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Two Big Ten playoff teams? Daniels for Heisman? College football Week 11 overreactions

Even though there’s been something of an air of inevitability with the way the college football season has unfolded, there’s still been plenty to overreact to all year. So why stop now?

Once again if you’re new to this feature, the headings you see are not our takes. They are observations expressed by commentators, amateur or professional, regarding what just transpired on the field. Our aim is to put these views into proper perspective.

We’ll begin our breakdown of the top overreactions after Week 11 in college football with a quick look ahead to one of those seemingly inevitable events, examine the prospects for the sport’s most prestigious individual honor, and as usual try to sort out the big picture as the season winds down.

The Big Ten will get two playoff spots

Now that Michigan and Ohio State are all but assured of being 11-0 at the time of their meeting for a second consecutive season, it’s become an article of faith among numerous analysts that both will make the four-team playoff as they did last year regardless of outcome.

That might indeed be the case, but there are more scenarios in play this time around that could lead to the loser getting left out. First and foremost, there might be three other power conference champs that finish without a loss. There might not be, of course. Washington has a tough finishing stretch in the Pac-12 (more on that below), and Florida State has survived its share of close calls already in ACC play.

But if there are four undefeated teams in the mix once conference champs are crowned in December, all the one-loss candidates will be closed out. Then even if there isn’t a full quartet that makes it to 13-0, either the Buckeyes or Wolverines at 11-1 wouldn’t necessarily get the nod over other members of the one-loss club with conference championships due to the Big Ten’s overall lack of depth. Ohio State might have a stronger argument due to its more challenging non-conference resume, but neither the Buckeyes nor the Wolverines want to be in that position.

Ohio State wide receiver Julian Fleming (4) catches the pass as Michigan defensive back DJ Turner (5) defends during the second half of their 2022 game at Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State wide receiver Julian Fleming (4) catches the pass as Michigan defensive back DJ Turner (5) defends during the second half of their 2022 game at Ohio Stadium.

Jayden Daniels is this year’s Caleb Williams

There have been some exceptions, but for the most part the Heisman Trophy has gone to a player on a title contender in the sport’s playoff era. One of those exceptions was last year, however, as Caleb Williams simply put up numbers that were too strong to ignore despite his USC Trojans falling short in the Pac-12 finale. Jayden Daniels has a similar argument this year. LSU can’t win the SEC, but the Tigers’ dual-threat QB leads the nation in total offense with 4,082 yards, including 918 rushing. His magnum opus came Saturday night when he torched Florida for 606 total yards and five touchdowns, and the Tigers needed most of them in a 52-35 victory.

Unfortunately for Daniels, that might have been his last real chance to make an impression. Other candidates like Washington’s Michael Penix, Oregon’s Bo Nix, Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. and fast closing Jalen Milroe are going to have more opportunities in the spotlight in the season’s final weeks. But it does seem likely that Daniels earned himself at least a trip to New York, even if he doesn’t come home with a statue.

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They can breathe easy at SEC headquarters – the league champ is in

Some less than favorable September results threw the SEC’s accustomed position of superiority in the sport into doubt. But now that the league’s flagship programs are guaranteed to meet in Atlanta, there’s no way the SEC will be left out of the final foursome, right?

Probably not, but a couple teensy-weensy pieces of business must be handled first. Georgia has a final road trip to Tennessee before dealing with in-state foe Georgia Tech, and strange things occasionally happen to Alabama when Auburn hosts the Iron Bowl as will be the case in a couple of weeks. But assuming the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs reach Atlanta with still just the one loss between them, it’s conceivable but highly unlikely that the winner would be omitted. Georgia at 13-0 would be a lock, of course, and the résumé of a 12-1 Alabama that would necessarily include a win against the Bulldogs would figure to stack up favorably against most other one-loss candidates.

Ah, but what if one of those candidates is Texas? Does head-to-head trump all? There’s a case to be made that a result from Week 2 isn’t indicative of how the teams are playing in Week 14. This is the same kind of conundrum that often comes up in the committee room during basketball season as November results are weighed against February and March performances. Suffice it to say that however the committee resolves this potential issue should it arise, somebody’s extremely vocal fan base is not going to be happy.

Oregon State – last agent of chaos?

Say this for the soon-to-be-erstwhile Pac-12. It has given us one heck of a last ride. Washington and Oregon have the inside track to a rematch, with the winner likely to earn strong playoff consideration if not an outright guarantee. But one of the teams left behind in the realignment derby might have a last laugh.

Oregon State gets a crack at both league leaders in the final two weeks of the regular season. The Beavers are fresh off hanging 62 on Stanford, not exactly welcome news for Washington’s struggling defense as it prepares to visit Corvallis next week. The Beavers then head to Eugene looking to upend the Ducks for a second consecutive season. Oregon State fans would love nothing better than to spoil the Pac-12’s last party. It probably won’t happen, but we’ll certainly enjoy the show.

Every school needs a Tyler from Spartanburg

A couple of weeks ago, Clemson was sitting at 4-4 following a lackluster loss to North Carolina State. But since coach Dabo Swinney infamously went off on a disgruntled fan who called into his radio show, the Tigers have suddenly started to look like Clemson again, following up an upset of Notre Dame with a dominant performance against an improved Georgia Tech squad. Coincidence? Probably, but sometimes the smallest of sparks goes a long way toward firing up a team.

On the other hand, encouraging entitled fans to pop off, either on air or on the internet, isn’t always going to produce desired results. College football programs need their supporters, of course, but when those relationships get frayed, things often go badly for all involved. So Tyler from Spartanburg said his piece and might have gotten a positive response from his favorite team, but don’t expect that to work for everyone.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football Week 11 overreactions: Two Big Ten teams in playoff?