more margin for error.
Here’s a look at the college football hierarchy heading into Week 12:
11Alabama Crimson Tidelast week: 1record: 10–0Saturday hammered home once again that the Tide are a class above the other contenders this season, as they blew out a Mississippi State team that had just upset Texas A&M the week before. Alabama also clinched its third straight SEC West title and its fourth in the last five years when Auburn fell to Georgia. Winning your division courtesy of your biggest rival blowing a game is about as sweet as it gets.
Last week: Beat Mississippi State 51-3
Next week: Saturday vs. Chattanooga
22Ohio State Buckeyeslast week: 5record: 9–1The Buckeyes are rising after another rout of a conference foe, but their playoff chances were actually hurt by Saturday’s results. Ohio State controlled its playoff destiny beforehand, but Michigan’s loss now means Penn State will win the Big Ten East if the Buckeyes knock off the Wolverines in two weeks (provided the Nittany Lions beat Rutgers and Michigan State). Should that happen, Ohio State’s fate will be dependent upon the whims of the CFP committee or more chaos occurring the rest of the way.
Last week: Beat Maryland 62-3
Next week: Saturday at Michigan State
33Louisville Cardinalslast week: 6record: 9–1Louisville faces a similar outlook to Ohio State: It needs more help. The Cardinals have moved ahead of Clemson in these rankings, but the Tigers will undoubtedly finish ahead in the playoff rankings if they win out and take the ACC title. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: Lamar Jackson & Co. have to beat a still-dangerous Houston team this week to remain in the conversation, and given their struggles through three quarters against Wake Forest, that’s no guarantee.
Last week: Beat Wake Forest 44-12
Next week: Thursday at Houston
44Clemson Tigerslast week: 2record: 9–1The Tigers have been playing with fire for much of the season and finally got burnt against Pittsburgh, falling on Chris Blewitt’s game-winning field goal. Clemson gave up 464 total yards and 43 points to the Panthers, and its offense couldn’t clinch the game when it had its opportunity. The Tigers will still be in the playoff if they don’t slip up from here, but they can’t afford similar struggles any longer.
Last week: Lost to Pitt 43-42
Next week: Saturday at Wake Forest
55Michigan Wolverineslast week: 3record: 9–1The Wolverines had their sloppiest performance of the year against an Iowa team that suddenly played like the group that nearly made the playoff in 2015. Here’s the good news for Michigan: Like Clemson, it should make the national semifinals if it wins out. Here’s the bad news: The Wolverines have lost any shot they may have had of getting in even with a loss to Ohio State, and after Saturday night, they have to be concerned about their offense’s capabilities against the Buckeyes.
Last week: Lost to Iowa 14-13
Next week: Saturday vs. Indiana
66Wisconsin Badgerslast week: 7record: 8–2After winning its last three games by a combined 28 points—and losing the previous two by a combined 14—Wisconsin finally had an easy Saturday against the woeful Fighting Illini as its running game led the way for a 45-point win. With three unbeatens ahead of them picking up a loss Saturday, the Badgers’ odds at becoming the first two-loss team in the history of the playoff look improved (if they can win the Big Ten).
Last week: Beat Boston Illinois 48-3
Next week: Saturday at Purdue
77Oklahoma Soonerslast week: 9record: 8–2The Sooners took advantage of the Baylor program’s continued disintegration. Baker Mayfield was excellent again, completing 20 of 25 passes for 300 yards with three total touchdowns, and continues to state his case for making it back to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. A huge clash with West Virginia awaits on Saturday—if the Sooners win, the Big 12 title will likely be on the line in Bedlam.
Last week: Beat Baylor 45-24
Next week: Saturday at West Virginia
88Washington Huskieslast week: 4record: 9-1The eyes of the nation were on Seattle on Saturday night, and Washington squandered its chance in the spotlight. USC controlled the game, outgaining the Huskies 400–276. Given what the playoff committee thought of Chris Petersen’s squad when it was undefeated, Washington could be in the most trouble among the one-loss contenders—especially since USC, Colorado or Utah would all put up a very tough fight if Washington makes the Pac-12 title game (the Huskies will need to beat Washington State to do that).
Last week: Lost to USC 26-13
Next week: Saturday vs. Arizona State
99Penn state nittany lionslast week: 10record: 8–2Besides the raucous fans that swarmed the field at Kinnick Stadium, no one was happier to see Iowa knock off Michigan than Penn State, which will find itself in the Big Ten championship game if Ohio State beats the Wolverines in the regular season finale and the Nittany Lions hold serve from here. Penn State did its part Saturday by coming back from down 10 in the second half to survive a test from Indiana.
Last week: Beat Indiana 45-31
Next week: Saturday at Rutgers
1010Utah Uteslast week: 11record: 8–2Despite allowing 26 points, the Utah defense had one of the most ferocious performances of the season against the Sun Devils, recording 11 sacks (most by any team this year) and 22 tackles for loss. Hunter Dimick alone had five sacks, setting a school record. The Utes control their destiny in the Pac-12 South; if they win out, they’d have the head-to-head tiebreaker over both USC and Colorado.
Last week: Beat Arizona State 49-2
Next week: Saturday vs. Oregon
1111West Virginia Mountaineerslast week: 14record: 8-1West Virginia passed a tricky road test Saturday, holding off a Texas team that looked like it had found its footing the past two weeks. The odds are slim, but the Mountaineers are probably the Big 12’s best shot at getting a team in the playoff. Even if they beat the Sooners this week, though, they’ll need Oklahoma State to drop another game since the Cowboys have the head-to-head advantage over them.
Last week: Beat Texas 24-20
Next week: Saturday vs. Oklahoma
1212USC Trojanslast week: 24record: 7–3No one (non-Alabama division) is hotter than the Trojans right now after their statement performance against the Huskies. Their rough start to the year means there isn’t a ton to play for the rest of the way—they need help to win the Pac-12 South—but they’ve already saved Clay Helton’s job, and every week seems to bring more reason to be excited about the future (though to be fair, we’ve been fooled before by USC).
Last week: Beat Washington 26-13
Next week: Saturday at UCLA
1313COLORADO BUFFALOESlast week: 15record: 8–2In their first five years in the Pac-12, the Buffaloes won five conference games combined; after beating Arizona on Saturday, they have six conference wins this season, underscoring just how impressive this program’s turnaround has been. Colorado controls its destiny in the Pac-12 South, but few teams face a tougher final two weeks. The Buffaloes close with Washington State and Utah (though both are at home).
Last week: Beat Arizona 49-24
Next week: Saturday vs. Washington State
1414Oklahoma State Cowboyslast week: 16record: 8-2The Cowboys won a classic Big 12 shootout on Saturday, prevailing when Texas Tech missed what would’ve been a game-tying extra point with 1:44 remaining. Oklahoma State controls its destiny in the Big 12; if it does win out, expect even more (rightful) outrage over the loss to Central Michigan that should’ve been a win. A one-loss Big 12 champion Oklahoma State would have had at least an argument for being in the playoff.
Last week: Beat Texas Tech 45-44
Next week: Saturday at TCU
1515Western Michigan Broncoslast week: 18record: 10-0Just as we all expected, the last two remaining unbeatens are Alabama and Western Michigan; just as we all foresaw, College GameDay is headed to Kalamazoo (!) in the penultimate week of the regular season. What a year for the Broncos and for P.J. Fleck, who will be the most coveted coach on the market not named Tom Herman this hiring season.
Last week: Beat Kent State 37-21
Next week: Saturday vs. Buffalo
1616Auburn Tigerslast week: 8record: 7–3
Auburn certainly missed Kamryn Pettway, but his absence doesn’t excuse a woeful offensive performance against Georgia, which crushed the Tigers’ dreams of winning the SEC West. Still, this has been a successful season on the Plains, and given the nature of a rivalry like the Iron Bowl, the Tigers will still be plenty motivated against the Crimson Tide in two weeks.
Last week: Lost to Georgia 13-7
Next week: Saturday vs. Alabama A&M
1717LSU Tigerslast week: 19record: 7–3
So much for Novem-Bert. LSU ran all over Bret Bielema’s Arkansas, with Derrius Guice putting up 252 yards and two touchdowns and Leonard Fournette chipping in 98 yards and three scores. The biggest question the rest of the way is whether Ed Orgeron will land the Tigers’ full-time job. LSU winning out may be a requirement for him to do so.
Last week: Beat Arkansas 38-10
Next week: Saturday vs. Florida
1818Florida State seminoleslast week: 20record: 7-3
At this point Florida State’s season is more about building for the future, but there’s still plenty to celebrate in the present, namely Dalvin Cook. With his 108 rushing yards in the Seminoles’ romp over Boston College, he’s now just 19 yards away from breaking Warrick Dunn’s Florida State career rushing record. Cook probably has just three games left in the garnet and gold, so enjoy his college greatness while you can.
Last week: Beat Boston College 45-7
Next week: Saturday at Syracuse
1919nebraska cornhuskerslast week: 21record: 8-2
Cleared to play just hours before gametime against Minnesota after getting knocked unconscious last Saturday, Tommy Armstrong then fought through an ankle injury to lead the Cornhuskers to a narrow win over the Gophers in a stirring display of toughness. Nebraska still has an outside shot to win the Big Ten West, needing either Purdue (nope) or Minnesota (possible) to upset Wisconsin.
Last week: Beat Minnesota 24-17
Next week: Saturday vs. Maryland
2020Florida Gatorslast week: 22record: 7-2After South Carolina’s upset of Tennessee, some were expecting the Gamecocks to do the same against Will Muschamp’s former team. But Florida proved too tough defensively. The Gators will win the SEC East if they beat LSU this week, but given their injury situation (nine starters lost the last two weeks) and the fact they have to go on the road (Florida agreed to do so after Hurricane Matthew wiped out the original matchup in Gainesville), beating the Tigers will be a tall task.
Last week: Beat South Carolina 20-7
Next week: Saturday at LSU
2121Washington State Cougarslast week: 23record: 8–2It was a historic Saturday for the Cougars: Gabe Marks recorded his 295th career reception to set a Pac-12 record, and with the rout of Cal, Washington State moved to 7–0 in the Pac-12 for the first time in program history. A tough tilt with Colorado awaits, but no matter what happens in that game, the Apple Cup will decide the Pac-12 North.
Last week: Beat Cal 56-21
Next week: Saturday at Colorado
2222Boise State Broncoslast week: 25record: 9-1The Broncos piled up a season-high 603 total yards against Hawaii, including 403 in the first half. With its non-conference win over Washington State, Boise State is best positioned to secure the Group of Five’s automatic bid to a New Year’s Six bowl if Western Michigan stumbles, but the Broncos need help to win their division first.
Last week: Beat Hawaii 52-16
Next week: Friday vs. UNLV
2323nORTH cAROLINA taR hEELSlast week: 12record: 7–3Losing to rival Duke for the first time in three years was painful, and the fact it was the Blue Devils’ first ACC win only made it more so. A silver lining came Saturday when Virginia Tech blew its chance to clinch the Coastal Division, so UNC remains in position to potentially steal the division title should the Hokies fall to Virginia in their final conference game.
Last week: Lost to Duke 28-27
Next week: Saturday vs. The Citadel
2424San Diego State Aztecslast week: NRrecord: 9-1If you still don’t know Donnel Pumphrey, it’s past time you take notice. The senior moved into fourth place on the FBS career rushing list in San Diego State’s win over Nevada, and Ron Dayne’s all-time record is in sight with two regular season games plus the Mountain West championship and a bowl game remaining. The Aztecs also still have hopes of making the New Year’s Six if Western Michigan has a hiccup down the stretch.
Last week: Beat Nevada 46-16
Next week: Saturday at Wyoming
2525Texas A&M Aggieslast week: 13record: 7-3Perhaps it’s overly harsh to drop the Aggies this much after losing to a still-talented Ole Miss group, but this reflects how much lesser a team Texas A&M is without Trevor Knight the rest of the way. The manner in which the Aggies fell to the Rebels (blowing a 15-point fourth-quarter lead to a true freshman QB, Shea Patterson, making his first appearance) doesn’t help matters.
Last week: Lost to Ole Miss 29-28
Next week: Saturday vs. Texas-San Antonio
Dropped out: Virginia Tech
Next five: Navy, Virginia Tech, Troy, Temple, Tennessee