What a wild weekend of college football. Three of the top four teams in the country lost on the same day for the first time since 1985 and drastically changed the landscape of this college football season. The implications of these losses extend far beyond the College Football Playoff picture. Each team was exposed, and at least two conference races have been busted wide open.
Here’s what we can take away from a Saturday saturated with amazing football:
Clemson’s D has been exposed and Tigers fans should be concerned
Clemson and Louisville are the only two teams with one loss in the ACC, and Clemson owns the tiebreaker over Louisville. All Clemson has to do is beat Wake Forest (6-4, 3-3 ACC), a team coming off a loss in which they gave up 44 straight points to Louisville after leading 12-0.
However, there are concerns about Clemson’s defense moving forward.
The Tigers gave up 43 points to Pitt, which was the second-highest point total the Panthers have scored all season. On top of that, Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman threw for 308 yards and five touchdowns (both career highs) and tight end Scott Ordnoff caught a career high in passes, yards, and touchdowns.
Three games ago, Clemson had to claw back from behind to beat Florida State after giving up 34 points, the Tigers’ second-highest point total given up on the season (up to that point).
The Florida State offense is statistically much more potent than Pitt’s, but Clemson’s defense has definitely been struggling. And teams like Virginia Tech and North Carolina may have a chance to take advantage in the ACC Championship game should Clemson make it that far. I think there is a good chance the Tigers lose that game if it comes down to it.
However, if Clemson doesn’t lose another game this season, it will be a no-brainer selection to play in the College Football Playoff.
Michigan’s loss puts Penn State in the Big Ten driver’s seat, not Ohio State
Michigan was definitely impressive early in the season, demolishing Colorado and Penn State in weeks three and four, respectively. Colorado is now ranked 12th in the latest AP poll, and Penn State has jumped up to number nine.
However, since that week four win, Michigan has had a few games that have raised some question marks. On October 1, Michigan barely squeaked by Wisconsin at home, beating the Badgers in a 14-7 defensive battle. It proceeded to walk all over Rutgers and Illinois (as most Big Ten teams have) then struggled against Michigan State on the road, winning by a score of 32-23.
This is not the same Michigan State team that we’ve seen the last few years. This Michigan State team is 3-7 and is in the bottom half of the conference in total offense and defense.
This weekend, Michigan lost its first game of the season at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes, 14-13. Iowa is 6-4 this season and is, by no means, the worst team to lose to. However, a loss to Iowa is not what a team vying for a playoff bid wants on its résumé.
Based on Michigan’s track record, it’s safe to assume Ohio State will dispose of Jim Harbaugh’s boys when they visit the Horseshoe in two weeks. The Buckeyes have been dominant since they suffered their only loss of the season at Penn State.
The Buckeyes are trending upward, and the Wolverines are trending downward (but I’ll admit, at a far more gradual slope).
If the Buckeyes win next week against Michigan State and take care of Michigan after that, the Buckeyes will have no problem making the playoff, as they’re already ranked number two by the Associated Press.
However, Penn State holds the tie-breaker over Ohio State and has a very favorable remaining schedule. The Nittany Lions will win their remaining two games and we will see them representing the Big Ten East in the conference championship game. A Penn State win in Indianapolis would give them a very solid case for a playoff bid, setting up a potential rematch with Ohio State.
Washington’s loss may cause a PAC-12 absence from this year’s playoff
USC’s win over Washington made the Huskies the last PAC-12 team to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. It also helped Washington State jump to the top of the PAC-12 North Standings.
Teams from the PAC-12 have been beating up on each other all season. In fact, Washington is the only team with only one loss, and the Huskies still have meetings with Arizona State and Washington State, and possibly a matchup with Colorado, USC, or Utah in the conference championship game.
Washington has played very well this season. All but two of its wins have been convincing, but with the way the PAC-12 teams are beating up on each other this season, it is very possible that we see Washington lose one more time. That would mean the PAC-12 champion would have two losses and there should be plenty of one-loss, non-conference-champion teams that will be more deserving of a playoff berth.
However, if Washington does find a way to win its last three games, the committee will be hard pressed to leave them out of the playoff.
The Playoff Committee will have no easy task
There are a lot of conference titles to be determined, and there will be a lot of one loss teams with a very formidable résumé for the College Football Playoff Committee to choose from when the regular season comes to a close.
Be sure to check out Cooper Goetz’s ongoing coverage of the playoff selection process for more scenarios and opinions.
E-mail Evan at evan [dot] skilliter [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @evanskilliter.
Photo: Sarah McDevitt, Flickr