Remember when Georgia was going to stroll into the SEC Championship unbeaten, play an instant classic with Alabama and give us two playoff teams from the SEC? Remember when Notre Dame had the best loss in the country and was going to take care of business in Miami and win out? Remember when unbeaten Wisconsin didn’t control its own destiny and barely cracked the top 10?
Yeah, that was last Friday.
One wild and crazy college football weekend later – five teams ranked in the top 12 went down – we are in the midst of perhaps the most chaotic season in the four-year history of the College Football Playoff. And the reason for that is simple.
There are no elite teams in college football.
Look at the teams that entered last weekend ranked in the top 12:
• No. 1 Georgia trailed No. 10 Auburn 30-7 midway through the third quarter and lost 40-17.
• No. 2 Alabama finally played a team with a pulse and trailed for much of the game before fending off No. 16 Mississippi State 31-24.
• No. 3 Notre Dame trailed No. 7 Miami 34-0 early in the third quarter and lost 41-8.
• No. 4 Clemson got a scare from 3-6 Florida State – the Tigers led 17-14 with less than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter – before pulling away 31-14.
• No. 6 TCU lost 38-20 in Norman and has dropped two of its last three games.
• No. 9 Washington lost its second straight road game, this time at Stanford 30-22.
• And No. 12 Michigan State got embarrassed in Columbus, losing 48-3 to No. 13 Ohio State for the most lopsided loss of Mark Dantonio’s career.
That’s quite a week.
Teams that we thought were out of it are suddenly back in it, and teams that we thought were playoff shoo-ins are suddenly on the outside looking in (potentially).
As it stands, here are my top 10 teams entering Week 12:
1) Alabama (10-0)
Thirty-three straight regular-season wins, including back-to-back victories over SEC teams (LSU and Mississippi State) ranked in the top 20. I’m still not sold on the passing game, but Calvin Ridley (five catches for 171 yards on Saturday) is as explosive as it gets.
2) Miami (9-0)
After barely squeaking by for all of October, Miami authored statement wins against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, forcing eight turnovers and winning by a combined 69-18. Virginia and Pitt should offer minimal resistance prior to an ACC Championship showdown with Clemson.
3) Oklahoma (9-1)
The Sooners have scored 100 points over the last two weeks, blowing through the best of the Big 12 (Oklahoma State and TCU) in the process. They also have the win over Ohio State in their back pocket. Win out, and Oklahoma is in. Not even a question.
4) Wisconsin (10-0)
The 38-14 final doesn’t do justice to just how thoroughly the Badgers beat Iowa. Wisconsin outgained the Hawkeyes 382-66, limited them to five first downs, and forced three turnovers. If not for a pair of Alex Hornibrook pick-sixes, Wisconsin may have blanked a team that just hung 55 on Ohio State. Bravo.
5) Clemson (9-1)
Clemson/Miami is essentially a playoff play-in game, and the Tigers could certainly win it. But after losing to Syracuse – SYRACUSE – Clemson hasn’t responded in typical Clemson fashion. Yes, the Tigers have reeled off three straight wins, but two of them were very much in doubt in the fourth quarter. Does that make Clemson a bad team? Nope. But it does make Clemson more vulnerable than it has been in a long, long time.
6) Auburn (8-2)
No one should be surprised that Auburn beat Georgia at Jordan-Hare. But to beat the Bulldogs 40-17? I don’t think anyone saw that coming. With a pair of one-possession losses on the road against quality opponents, Auburn is the only two-loss team in the country that controls its own destiny. If the Tigers beat Alabama on Nov. 25 – and can topple Georgia on a neutral field – there’s no way they’ll be left out of the playoff.
7) Georgia (9-1)
This team, perhaps more than any team in the country, is built to play with a lead – not to come back from a 30-7 deficit in the third quarter. Jake Fromm wasn’t bad – he finished 13-of-28 for 184 yards and a touchdown – but if you bottle up the run, which Auburn did to the tune of 32 carries for 46 yards (1.4 yards per carry), Georgia doesn’t have an answer. Still, a one-loss SEC champion would absolutely make the playoff. If the Dawgs win out, they’re in.
THUS CONCLUDES THE CONTROLLING-YOUR-OWN DESTINY PORTION OF THE PROGRAM
THE BEST OF THE REST (read: they need help)
8) Ohio State (8-2)
There’s bipolar, and then there’s the Buckeyes. One week after suffering the worst loss of his career, Urban Meyer dished out the same to Mark Dantonio. Ohio State bludgeoned Sparty for 42 carries for 335 yards (8.0 yards per carry) and four touchdowns and led 35-0 midway through the second quarter.
It was ugly.
To have a shot at the playoff, however, Ohio State would need to beat Michigan in Ann Arbor, beat Wisconsin in Indianapolis, and likely have Alabama and Miami win SEC and ACC Championships, respectively. The odds still aren’t great for Ohio State, but they’re a lot greater than they were just a few days ago.
9) Notre Dame (8-2)
The Irish entered the weekend with the best loss in college football. They left with arguably the worst.
Georgia actually led Auburn 7-0. Ohio State was tied with Iowa 17-17 late in the second quarter. But Notre Dame? Notre Dame trailed Miami 27-0 at halftime and 34-0 early in the third.
It was brutal.
Without a conference championship, Notre Dame is all but out of the playoff mix. For the Irish to have legitimate playoff hope, Miami and USC would have to win out, Alabama or Georgia would have to win out, and Wisconsin or Ohio State would have to be a one- or three-loss conference champion, respectively. And I’m not even sure that would do it.
10) USC (9-2)
The Trojans could win a conference championship, but their 49-14 loss at Notre Dame isn’t doing them any favors. The Pac 12 has looked like the odd league out seemingly all season. I don’t see that changing Dec. 3.
Tony Meale is a Chicago-based author, journalist, and content creator who uses words to inform, educate, entertain, and inspire. A Cincinnati native, he has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Louis University and a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio University. He began his career as a high school sports reporter before writing and publishing 2012’s “The Chosen Ones: The Team That Beat LeBron,” a behind-the-scenes look at the greatest sports story never told. He’s been creating written and spoken content ever since.