Tuesday, the first set of College Football Playoff rankings came out. Saturday, two of the top four teams in those rankings lost.
With No. 4 Penn State losing at No. 17 Minnesota and No. 3 Alabama losing at home to No. 2 LSU, 2019 became a first in the playoff era. It was the first time that two of the top four teams in the first playoff rankings had lost on the ensuing weekend.
We’re set for some big changes on Tuesday when the second set of rankings come out. And we’re not sure what those changes will look like. How far will both Alabama and Penn State fall in the rankings? How far will Minnesota rise up from No. 17 at 9-0? Will No. 12 Baylor, which won in three overtimes, be ranked in the top 10?
What we do know is what the top three will look like. It’s certain that Ohio State, LSU and Clemson will be in the top three. After that, it’s a crapshoot. Here’s our best guess at the rest of the top 10.
No. 10 Penn State
Yes, we’re dropping Penn State six spots in our hypothetical playoff rankings after the 31-26 loss to Minnesota on Saturday. But here’s the thing: Penn State is still very much alive and well in the playoff race.
Sure, the margin for error is gone. But if Penn State beats Ohio State on Nov. 23 and then wins the Big Ten title at 12-1, it’s likely going to make the playoff. That’s easier said than done, however.
When you combine Sean Clifford’s three-interception game with Ohio State’s 73-14 win over Maryland it’s easy to see how Penn State will be overmatched when it heads to Columbus in a couple weeks.
No. 9 Minnesota
The Gophers should make a significant jump in the rankings after that win over PSU. Tanner Morgan threw just two incompletions on Saturday as wide receivers Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman ran wild over Penn State’s defense. A win at Iowa in Week 12 would solidify Minnesota’s status as a top-10 team and keep the Gophers on a course to win the Big Ten West and play Ohio State or Penn State in the Big Ten title game.
No. 8 Oklahoma
The Sooners held off a late charge from Iowa State, stopping a go-ahead ISU two-point conversion in the final minute in a 42-41 victory. Despite nearly blowing a big lead, the win was good enough to move Oklahoma up a spot and stay ahead of a 9-0 Baylor team that beat TCU in triple-overtime on Saturday. Oklahoma goes to Baylor in Week 12 in a game that we’ll probably see again in the Big 12 title game. If Oklahoma beats Baylor twice, just how far up will the Sooners move in the CFP rankings?
No. 7 Utah
This was the best weekend that the Pac-12 could have envisioned. Neither of its top two teams played as both Utah and Oregon were off and two of the top four teams went down. Both Utah and Oregon should move ahead of Penn State in the rankings thanks to Minnesota’s relatively low ranking at the beginning of the week. But Alabama will probably stay ahead of both of them.
No. 6 Oregon
The Ducks have three winnable games remaining with Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon State on the schedule. Not bad for a team that’s reeled off eight straight wins following a loss to Auburn. Since Utah didn’t play either on Saturday, the Ducks should stay ahead of the Utes. But since Auburn is worse than LSU, the Ducks will get stuck behind the Crimson Tide.
No. 5 Alabama
We’re not going to be surprised if Alabama ends up at No. 4 when the rankings come out on Tuesday. Why? The Crimson Tide only lost by five and Tua Tagovailoa was playing his first game since suffering an ankle injury against Tennessee and clearly wasn’t 100 percent. But we’re thinking the Tide will be at No. 5 because there’s no signature win on the schedule. Georgia may have a worse loss but it also has better wins.
No. 4 Georgia
The Bulldogs paved the way to another SEC East title with an easy win over Missouri on Saturday night. And despite a loss to South Carolina at home Georgia, they should be the No. 4 team in the country on Tuesday. UGA has beaten both Florida and Notre Dame so far and can solidify its resume with a win over Auburn in Week 12. Georgia also controls its own playoff destiny too. A 12-1 Georgia team that beats the SEC West champion in the SEC title game is a playoff lock.
Illinois: The Illini are going to a bowl game for the first time since 2014 and it took the biggest comeback in program history for that to come to fruition. Illinois trailed Michigan State 28-3 in the second quarter but stormed all the way back to win 37-34 on a Brandon Peters touchdown pass to Daniel Barker with five seconds remaining. It was Peters’ third TD pass of the game, but the biggest play for the Illini was a 76-yard pick six by Sydney Brown with 4:53 to play. That score should have tied the game at 31-31, but James McCourt — the hero from the Wisconsin upset — missed the extra point.
But it wouldn’t matter. After an MSU field goal, the Illini embarked on a 75-yard drive, converting a fourth-and-17 along the way. An MSU pass interference penalty on fourth-and-goal kept Illinois’ hopes alive, and Peters made the Spartans pay in the end. Illinois has now won four straight Big Ten games after winning four conference games combined in Smith’s first three seasons in Champaign.
Western Kentucky QB Ty Storey: Arkansas hit rock bottom on Saturday, falling 45-19 to Western Kentucky in Fayetteville. WKU was led offensively by ex-Arkansas QB Ty Storey, who threw for 213 yards, rushed for 77 and scored three total TDs in the win. Storey was Arkansas’ starting QB last year, but transferred after Arkansas coach Chad Morris pursued — and ultimately landed — multiple grad transfer QBs. Those transfer QBs have not helped Morris. His record is 4-18 in two seasons at Arkansas — a tenure that could soon come to an end. While Arkansas dropped to 2-8, WKU improved to 6-4 and clinched bowl eligibility with the win.
Purdue QB Aidan O’Connell: Aidan O’Connell did it again. O’Connell, Purdue’s third-string quarterback, was pressed into duty last week and led the Boilermakers on a game-winning drive to defeat Nebraska. With Jack Plummer sidelined, O’Connell, a former walk-on, made his first career start vs. Northwestern on Saturday and led another game-winning drive. This time, O’Connell got the offense in position for J.D. Dellinger’s game-winning 39-yard field goal with three seconds remaining. O’Connell threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns in the win, which kept Purdue’s bowl hopes alive.
Miami: Miami appears to have things rolling now after a slow start. The Hurricanes won their third straight game on Saturday, trouncing Louisville 52-27 at home. Miami forced three Louisville turnovers and put up 449 yards of offense with quarterback Jarren Williams throwing a school-record six touchdown passes in the win. Things did not look good early in Manny Diaz’s first season, but the Hurricanes are now bowl eligible at 6-4 entering a bye week. Miami should be favored in its final two games, too.
Virginia and Virginia Tech: The ACC Coastal crown might be on the line when Virginia and Virginia Tech meet in Charlottesville on Nov. 29. Both teams won on Saturday — Virginia handled Georgia Tech 33-28, Virginia Tech upset No. 19 Wake Forest 36-17 — to stay in good position in the divisional standings. Virginia is 7-3 overall and 5-2 in ACC play while Virginia Tech is 6-3 (3-2 ACC). While UVA has a bye and a non-conference game against Liberty before facing the rival Hokies, Tech will travel to Georgia Tech and host Pitt. If the Hokies win those two games, it will set up a divisional championship game for the Commonwealth Cup. Virginia Tech, winners of four of their last five games after a miserable September, has won 15 straight in the series.
Appalachian State: App State now has two wins over Power Five teams this season, and both are from the Carolinas. The Mountaineers knocked off North Carolina 34-31 in Chapel Hill back on Sept. 21. On Saturday, they marched into Columbia and beat South Carolina, 20-15. Things got dicey late. The Gamecocks scored with 2:58 to go and then were in striking distance yet again, but a throw by Ryan Hilinski sailed out of the end zone, sealing the upset for App State. And thanks to Georgia Southern’s loss to Troy, App is again in control of the Sun Belt East.
Ryan Hilinski overthrows a wiiiiiide open Bryan Edwards and Appalachian State upsets South Carolina, 20-15. pic.twitter.com/7uxhpxUm0C— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) November 10, 2019
Tulsa: After losing heartbreakers to SMU and Memphis thanks in part to kicking woes, Tulsa finally pulled out a close win. Thanks to a late interception thrown by UCF QB Dillon Gabriel, Tulsa went ahead 34-31 on a Jacob Rainey field goal with 5:09 to play. On UCF’s ensuing drive, Tulsa forced a UCF turnover on downs near midfield. UCF had a chance to get the ball back when Tulsa went for it on fourth-and-1 from near midfield, but the Knights were penalized for an illegal substitution, giving Tulsa a first down and a win. Tulsa has played much better than its 3-7 record would suggest.
Chad Morris: Arkansas has now lost to four Group of Five teams during Chad Morris’ tenure as head coach: Colorado State, North Texas, San Jose State and Western Kentucky. And Saturday’s 45-19 loss to WKU could ultimately seal Morris’ SEC head-coaching fate. The Razorbacks, who gave up 478 yards to the Hilltoppers, are now 4-18 under Morris, including 0-14 in conference play. Arkansas has lost seven straight games entering its bye week with LSU and Missouri left on its schedule.
Wake Forest: No. 19 Wake Forest’s 36-19 loss to Virginia Tech could prove costly. First, it’ll likely mean just one ACC team (Clemson) is ranked when the CFP committee’s new Top 25 comes out on Tuesday. Now 7-2, the Demon Deacons will play Clemson in Death Valley next weekend — likely another loss. If Clemson cruises to another CFP berth, the ACC’s second-best team would slide into the Orange Bowl. Wake Forest, who plays Duke and Syracuse after Clemson, seemed in good position for that, but may have some competition for that spot from whoever wins the ACC Coastal.
Maryland: Maryland had a rough day. Not only did the Terps get absolutely demolished 73-14 by Ohio State, it lost its longest-tenured class of 2020 commitment on Saturday. And that recruit — three-star offensive lineman Jordan White — announced he was no longer committed to the Terps at halftime of the game, a game OSU led 42-0. White committed to the Terps back in March but is now looking at other options. The Terps dropped to 3-7 with the loss. It was the team’s fifth straight defeat.
West Virginia: West Virginia’s first season under Neal Brown has been a struggle. The Mountaineers began the year 3-1, but have since lost five consecutive Big 12 games. WVU nearly pulled off an upset over undefeated Baylor in Waco last week, but had a much tougher time with Texas Tech in a 38-17 home loss. WVU had 549 yards of offense, but turned it over four times in the loss. WVU will likely miss a bowl for the first time since 2013.
Stanford: Stanford is in danger of missing a bowl game for the first time since 2008. On Saturday, the Cardinal lost 16-13 to Colorado — a team that had lost five straight. Stanford took a 13-10 lead early in the fourth, but allowed two CU field goal drives that took more than 12 minutes total off the clock, including a 37-yarder as time expired. Now 4-5 on the year, Stanford needs to win two of its final three games — Washington State, Cal and No. 15 Notre Dame — to keep its bowl streak going.
Boston College: Boston College may have blown its best chance to get to a bowl game. The Eagles hosted Florida State, a team that just fired its head coach, on Saturday but ended up losing 38-31. BC managed to tie the game at 24-24 with 2:33 to play, but allowed touchdowns of 60 and 66 yards in a 45-second span. First, it was a 60-yard TD pass from James Blackman to D.J. Matthews. And after a Dennis Grosel interception, FSU’s Jordan Travis put the nail in the coffin with a 66-yard rushing score. BC now has to win one of its two road games — No. 15 Notre Dame and Pitt — to reach win No. 6.
Vanderbilt: Remember when Derek Mason puffed his chest out and talked about how he’s built for the Vanderbilt job after the Commodores upset Missouri? Well, things haven’t gone very well since then. Vandy got crushed 56-0 by No. 10 Florida on Saturday to drop to 2-7 on the season. Unless the Commodores can rally with a few wins down the stretch, new athletic director Malcolm Turner may be looking for a new coach.
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