Andy Normile reacts to a huge week 11 of college football.
Week 11 of College Football, produced the usual drama and excitement, some divisional races were decided, but as always, there were plenty of unanswered questions and plenty remaining for future weeks.
Georgia’s comfortable win over Mississippi State and a defeat for Ole Miss against Alabama (The Tide always win after a loss the previous week) means that the SEC title game will be between Georgia and LSU. It can be expected that whoever wins that title game will also have an entry into the playoffs. If LSU were to win, they would become the first two-loss entrant, and there is also a very strong argument that Georgia would also qualify as the strongest one-loss team in the country, especially considering their wins include Tennessee and Oregon.
Tennessee got back to winning ways, with Hendon Hooker displaying Heisman form, throwing for 355 and 3 TDs, and the weekly long bomb (68 yards) to Jalin Hyatt, and remain very much in playoff contention. It’s hard to imagine the committee voting for 3 SEC teams, so their hope is for a Georgia title win and then progress as the best one-loss team.
Elsewhere Vanderbilt finally won a conference game after 25 defeats, Texas A&M lost again, this time to Auburn, and Anthony Richardson added more spectacular plays to his extensive highlights tape.
There were the predictable big wins for both Ohio State and Michigan, the showdown in Columbus in two weeks’ time, looks set to feature the No 2 and 3 ranked teams, and become a playoff eliminator as if the game needed any more spice.
In the West division, wins for Purdue, Iowa and Minnesota mean that those three teams plus Illinois all have 4-3 records. It looks like the division winner, will have to come via the tiebreaker rules, but you would currently need a degree in advanced maths to fathom them out. The best bet may be Minnesota which led by impressive RB Mohamed Ibrahim, are currently on a three-game win streak, and still, have Iowa on their schedule. Incidentally, Iowa managed to win despite their moribund offence, which contributed just 142 yards, a pick 6 and a 41-yard punt return being the key plays.
The biggest unanswered question concerns the fate of the loser in the Ohio State/Michigan game. Neither team have impressive wins on their slate, so much will depend upon results elsewhere, and the all-important eye test, especially if being compared to other one-loss teams, who crucially may have division titles.
TCU was probably the big winner of the day. Their 17-10 win over Texas, gave them an additional status win and clinched a place in the conference title game, although surprisingly they had to rely on a strong defensive performance, holding Quinn Ewers to only 17 completions on 39 attempts, and more extraordinary Bijan Robinson to a season-low 29 yards rushing. Clearly, if they can run the table, they are in. Given they are currently ranked 4 out of the 4 remaining unbeaten teams, if there were to lose a heated debate would ensue.
Kansas State took a large step to become their opponent in the title game with a victory over Baylor, which means the Wildcats now have the second-best record in the conference, only W Virginia and Kansas stand in their way, but in college football, nothing is guaranteed.
If TCU was the day’s big winner, then the Pac-12 conference was the big loser.
Oregon the highest-ranked team, lost to an improving Washington team, and with two defeats on their record are out of playoff contention, even if they win the conference title. UCLA another previous one loss team also went down – to Arizona, and with their chances so did Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s outside Heisman hopes.
USC looked impressive in beating Colorado 55-17 (but then again Colorado is having a very poor season) and are now the conference’s only hope of a playoff team. However, the Bruins and Ducks losses do them no favours, as it impacts the overall standing of the conference. Should USC go unbeaten, their resume and a title game win doesn’t look so impressive ( a familiar story for the Pac-12 in recent years)
Clemson and N Carolina confirmed their spots in the conference title game without either looking impressive (N Carolina winning their 5th game by a margin of 3 points or fewer). Given the overall poor standing of the conference, a one-loss ACC champion looks destined for the Orange Bowl, rather than the playoffs.
So where does all that leave us with the playoff picture? Probably something along the lines of :
- Winner of SEC (LSU or Georgia)
- Winner of Big 10 (Ohio State or Michigan)
- TCU – if they go undefeated
- One from – deep breath, one loss Tennesse, one loss Georgia, one loss Ohio State or one loss Michigan, one loss USC
The key debate would be around the best one-loss team. Probably Georgia if they were to lose the SEC title game, followed by Tennessee if Georgia wins that game. Of course, TCU could still lose, which would free up a place, but they would then enter the one-loss debate, and then again any of the above could still lose unexpectedly, and who knows what chaos might ensue.
UCF took control in the American and New Year 6 race by beating Tulane, they now have the tiebreaker over both the Green Wave and Cincinnati, and will likely face a rematch between the winner of the upcoming Tulane / Cincinnati game.
UConn by beating Liberty recorded their 6th win of the season, and so became bowl eligible for the first time in 8 years.
As we draw closer to the end of the 2022 season, there were some notable performances from Freshman, who we can expect to see in future seasons.
N Carolina QB Caleb Williams threw for 448 yards against Wake, and now has 3,412 yards on the season, Penn State RB Nicholas Singleton did his best Saquon Barkley impression with 122 yards, but perhaps the most impressive performance came on defence from LSU LB Harold Perkins Jr who recorded 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles – early candidates for 2023/4 Heisman.
So as the playoffs and end-of-season bowl games approach, as always in College Football there is much to be decided, and much debate to have.
Thanks to Andy for producing week 11’s College Football Review. You can see more of his work here in the future!
You can also check out our full list of 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports here