Without a doubt, this was one of the most entertaining weekends in college football this season. The Pac 12 made its return, with a game even being played in the early slate! Meanwhile, both the ACC and SEC saw two of its biggest games of the season, with Clemson vs Notre Dame and Florida vs Georgia. With a handful of premiere games, this weekend brought a shakeup to the college football landscape. That being said, let’s take a look at the playoff outlook heading into Week 11…
The Current Playoff Field
1.) Alabama (6-0)
Taking care of business. That is the motto for the remainder of the Crismon Tide’s season. Having beaten Texas A&M and Georgia, the team has a lighter schedule over the next four weeks, leaving a straight path to the SEC Championship game. They leap into the number one spot thanks to Clemson’s loss, but also their utter dominance this season. Alabama’s average margin of victory this season is over 25 points, and that includes games against Texas A&M and Georgia. Improved play defensively by senior linebacker Dylan Moses and others has gone a long way since giving up 48 last month to Ole Miss. Meanwhile, quarterback Mac Jones and running back Najee Harris continue to rise not only in the Heisman conversation but in their 2021 NFL Draft stock. Look out college football, Alabama is just hitting stride.
2.) Notre Dame (7-0)
Yes, Clemson was without arguably the best player in college football in quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Nevertheless, it was Notre Dame that came out on top in one of the best games of the season. The Fighting Irish, who are playing the 2020 season under the ACC, have powered their way through their schedule thus far. But knocking off the number one team in the country and in their conference gives them the signature win they need. One of the most important factors was the effectiveness of the offensive line and their defense. Upfront, senior lineman Liam Eichenberg and Tommy Kraemer paved way for running back Kyren Williams’ three rushing touchdowns. Defensively, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and company managed to keep the best running back in the country in check. Notre Dame looked every part of a playoff team, as their win is enough to leap over Ohio State to number two.
3.) Ohio State (3-0)
Despite another blowout victory this weekend against Rutgers, Ohio State remains at number three in the rankings. The Big Ten is theirs to lose, with only Indiana appearing as the only other ranked team in the conference. Quarterback Justin Fields is simply walking over opponents, with a ridiculous mark of having as many touchdown passes, 11, as incompletions. Questions still remain about the team’s ability to run the football, which has been average so far. The same goes defensively, as the unit is still meshing together after losing a handful of players yet again to the NFL. At the end of the day, as long as Fields is showing out every week, the Buckeyes will be a threat to win it all.
4.) Clemson (7-1)
Prior to their loss Saturday to Notre Dame, Clemson won 39 straight regular-season contests. The last time they lost in the regular season – 2017 to Syracuse, back when Kelly Bryant was the team’s starter. Having lost 47-40 to Notre Dame, the loss is not enough to knock Clemson out of the playoff picture. The team should be getting superstar Trevor Lawrence back in the next week or so. If not, freshman DJ Ui has proven he is more than capable of leading the Tigers offense. What must be noted are the inconsistencies on the defensive side of the ball. Earlier this season, they dominated Miami, yet last week they just squeaked by Boston College. Clemson must iron these issues out because while not ranked, their next three opponents are not going down without a fight.
Knocking on the Door
Texas A&M (5-1)
Could this finally be the year? In his third season in College Station, head coach Jimbo Fisher has his team knocking on the door of the college football playoff. Since their loss Week 2 to Alabama, the team has been executing on both sides of the ball, and their win against Florida looks better than ever. Quarterback Kellen Mond has taken huge steps in his development, as the Aggies control their own destiny through the SEC Championship game.
From a COVID-19 outbreak to struggles defensively, Florida has experienced it all this season. Yet, here they are, coming off of a signature win against Georgia. Their defense only gave up 112 yards and forced three turnovers, flashing their potential. However, Florida does not control their own destiny, with Texas A&M having the tiebreaker. With five games left, all against unranked opponents, Florida needs help to make some noise going forward.
Another week, another Cincinnati win. The Bearcats continue to topple American conference opponents, as they have solidified themselves as one of college football’s most complete teams this season. But it is becoming more and more clear that even if the Bearcats win out, their playoff odds are diminishing. At the time of the games, they beat a ranked Army and SMU. However, now only SMU is ranked. All Cincinnati can do is continue to dominate opponents with their overbearing defense and hope a handful of the football powerhouses ahead of them fall.
Slowly inching their way up the rankings, BYU has finally arrived, being just behind Cincinnati as the top non-power five team in the country. Led by a Heisman contender in quarterback Zach Wilson, BYU is coming off of their signature win in a blowout over Boise State. Like Cincinnati, BYU has overpowered their opponents, yet lack the overall difficulty in their schedule to be able to push themselves into the playoff on their own. One thing for sure though is they are a fun team to watch and have only scored below 41 points once this season.
Outside Looking In
Miami FL (6-1)
It is not impossible for Miami to make a playoff push, but as each week passes by, the odds get smaller. What does not help is their loss to Clemson, which gives the Tigers the tiebreaker towards the ACC Championship game. All the Hurricanes can do is just take care of business, which began this past week as quarterback D’Eriq King put on an absolute show. The Houston transfer threw for 450 yards, rushed for another 105, and passed for five touchdowns in a 44-41 win over NC State. While Miami may not be able to make the playoff, they still remain as one of the best and most dangerous teams in the country.
Finally making their season debut this weekend, Oregon took care of business against a shorthanded Stanford program. The offense functioned well, and despite struggles against the run, the defense did too. On a six-game schedule, there is little room for error. That being said, the Ducks must find their identity on both sides of the ball in order to push to the top.
One of college football’s bigger surprises this season, Indiana has established themselves as Ohio State’s biggest threat in the Big Ten. It began with an overtime win against Penn State, then solid victories over Rutgers and Michigan. In two weeks, the Hoosiers have their first real test at Ohio State, and another two weeks after at Wisconsin. With a handful of experienced players, Indiana has looked great through three games, but only time will tell if they are a contender or pretender.
Things are about to get tricky for Wisconsin. Having their second straight game canceled due to their COVID-19 outbreak, if they cannot play this weekend against Michigan, they do not qualify for the Big Ten Championship game. The Badgers looked great in their season-opening win over Illinois, but they must be able to play Michigan in order to counter what would then be a six-game schedule.
Oklahoma State (5-1)
If the Big 12 has any hope at making the playoff, it begins with Oklahoma State finishing strong. The highest-ranked team in the conference, the Cowboys certainly have the talent to contend, headlined by the offensive trio of quarterback Spencer Sanders, running back Chuba Hubbard, and wide receiver Tylan Wallace. But the team lost to Texas two weeks ago, and barely escaped Kansas State this past weekend. Facing off in the Red River Rivalry in two weeks will be a must-win if the Pac 12 sends a team to the playoff in 2020.