Talk about an embarrassment of college football riches. This marks the second straight weekend in which seven games will be played that match up two ranked teams in the Associated Press poll.
But that’s not all. The top three teams in the nation – Alabama, Georgia, and Notre Dame – are all on the road, something that has never happened this late in the season.
We get the feeling that the College Football Playoff selection committee will have plenty of popcorn ready for about 12 hours of viewing Saturday, from Michigan State-Ohio State and Oklahoma State-Iowa State, starting at noon, until Notre Dame-Miami and Texas Christian-Oklahoma wrap up around midnight.
There are so many playoff implications on the line, but the one that attracts our attention is undefeated Wisconsin, which gets a chance to compete on the field against its first ranked team of 2017 in Iowa thanks to the Hawkeyes’ shocking 55-24 upset of Ohio State last week. The Badgers, No. 8 in this week’s CFP rankings, will get another shot next week at a Top 25 win if Michigan can defeat Maryland.
Badgers coach Paul Chryst appears indifferent to the CFP list, not knowing his team’s updated rank and not caring that his team is ranked behind four one-loss teams.
“What’s that mean?” he said. “It’s cool. I’m not trying to downplay it. There’s interest, and it’s cool. But for the kids and for us, all that matters is trying to maximize this week. None of it matters until the end.”
Wisconsin picked up its first Top 25 win this week without a single snap after the CFP panel placed Northwestern at No. 25. The Badgers defeated the Wildcats on Sept. 30.
An obsolete narrative
We liked the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Catholics vs. Convicts on the Notre Dame-Miami rivalry of a generation ago, but that narrative is outdated even if the Hurricanes have come up this season with something called a turnover chain, a gold necklace with a “U” pendant that is handed out to any defensive player claiming a takeaway.
Miami players say the chain provides some swagger for their team. Notre Dame is claiming some swagger of its own, with quarterback Brandon Wimbush saying after last week’s win over Wake Forest: “When we head down to Miami, it will be the same outcome, with a ‘W,’ but in a more dominant and convincing way.”
The game will feature the Fighting Irish’s outstanding running game against the solid front seven of the Hurricanes. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly put to rest any injury problems with running back Josh Adams (Central Bucks South), who sat out the last three quarters a week ago with what was believed to be a concussion.
Kelly said Adams didn’t feel quite right, but did not have a concussion.
Where’s the defense?
With the nation’s No. 1 offense and road wins at Ohio State and Oklahoma State, Oklahoma has earned a No. 5 ranking from the CFP selection committee. But the question after the release of Tuesday night’s rankings centered on whether the Sooners defense will drag them down.
Oklahoma enters its game against TCU with the 87th-ranked defense in FBS (413.1 yards per game, 5.9 yards per play). Selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said that while the team’s complete body of work is studied, “we don’t necessarily get into breaking down the defense.”
It might be worth breaking down in the final three weeks. The Sooners’ last three regular-season opponents are the Horned Frogs (39th in total offense), Kansas (104th), and West Virginia (sixth, 516 yards per game). But as coaches everywhere say, “There’s nothing like winning.”
Going for the gold
Georgia, No. 1 in the CFP rankings, already has clinched the SEC East and a spot in the conference championship game in three weeks. A win over Auburn will mark the Bulldogs’ first 10-0 start since 1982, when they fell just short of a national championship, as Penn State fans certainly remember. Georgia hasn’t won the SEC championship in 12 years, and you have to go back to 1980 to find the Bulldogs’ last national title. None of that, however, is a major concern for coach Kirby Smart or his players. “Our concern has always been on the next opponent, and this is really where we are now,” he said.
Expatriate of the week
Penn Charter graduate Mike McGlinchey passed on an opportunity to enter the NFL draft after the 2016 season, and instead returned to Notre Dame for his senior year. The 6-foot-8, 315-pound left tackle for the Fighting Irish has to be glad he did come back, helping the Irish compile an 8-1 record thanks to a successful rushing attack, including seven games of more than 300 yards on the ground. The extra year hasn’t hurt McGlinchey’s draft stock – he is considered a first-round pick by just about every mock draft online.
Games of the week
Michigan State at Ohio State, noon, Fox29: The Buckeyes find themselves in a battle for the Big Ten East lead for the second time in three weeks. The big question is whether quarterback J.T. Barrett can rebound from last week’s horrendous four-interception performance.
Georgia at Auburn, 3:30 p.m., CBS3: The SEC East-champ Bulldogs have relied on their deep stable of running backs to climb to No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings, but true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm likely will have to make some throws to hold off the Tigers at home.
Notre Dame at Miami, 8 p.m., 6ABC: The offensive line of the Fighting Irish has answered all challenges this season in leading the team’s dynamic running game headlined by Central Bucks South graduate Josh Adams, but they face a monumental task in trying to block the Hurricanes’ tough front seven.
Texas Christian at Oklahoma, 8 p.m., Fox29: What a matchup between the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense (Sooners, 45.0 points per game) and its sixth-ranked scoring defense (Horned Frogs, 13.9 ppg). The thought here is that the Oklahoma defense is the key to victory.
QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, 6-1, 220, R-Sr., Austin, Texas
Mayfield vaulted to the top of some Heisman Trophy leader boards last week by completing 24 of 36 passes for 598 yards and five touchdowns in leading the Sooners to a 62-52 victory over Oklahoma State and up to fifth place in the College Football Playoff rankings. Mayfield leads the nation in passing efficiency, completion percentage (71.7), yards per attempt (11.9), and yards per completion (16.5). He is second in passing yards (3,226) and tied for third in touchdown passes (28).
The Inquirer Top 10
- Alabama (9-0)
- Georgia (9-0)
- Notre Dame (8-1)
- Clemson (8-1)
- Wisconsin (9-0)
- Oklahoma (8-1)
- Miami (8-0)
- Texas Christian (8-1)
- Washington (8-1)
- Southern California (8-2)