Upsets galore disrupt College Football Playoffs

Michael Tao/Senior Staff

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Upsets in college football happen on a weekly basis and are a part of what makes college football so exciting and dramatic. From Gatorade showers on coaches to fans rushing the field to the eruption of the home team’s students section, upsets have the ability to incite emotions ranging from anguish to exhilaration.

It’s not every weekend, however, that five of the top 10 ranked teams in the nation lose on one Saturday, including the second, third and fourth ranked teams. It was a wild weekend across the nation, and aside from No. 1 Alabama, a lot of teams competing for those four college football playoff spots aren’t feeling too good about themselves this week.

The beauty about football is that it’s always a quick turnaround from one week to another. Despite heading into this past Saturday with undefeated records, Clemson, Michigan and Washington all fell in dramatic fashion, one after the other. As the College Football Playoff committee attempts to rank competing teams in the most statistically accurate manner possible, everyone around the nation is joining in and stacking up their top four teams as well. Here are the top four teams in the College Football Playoff committee’s rankings after one of the craziest weekends of the year.

1) Alabama Crimson Tide (10-0, 7-0)

In 1973, Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by a record-breaking 31 lengths to clinch the Triple Crown. Secretariat’s lead over the rest of the field translates to just how far ahead of the pack Nick Saban’s team is at the moment. A week after squeaking out a 10-0 defensive struggle against LSU, the Crimson Tide erupted for a 51-3 rout over Mississippi State, a game in which freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts became the first player in school history to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 in the same game. With Clemson, Michigan and Washington all losing for the first time this season, Alabama and Western Michigan are the only two remaining undefeated FBS schools in the nation. Even if Alabama loses to Auburn in its final game of its regular season, a victory in the SEC Championship would all but assure the Crimson Tide a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the playoff. There is still a lot of football left in the season, but it’s all but assured that Alabama will be included in the field of four.

2) Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1, 6-1)

Perhaps no other team was more excited when Iowa kicker Keith Duncan nailed a 33-yard field goal to clinch Iowa’s stunning 14-13 victory over the Wolverines to cap off Saturday evening’s craziness. The Buckeyes were in a tough spot heading into this weekend, trailing Michigan and Penn State in the standings, but received some much-needed help from the Hawkeyes. After suffering a heart-wrenching 24-21 loss to Penn State, the Buckeyes need more help from the Nittany Lions’ opponents, Rutgers and Michigan State, to win the Big Ten East. They would also need to beat Michigan State and Michigan over the next couple weeks, a task that just became easier after it was reported that Wolverines starting quarterback Wilton Speight has a broken collarbone. The Buckeyes are on a roll having won their past three straight games; Heisman-trophy candidate J.T Barrett has led the offense to 62-point performances in two straight weeks, as Urban Meyer’s team continues to prove its doubters wrong. Even if the Buckeyes don’t win the Big Ten conference, many feel they still deserve a spot in the top four based on their recent domination and the experience of the coaching staff. Remember, Alabama and Ohio State have won the past two national championships. The way things are going right now, that trend isn’t about to change.

3) Michigan Wolverines (9-1, 6-1)

What a disastrous weekend for the Wolverines. With the chance to solidify itself as the No. 2 team in the country, Michigan’s offense not only sputtered to just 201 total yards but potentially lost Speight for the rest of the season due to an upper body injury. On the bright side, the Jabrill Peppers-led defense played another fantastic game, limiting Iowa to just 230 yards of its own. The Wolverines simply never got their running or passing game going, uncharacteristic for a typically exciting offense that put up 59 points the week before against Maryland. The Wolverines will face Indiana at home next weekend before traveling to Columbus to face the Buckeyes in arguably the biggest college football matchup of the year. With Speight out and senior John O’Korn the new man under center, it will be interesting to see how the Michigan offense responds next week. We all know that coach Jim Harbaugh is as good a coach in college football as there is, and the Wolverines aren’t expected to play much differently than if Speight were healthy. That being said, the odds are against Michigan when it has to play Ohio State on the road in just two weeks.

4) Clemson Tigers (9-1, 6-1)

Despite an ACC single-game passing record 580 yards by star quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Tigers were unable to overcome mistake after mistake in their 43-42 loss to Pittsburgh at home. Clemson outgained the Panthers 630-464, but three Watson interceptions and a costly fourth down call by head coach Dabo Swinney allowed Pittsburgh to leave a sea of Orange in disbelief when senior kicker Chris Blewitt nailed a game-winning 48-yard field goal. Thanks to poor performances from the Wolverines and Huskies, the playoff committee kept Clemson in the top four, and the Tigers still hold the opportunity to play in the ACC Title Game if they win their next two games. Although Lamar Jackson and Louisville are on a five-game winning streak heading into the final stretch of the year, Clemson holds the tiebreaker over the Cardinals by virtue of a 42-36 win earlier this year against Louisville. This may end up being the difference between Clemson returning to the College Football Playoff for a second consecutive season or not, although the committee has a lot to think about now that the Tigers are no longer undefeated. Clemson is a heavy favorite against Wake Forest and South Carolina, and according to ESPN’s FPI, has a 78 percent chance of winning the ACC. Even with Saturday’s loss to Pitt, many feel that Clemson has passed the eye-test as a worthy playoff candidate. That being said, Saturday’s game was its sixth decided by one possession, making some analysts uneasy about the Tigers’ 9-1 record. If they want to stay in the hunt for one of the final two playoff spots, it’s no secret that they have to win out.

The Rest: Louisville (No. 5), Washington (No. 6), Wisconsin (No. 7), Penn State (No. 8), Oklahoma (No. 9), Colorado (No. 10). The College Football Playoff committee will evaluate everything from strength of schedule to recent wins when it decides who will be a part of this year’s playoff. Any of these six teams, and even a few teams beyond the top 10, still have a shot at cracking the top four. Given the way last weekend went, anything truly is possible.

My Prediction:

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 4 Washington vs. No. 1 Alabama

Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 2 Ohio State

Contact Josh Yuen at [email protected].