The college football snow globe was shaken up in Week 7. What we thought we knew about the Power Five conferences and who might compete to win them has changed drastically.
I wrote last week about the chance for complete chaos in the College Football Playoff selection. That possibility is still there, but many narratives have shifted and we are now looking at a very different college football landscape because of the crazy Week 7 results.
West Virginia came into the week undefeated and they got spanked 30-14 against Iowa State. Michigan State pulled off the 21-17 upset on the road against Penn State, effectively eliminating the Nittany Lions from the playoff and conference contention (no team has ever made the playoff with two losses.) Oregon beat Washington 30-27, giving the Huskies their second loss of the season. Michigan crushed Wisconsin 38-13, handing the Badgers their second loss.
Perhaps the biggest result of the weekend was in Baton Rouge, where LSU convincingly beat Georgia 36-16. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 2 going into the week and had rolled everyone on their schedule. LSU had just lost the week before to Florida.
Last week I had the following teams as playoff contenders: Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Washington, Penn State, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Wisconsin, LSU and Florida.
Penn State, Washington and Wisconsin got their second losses and were effectively eliminated from the playoff, while Georgia and West Virginia both lost and drastically hurt their standings.
Michigan made a massive leap to No. 6 after dismantling the Badgers and LSU kept their hopes alive and jumped to No. 5 after their win against Georgia.
The biggest change happened in the Pac-12. After Oregon beat Washington, they have been elevated into the playoff conversation. Preseason projections had Stanford and Washington as the teams to beat in the conference and for good reason. Those two teams have largely dominated that conference in recent years alongside USC.
First year Oregon coach Mario Cristobal has flipped that script. The Ducks took care of Washington last week and now appear to be in the driver's seat for the Pac-12.
In the SEC, it’s now looking like there are two games that will determine how the conference pans out.
Georgia vs Florida in Jacksonville next weekend will likely determine who makes it out of the East division.
The other game is Alabama at LSU in Week 9. LSU got the ship back on track after their close loss to Florida with a convincing win against the Bulldogs. Their win against Georgia has placed a lot of weight on their upcoming game against the Crimson Tide. The winner of those two SEC battles will almost certainly face each other in Atlanta for the conference championship game.
After Michigan lost to Notre Dame in Week 1, it was assumed that it was going to be between Penn State and Ohio State in the Big Ten East division and Wisconsin would dominate the West. Michigan and Michigan State had different ideas. When MSU took down Penn State and Michigan pounded Wisconsin, it opened the door for Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State to compete with OSU for the conference championship.
Wisconsin has not been at all impressive thus far but they still control their own destiny in returning to the Big Ten Championship game because of their win against Iowa. Both teams still have to play at Penn State.
When Texas lost in Week 1 to Maryland everyone took their jabs. “Texas is back,” jokes were relentlessly made and rightfully so. The Longhorns lost to one of the laughingstocks of the Big Ten for the second straight year. Texas hasn’t been doing much laughing since then. The Longhorns are in a great position to win the extremely contested Big 12. Texas is undefeated in the conference with a win against Oklahoma already in the bag.
The games that will likely decide the conference are West Virginia at Texas and Oklahoma at West Virginia.
The Big 12 Championship game is just a match up of the top two teams so in all likelihood it will be two of the three teams mentioned above. Besides those three teams and Texas Tech, every other team already has two losses in conference play.
As far as the ACC goes, it is basically Clemson’s to lose. The Tigers play undefeated NC State this weekend and the winner of that will likely come out of the ACC Atlantic division, while in the Coastal division it appears it’s going to be either Virginia Tech or Miami.
Last week we thought we knew how things would go in college football. Then chaos happened. Or at least we thought it was chaos.
A major part of predicting the college football season is based on what you thought about teams before the season. It’s the nature of the game. Success in the sport is based off how well you deal with turnover every year and some years teams just don’t have it and there is no real way of predicting when that will happen.
So even when you are in Week 5 or Week 6, you are still relying a lot on reputations of programs and preseason projections of teams because conference play is just starting and most teams haven’t played the meat of their schedules yet (except for you Notre Dame.)
That is why no one expected Oregon to be controlling the Pac-12 with a first year head coach while Stanford struggled with veteran coach David Shaw. The Stanford offense that is typically known for their smash-mouth football and their running game rank 126th in the nation in rushing yards with 85.7 yards per game. That is fourth from last in the nation.
What evidence was there that LSU was going to be a real competitor in the SEC after they went 9-4 the year before? How about Penn State returning one of, if not the best quarterbacks in college football in Trace McSorley but already having two losses.
The lesson to be learnt here is that you can do your homework, you can look at past records and you can look at how teams have performed through half of the season, but no matter what college football will surprise you. And that is what drags us back again and again.
Is Alabama really good? Yes. Is Clemson probably going to make the playoff again? Sure thing. But the week to week surprises among the 129 Division 1 teams is what we all love.