SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg provides his opinion of the top three programs in the history of college football. USA TODAY
Yeah, we all mostly looked at the first weekend of November as a diversion to get us to next weekend – when we’ll get two matchups of unbeatens, including LSU at Alabama and all of the takes about how the SEC West showdown could be a Football Four accelerant … for both teams. Hold that thought. No really, hold it, because it remains unlikely – at least in part because of some potentially important developments in Week 10.
Out West, the Pac-12 (Remember it? Left for dead after Week 1?) had a very good weekend and remains very much alive.v
Utah won at Washington – oh, how the Huskies have fallen – and then Oregon blew out USC, a dominant performance and stunning scene at the Coliseum. The result might have sealed Clay Helton’s fate. It also put Utah in control of the Pac-12 South. And the combination means we might be headed for a Pac-12 championship matchup of Top 10 teams. The winner could slide right into the Football Four.
Not this week, though. Not yet.
Week 10 observations: Pac-12 still has chance at Playoff thanks to Oregon and Utah
Winners and losers: Georgia, Florida State lead way in Week 10
Meanwhile, it had been an odd and tumultuous few weeks for Georgia: A horrible loss to South Carolina. A slog past Kentucky in the rain. A bunch of concern about the offense. And underlying everything, significant worry that this season, which was supposed to be the season when everything came together, might instead unravel.
A 24-17 win against rival Florida did not answer all the questions or guarantee Georgia will meet its lofty expectations. It’s still uncertain whether the Bulldogs have the firepower to beat, say, Alabama or LSU in a SEC championship matchup.
But it was certainly cathartic. Jake Fromm was good. His receivers were legitimately dangerous. The Bulldogs were just better than Florida. What that means, who knows? But Georgia remains on track for at least a shot at reaching the Football Four.
As always, remember we pick the bracket as if the season was over today.* (And now, let’s move on to those matchups of unbeatens this week in Tuscaloosa and, uh, Minneapolis!)
1. Ohio State – Took Saturday off, which is nice. And the next couple of weeks – Maryland! At Rutgers! – don’t look too much more challenging than “Bye” was. Not until Nov. 23 does Penn State come to Columbus, and after that there’s a little trip to Ann Arbor.
2. LSU – Took it easy Saturday, which is good because it won’t be easy in Tuscaloosa next Saturday. The Tigers have the best resume, but this will easily be their biggest test.
3. Alabama – Took it easy Saturday, which is good because it won’t be easy at home next Saturday. The Tide has played, well, nobody – they’ve had the softest schedule of any of the contenders thus far. That changes with LSU.
4. Clemson – The continued conflation of that September escape against North Carolina with all those other games in which the Tigers have been routinely dominant is a weird, weird thing. Clemson has been very, very good. (That said, Clemson should not play football against Wofford. Clemson should hang with Wofford at a cookout over at Dabo’s house.)
5. Penn State – The Nittany Lions were off. This week, a visit to Minneapolis for a battle of unbeatens. Even as the undercard, it should be fun. We’ll find out if the Gophers are for real, and Penn State could vault into legitimate Football Four contention.
6. Oregon – In recent years when the Ducks have forged special seasons, those have included important wins against USC. How does 56-24 at the Coliseum fit? Yeah, the Trojans are melting down – but Oregon had plenty to do with it. If the Ducks keep winning, they’ll be positioned for the Football Four bracket.
7. Georgia – A grinder of a game, which is the kind Kirby Smart likes, as the Bulldogs knocked rival Florida out of the Football Four race while staying in it themselves. Oh, and the coach wants us to know Jake Fromm can pass, which wasn’t in doubt. Georgia’s offensive philosophy? That remains in doubt. But not Fromm’s passing ability.
8. Utah – The Utes went to Seattle and grinded out a fourth-quarter comeback win against Washington. Then Oregon dropped USC, putting Utah in control of the Pac-12 South. Could we be headed for a Pac-12 championship game that’s a de facto Playoff quarterfinal? Maybe.
A Few More After That***
Oklahoma – The Sooners took the weekend off, which only means by the time they host Iowa State this Saturday, they’ll have had a looooong time to reflect on that loss at Kansas State (K-State, by the way, is now 6-2.)
Minnesota – The Gophers are set to host the biggest home game and largest opportunity since, well, when – sometime a half-century or so ago? Regardless of what happens with Penn State, PJ Fleck has worked wonders with Minnesota.
Baylor – Whew, that was an escape against, uh, West Virginia. But somehow, the Bears won. Somehow, they’re undefeated. Next up, TCU – if you haven’t been paying attention, a spite-filled, bitter rivalry – and if Baylor gets past that? A potential showdown with Oklahoma.
Michigan – No longer on the Football Four radar, the Wolverines have quietly shown improvement. The season’s success will be judged by what happens against rivals Michigan State (Nov. 16) and Ohio State (Nov. 30), and don’t overlook surprising Indiana in between – but Michigan has been better of late.
USC – Late in the second quarter against Oregon, the Trojans had with a shot to go up by 10 points when freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis fumbled. Oregon drove for a touchdown and Slovis followed up with a terrible pick-six. Then USC scored with less than a minute left – and promptly kicked off deep and gave up a 100-yard return for a TD with 8 seconds left. After all that, Oregon led 28-17 – and you wondered if USC officials (including soon-to-be AD Mike Bohn) would intercept Urban Meyer before he could work the Fox halftime show.
Arkansas – It makes no sense to consider a coaching change in (or after) Chad Morris’ second season. But nothing about this program makes sense these days. The Razorbacks were down 38-10 to Mississippi State. At home. At halftime. Watch what happens when the Hogs host Western Kentucky (and former Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey) … if they don’t win that one? Look out below.
Nebraska – Remember when Nebraska was going to skip ahead in the rebuilding process to contend for the Big Ten West? Instead, after losing in consecutive weeks to Indiana and Purdue, the Huskers are in danger of taking up semi-permanent residence in this space.
Northwestern – A 34-3 loss to Indiana was the Wildcats’ sixth in a row. Never mind the losing streak, Northwestern has not scored a touchdown in 206 minutes, 20 seconds (dating back to Oct. 5 vs. Nebraska).
* The season is not over today.
** Don’t be worried that your team sits just outside the cut. This is a weekly snapshot. And what do we know, anyway?
*** See the previous note, but it’s OK to be slightly concerned or very angry. But what do we know, anyway?
**** No note necessary.