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College Football Upset Week Recap, Playoff Projection and Heisman Prediction

The playoff field remains very fluid

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Only six undefeated power five teams remain: Alabama, Georgia TCU, Miami, Penn State and Wisconsin. And we’re losing plenty of one loss teams.

On what looked like a boring weekend—nobody in the top 10 played a ranked team—four top ten teams fell and other playoff contenders looked vulnerable.

We’ll start out West, where PAC-12 after dark was no friend to Washington or Washington State.


On Friday, Washington State was demolished by Cal, 37-3. The Cougars knocked off USC the week prior and were a trendy playoff pick. But Mike Leach’s squad was eviscerated, and he had a fun rant:

USC kept their playoff hopes alive by stopping Utah’s two point conversion attempt with less than a minute remaining. The Utes had a receiver wide open on the play, but Utah’s quarterback never saw him. At 4-2, Utah is out of the playoff race. The Trojans live to try and survive another week.

PAC-12 after dark gave us another huge upset. Arizona State knocked off Washington, 13-7. Phil Bennett’s defense gave up 52 to Texas Tech earlier in the season. They’ve improved quite a bit. Washington might say the Sun Devils have gotten a lot luckier too, but that’s just hating on a great catch:

The PAC-12 has zero undefeated teams. The league can only produce a single one loss team because Washington and Washington State have to play, and then the winner of that game—at best for the league—would take on a one loss USC team.

Washington still looks like the best team in the PAC-12, but their offense better turn things around if the PAC-12 doesn’t want to miss the playoff for the second time in three seasons.


Dino Babers did what? Clemson went into Syracuse with a defensive line that had been college football’s best unit. But Syracuse’s line held up all game and paved the way for a 27-24 upset of Clemson. And a familiar chant took over the Carrier Dome:

Miami pulled off a close win against Georgia Tech, 25-24. The Hurricanes host Syracuse next week. They also have to play Virginia, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. Miami may be 5-0 with a bright future, but I don’t see them finishing the season 7-1 or 8-0.

North Carolina State also looms. The Wolfpack opened the season with a loss to South Carolina and almost everyone wrote them off. But the Wolfpack have now won six straight games. They’ll need to beat Clemson and Notre Dame, then likely would play Miami for an ACC crown. A tough road, but at least they still have a road.


The SEC is the conference of coaches on the hot seat. Butch Jones lost to South Carolina, which moves him to 3-3 on the season. There may be no worse clock manager in the country.

Bret Bielema is now 2-4, following a 41-9 loss to Alabama. The Razorbacks have not been close to nationally relevant in his five seasons.

Barry Odom is only in year two, but Missouri is 1-5. The Tigers were tied with Georgia 21-21. They were outscored 31-7 the rest of the way. Things aren’t great in Columbia.

LSU knocked off Auburn to leave two playoff contenders in the SEC. The Tigers led 20-7, and then Coach O took over. Or as the great PFTCommenter opined:

Gus Malzahn could be in trouble too. Auburn fired Gene Chizik two seasons after winning a national championship. The Tigers still have Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M. Even if he wins one of those games, the Tigers could still make a change at 8-4.

In relevant SEC news, Alabama looks like the best team in the country. The Tide didn’t look dominant against Texas A&M, but they were better at just about every position against Arkansas. If Auburn loses to Georgia or Texas A&M, the Tide could lose to Auburn and still make the SEC title game.

Georgia might have a good playoff case at 12-1 over a 12-1 conference champion in some other leagues. The Bulldogs have a win at Notre Dame, and they still have South Carolina and Auburn. If the Bulldogs only loss is to Alabama, they’d be a more deserving team than the PAC-12 Champion.

Big Ten:

This is a terrible league that is set up to get a playoff team. Ohio State and Penn State are very good teams. Wisconsin looks pretty good. And then the rest of the league looks like mediocre to terrible.

Michigan needed overtime to beat Indiana. Jim Harbaugh makes $10 million a year, so he’s rightfully facing some scrutiny in year three. The Wolverines need to get an offensive line and a quarterback by next season.

Ohio State crushed Nebraska. The Huskers either need to grab Scott Frost from UCF, or they need to run the option again. Nebraska has not been relevant in the national title race since stupidly firing Frank Solich in 2003.

Penn State-Ohio State in two weeks should crown the Big Ten East champion. The Nittany Lions play back-to-back weeks, while Ohio State get a bye before hosting Penn State. What a catastrophic schedule for Penn State.

Wisconsin keeps winning, but they’re not going to play a top 25 team until the Big Ten Championship Game. Literally zero top 25 opponents in a 12 game season. They avoid Penn State and Ohio State during the regular season. I really think a 12-1 TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Georgia would have a better playoff case than even a 13-0 Wisconsin. But the committee won’t leave out an undefeated conference champion. If the Badgers lose a single game, they should be out of the playoff picture. Ranting aside, the Badger is a great mascot:

Big 12:

A week after hearing the Big 12 was done because Oklahoma lost to Iowa State, three teams in the conference still feel like they can make the playoffs.

The Frogs dealt with several lightning delays before knocking off Kansas State, 26-6. The Frogs are 6-0 and already won at Oklahoma State. They could lose to Oklahoma in the regular season and would still likely make the playoff if they won the Big 12 Championship Game and finished 12-1. Their win at Oklahoma State, coupled with a Big 12 Championship Game victory would likely propel them over the PAC-12’s best remaining team.

The Sooners survived against Texas. This was sadly not a catch, and that ruling meant Texas couldn’t throw into the end zone on the final play:

The Cowboys decimated the Bears, 59-16. We’ll discuss Baylor more in other posts, but the Cowboys are for real. They need to beat Oklahoma, then they’d also have to beat TCU in a rematch. That’s tough, but the Cowboys could do it.

Playoff Projection:

As always, these are my guesses for how things unfold by the end of the season.

1) Alabama- The Tide look better than everyone. Maybe they blow a game they shouldn’t lose or Georgia knocks them off. I don’t see that happening though.

2) Clemson- The Tigers showed some vulnerability against Syracuse, and if Kelly Bryant’s concussion leaves him out for long, then it could be dicey for Clemson. The Tigers had a few scares last season too. This team is immensely talented, and I’ll take them to win out.

3) TCU- They’ve knocked off Oklahoma State and West Virginia already. The Frogs should be in the playoff as long as they win the Big 12 Championship Game and finish the season at least 12-1.

4) Penn State- The team that wins in Columbus should win the Big Ten. Both Penn State and Ohio State look much better than Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions will likely be the underdog against the Buckeyes, but they’re better.

Missing the cut:

5) Georgia- I have the Bulldogs finishing 12-1, with only a loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship. But if Clemson, TCU and Penn State finish their schedules at 12-1 with a conference title, I’m guessing the committee will leave the Bulldogs out.

6) Washington- The Huskies could go 12-1, and I’d have them below Georgia. They beat Rutgers in non-conference and the PAC-12 is worse than the other power five leagues.

Heisman Prediction:

Once again, this is my guess for the end of the season.

1) Bryce Love- He’s run for 1,387 yards. He averages 10.3 yards per carry. And he’s top five in rushing touchdowns. Stanford is not going to make the playoff, and the PAC-12 struggles because people on the East Coast seem to struggle with the idea that the best player in the country could play in the coast that is much better to live. But sometime the statistics are just too much to ignore. Love for Heisman.

2) Saquon Barkley- His receiving and returning stats will help immensely. His yards per carry will keep him below Love.

3) Baker Mayfield- If the Sooners win the Big 12, he’ll have a great shot to win this award. But I now think TCU is better, and it’s Love’s award to lose.