Skip to main content

Five Questions

Q. What will the impact be on the next college football playoff rankings with No. 5 Tennessee's loss?

The top four will remain the same. Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and TCU. All four turned in less-than-impressive performances on Saturday but they're the only unbeaten teams left. So right now, it's a seven-team scrum for the top four spots with USC likely to make a jump to No. 5, LSU still in the mix -- but only if the two-loss Tigers take care of business against Texas A&M on Saturday and then beat Georgia in the SEC championship game -- and Clemson, which is still hanging around the playoff periphery at 10-1.

What makes the No. 5 spot so important this week is the Michigan-Ohio State showdown this Saturday in Columbus. USC and Clemson can claim a top four spot if they win out, with the Ohio State-Michigan loser likely falling outside the top four.

The only way for a team outside those seven to get involved -- say, an Alabama -- is if TCU, USC and Clemson all lose and the Michigan-Ohio State game is lopsided.

Q. What was so unusual about the games involving Army, Navy and Air Force on Saturday?

For one thing, all three service academies won. What made those victories unusual is that all three won without completing a pass. They were a combined 0-for-5 passing and it didn't matter. For what it's worth, Navy is now 8-1 when it doesn't complete a pass under coach Ken Niumatolo.

Q.  How is the race for the Heisman Trophy shaping up?

It took a dramatic turn this weekend on several fronts. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker had to leave the game against South Carolina in the fourth quarter after suffering a non-contact knee injury (it was announced today as an ACL tear that will sideline Hooker for the rest 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' longshot playoff hopes. Michigan RB Blake Corum went down with a knee injury against Illinois, returning for just one carry in the second half. He had 108 rushing yards. And front runner C. J. Stroud was just okay again in an inconsistent season for Ohio State. Stroud has seven TD passes the past four games and has yet to run for a touchdown. The best player in college football? Let's see what happens Saturday for both Stroud and Corum when Michigan travels to Ohio State.

USC QB Caleb Williams looked pretty special in the Trojans' 48-45 win at UCLA, passing for 470 yards and two scores 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 turned in a workmanlike performance in the Bulldogs' 16-6 win at Kentucky -- nothing special -- and Alabama QB Bryce Young appears to have little chance to repeat any more.

The great unknown -- sort of like his team -- is TCU quarterback Max Duggan. He led the comeback from eight points down in the final 2:07 as the Horned Frogs escaped with a 29-28 win at Baylor on Griffin Kell's 40-yard field goal as time expired. Duggan passed for 327 yards and a TD and rushed for 50 yards and a score but the quality of TCU's competition -- the Big 12 is mediocre at best from top to bottom, looking more and more like the Mountain West in quality -- remains a nagging issue. TCU's best win was by 10 points against 8-3 Kansas State -- 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 junior transfer from Oklahoma has been average at best this year for the Gamecocks. He entered Saturday's game against No. 5-ranked Tennessee with nine touchdown passes and eight interceptions for the year while averaging 198 yards passing per game. He proceeded to go 30-of-37 for 438 yards with six touchdown passes and no interceptions in the stunning 63-38 upset of the Vols. Next up for 7-4 USC: 10-1 Clemson.

Q. Can someone explain what David Shaw's thought process was when he had Joshua Karty kick a 61-yard field goal on the final play 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 play left. So Shaw had Karty attempt a 61-yard field goal that he made. That made the final 27-20. The over/under on the game was 46. Cal covered the five-point spread either way but the over/under went from the under covering to the over covering because of a very curious coaching decision that had no impact on the outcome of the game.

As a side wagering note from Saturday, the over/under on Iowa-Minnesota was 31 1/2 -- the lowest ever for a FBS game, according to FanDuel. It still went under when Iowa won 13-10.

 

 Who's Hot

Former Oklahoma quarterbacks

USC's Caleb Williams and South Carolina's Shane Rattler were a combined 64-of-80 for 908 yards with eight TD passes and one interception in significant victories. The 10-1 Trojans beat UCLA, 48-45; the 7-4 Gamecocks stunned No. 5 Tennessee in a 63-38 rout.

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 six), had three interceptions in the Irish's 44-0 rout of Boston College.

Texas RB Bijan Robinson

Held to 29 yards on 12 carries a week ago against TCU, the 6-0, 220-pound junior was dominant in a 55-14 win over Kansas, rushing for 243 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries. 

Who's Not

Arizona QB Jayde de Laura

So here's the deal: de Laura, the Pac-12's Offensive Freshman of the Year last season, transferred from Washington State to Arizona in January. Facing his old team on Saturday he was intercepted four times in a 31-20 loss to the Cougars. A year ago, while at Washington State, he threw four TD passes against Arizona. 

Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin

Sure, the guy knows offense. But he can pretend to care about defense just a little? Ole Miss rushed 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 trailed by 36 at one point. Is this really what Auburn wants?

Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders

His nightmarish first half and coach Mike Gundy's glaring failure to have the Cowboys ready to play in a rivalry game against Oklahoma were the reasons behind a 28-13 loss to the Sooners. Sanders was intercepted four times as OU built a 28-3 halftime lead. So it didn't matter that the Sooners were thoroughly outplayed in the second half. The damage had been done by the QB and head coach.

On the Rise

Scroll to Continue

Read More

Florida State

Seminoles have won four straight games, all by 25 points or more, and are 8-3 heading into the regular-season finale against Florida. A nice job by coach Mike Norvell after a mid-season slump that could have caused this team to unravel.

Oregon State

Beavers improved to 8-3 after Saturday's 31-7 rout of Arizona State -- after having lost in 19 of their previous 20 trips to Tempe. They have won five of their past six (the only loss during that stretch was by three points at Washington) heading in Saturday's home game against rival Oregon.

Army

Following a 1-4 start in a season that looked like it might be headed to a forgettable finish, the Black Knights improved to 4-6 with a 34-17 victory over UConn. With 1-10 UMass and Navy left bowl eligibility is within reach.

Who's Not

Nebraska

A 15-14 loss to Wisconsin dropped the bumbling Cornhuskers to 3-8 overall heading into the Children of the Corn game at Iowa, which needs to win to clinch the Big Ten West title. Nebraska's three wins have come over North Dakota, 4-7 Rutgers and 4-7 Indiana -- and the record includes a loss to 1-10 Northwestern.

Northwestern

Wildcats were 1-0 to start the season when they beat Nebraska. They're now 1-10 heading into the regular-season finale against Illinois. It's ugly in Evanston.

South Florida

There was a time in the mid-2000s when this was a nationally-ranked program. Bulls' loss to Tulsa dropped them to 1-10 overall. They will carry a nine-game losing streak into the regular-season finale against UCF.

Playing it Forward (All times Eastern)

Friday

Tulane at Cincinnati, noon, ABC

They're tied atop the AAC standings at 6-1, with the winner hosting the league title game. Tulane needs to win to assure a rematch.

Saturday

South Carolina at Clemson, noon, ABC

The 10-1 Tigers are suddenly back in the playoff mix. The 7-4 Gamecocks come in off a stunning upset of No. 5-ranked Tennessee.'

Michigan at Ohio State, noon, Fox

This is it -- a pair of 11-0 playoff hopefuls in a showdown that has been building since the season started. Heisman votes are up for grabs here too for C. J. Stroud and Blake Corum.

Georgia Tech at Georgia, noon, ESPN

The last obstacle to another perfect regular season for the Bulldogs. Yellow Jackets come in off an upset of North Carolina.

Oregon at Oregon State, TBA

Ducks need a win to return to the Pac-12 title game. Beavers, 8-3, are a dangerous opponent.

Auburn at Alabama, 3:30, CBS

An Iron Bowl that few outside the state limits cares about.

Iowa State at TCU, 4 p.m., Fox

Cyclones are having a down year but TCU makes every game interesting. Horned Frogs looking at a 12-0 regular season finish here.

LSU at Texas A&M. 7 p.m., ESPN

It's not nearly the danger game it once was for LSU, which needs to win to keep its playoff hopes alive.

Notre Dame at USC, 7:30 p.m., ABC

Maybe the most entertaining game of the day. The 8-3 Irish are on a roll; USC is 10-1 and needs to win this and the Pac-12 title game to have a shot at the playoffs.

Tom Luicci covered college football for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. from 1979 to 2014