The ACC’s hopes for a representative in this year’s College Football Playoff seem to have been dwindled down to just Florida State.
The Seminoles are 8-0 and came in at No. 4 in the latest AP Top 25. We’ll see how high they’re ranked when the first batch of rankings from the CFP selection committee is unveiled on Tuesday night, but how the rest of the ACC fares may be more noteworthy.
Only a few weeks ago, the ACC had five ranked teams, with Clemson just on the outside of the Top 25. But now it’s down to just two with Louisville coming in at No. 15.
Louisville is 7-1 overall and 4-1 in ACC play following a shutout victory over Duke. The Cardinals and Virginia Tech — yes, Virginia Tech — are the only two teams with just one loss in conference play. The Hokies’ recent resurgence has been a promising sign for coach Brent Pry, but a bowl berth is a more realistic goal for VT than getting to the conference title game.
Louisville and Virginia Tech will square off next Saturday and sole possession of second place in the conference will be on the line. Even if Louisville wins, it will still need to win out and then upset FSU in the ACC title game to even sniff a CFP berth. Louisville has ranked wins over Notre Dame and Duke, but the road loss to a bad Pitt team looms large.
Duke has lost three of its last four games and is no longer ranked, but the more precipitous fall has come from North Carolina.
The Tar Heels started the year 6-0 and climbed up to No. 10. Two weeks later, Mack Brown’s team is unranked following ugly losses to Virginia and Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels were significant favorites in both of those games. They were 24-point home favorites in the Virginia game and lost 31-27. And then on Saturday, they were 12-point road favorites over Georgia Tech and blew two double-digit leads in a 46-42 loss.
It marked the sixth time that North Carolina has lost outright as a favorite of 10 or more points since Brown returned as head coach in 2019. To make matters worse, North Carolina has lost five of its last seven games while being favored by 10 points or more vs. FBS competition.
The losses to Virginia and Georgia Tech have completely derailed the potential of UNC’s season, while other projected ACC contenders like Clemson and Miami have had some really rough moments. Miami’s biggest blemish was inexplicably blowing a late lead to Georgia Tech, but Clemson has been one of the biggest disappointments in all of college football. The Tigers made six consecutive CFP appearances between 2015 and 2020 with two national championships but are now in jeopardy of missing a bowl after a loss to NC State dropped them to 4-4 overall and 2-4 in ACC play. And things could get worse with Notre Dame visiting Tiger Stadium this Saturday.
If Florida State doesn’t take care of business down the stretch, the ACC could go through the final three seasons of the four-team CFP era without a single representative in the field.
- Sam Cooper
Oklahoma State RB Ollie Gordon deserves some shine
Ollie Gordon is the catalyst of Oklahoma State’s resurgence.
The Cowboys running back is the leading rusher in college football through the first nine weeks of the season and one of only two players with more than 1,000 yards rushing this season. Gordon broke the 1,000-yard mark on Saturday in Oklahoma State’s win over Cincinnati with another stellar game.
Gordon rushed 25 times for 271 yards and had two touchdowns. It was his second game with at least 250 yards on the ground as he joined exclusive company.
Oklahoma State has won four straight games after starting the season 2-2. Gordon had just 19 carries for 87 yards over OSU’s first three games. He’s been a monster since.
Gordon’s 18-carry, 121-yard effort against Iowa State is his worst rushing performance of the last five games. For the season, Gordon has tallied 1,087 yards on just 141 carries. That’s an average of 7.7 yards a rush.
He’s become a bell-cow back recently without losing his efficiency, either. Gordon has at least 25 carries in each of his last three games and has averaged 8.7 yards a carry in that span. He’s almost a first down every time he runs the ball.
That’s dangerous news for an Oklahoma defense that got gashed by Kansas on Saturday. OU gave up 225 yards rushing to the Jayhawks as the Sooners’ undefeated season disappeared. Oklahoma dropped to No. 10 in the AP Top 25 ahead of what could be the final Bedlam rivalry game for the foreseeable future.
The loser of Saturday’s game is likely out of the Big 12 title mix too. With five teams tied atop the Big 12 at 4-1, and another two a game back, a defeat has massive implications. If Oklahoma can’t figure out a way to slow down Gordon, its dreams of a College Football Playoff berth are gone. And one final Big 12 title could be impossible too.
- Nick Bromberg
Don't overlook the Sun Belt
Is the Sun Belt the deepest Group of Five conference in college football?
The league has shown in recent years that it’s no doormat and it has a case to be one of the two best Group of Five conferences in 2023.
Twelve of the conference’s 14 teams are at 4-4 or better and only one — Southern Miss — has been completely eliminated from bowl contention.
No. 23 James Madison is 8-0, while Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Troy are all 6-2. Georgia Southern is the actual leader in the East Division because James Madison is ineligible for the conference title game and has a one-game lead in the loss column on Georgia State, Coastal Carolina and Old Dominion.
In the West, Troy is 3-1, while four teams are right behind at 2-2. That group includes Arkansas State, who is somehow 4-4 after being outscored 270-184 so far this season.
It’s incredibly possible that the Sun Belt could have 12 bowl-eligible teams by the end of the season. That’s far more bowl-eligible teams than the conference has bowl spots, though ESPN may not mind the overcrowding. There’s a good chance there won’t be enough 6-6 teams to fill all 82 bowl spots. Every team at .500 or better in the Sun Belt should get a postseason opportunity.
- Nick Bromberg