Week Nine featured multiple top-ten teams getting thoroughly dismantled (Oklahoma State, Wake Forest), last-minute comeback victories (Fresno State), and a couple of tight wins that helped keep unbeaten teams unbeaten a little longer (Ohio State, TCU). Unfortunately, we have no more clarity in the Playoff race after this week, but we do have lots of teams that will be right on the bubble of a bowl berth thanks to some upset victories, like Louisville and Missouri’s huge wins over ranked squads.
As we enter November, there are plenty of Playoff-related questions to be resolved, as well as jockeying for better bowl berths, rivalry bragging rights, and more. The best month of the college football season is upon us!
📈 Trending Up:
- Tennessee (8-0): The Vols laid waste to the formerly #22 Kentucky last week, 44-6, a week after laying waste (appropriately) to FCS Tennessee-Martin. Tennessee has now beaten an elite team in Alabama and has blown out some above-average SEC teams, including Kentucky and LSU. There’s really not much to nitpick about the Volunteers right now, given that they have played really well in close games and have blown out more than their share of teams, too.
- Georgia (8-0): The Dawgs keep on rolling, having won all their games to kick off the season in pretty dominating fashion. Since their close win at Missouri, Georgia has won each of their games by 3 touchdowns or more, and they still have that high-quality win over Oregon from Week 1 in their back pocket. They’ll get their best test of the season this week against Tennessee, but there’s still a pretty decent possibility that they’ll make the Playoff even as a 1-loss, non-champion team.
- Boise State (6-2): The Broncos are in the midst of an excellent run, having won their last 4 games. They crushed San Diego State and Fresno State to start, then traveled to Colorado Springs to beat a solid Air Force team, and then went right back to blowing teams out with a 49-10 drubbing of Colorado State last week. The Broncos get BYU at home this week before resuming their campaign for a Mountain West title against Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah State.
- TCU (8-0): The Frogs won another one this week, even if they struggled a bit initially against West Virginia in Morgantown. Max Duggan is still That Dude and Sonny Dykes is quite the miracle worker, so until they lose, TCU is trending up. TCU finishes out the year with three straight Texas teams (Tech, UT, Baylor), and then Iowa State.
- Illinois (7-1): Six. Straight Wins. The Illini simply cannot be stopped! Granted, they’ve racked up the wins against the Big Ten West, which isn’t a division of studs by any stretch, but they’ve looked pretty good doing it. They continued their stretch of comfortable wins by taking care of business against Nebraska. The Huskers jumped out to a 9-6 lead early in the second quarter, but Illinois answered 3 minutes later and never looked back. Illinois gets the backsliding Michigan State next week and Purdue the following week, so they could be 9-1 rolling into Ann Arbor on November 19th.
- Oregon (7-1): The Ducks’ offense is so hot that they’ll have to play World Cup games in a different season of the year. A week after putting together a jaw-dropping offensive output against UCLA, Oregon went right back to it against Cal, scoring 42 points in a laugher in Berkeley. Bo Nix is playing out of his gourd at the moment, as he has been responsible for 11 touchdowns over the past two weeks. Oregon’s remaining schedule features Colorado, Washington, Utah, and Oregon State in that order. It’s very possible they enter the PAC-12 Championship game at 11-1.
- Ohio State (8-0): Penn State put a little bit of a scare into the Buckeyes, but OSU kept on chugging, thanks to a 28-point fourth quarter. OSU gets Northwestern next, so I’ll see you all at 9-0.
- Fresno State (4-4): The Bulldogs have finally turned it around after a brutal stretch to open the season. They’ve now won 3 in a row, including a dramatic win over San Diego State at home last week. In that win, Fresno State scored twice in 13 seconds to turn an 11-point deficit into a 4-point lead with under a minute to go. Fresno State still has Hawaii and Nevada in two of their final four games, so we could see the Bulldogs in a bowl game come December.
Also considered: East Carolina, Louisville, North Carolina, Kansas State
📉 Trending Down:
- Oklahoma State (6-2): State’s last three games have come against TCU, Texas, and Kansas State, a pretty good set of opponents. They even got a win over Texas during that stretch! However, having lost 2 of their last 3, with the most recent loss coming in embarrassing fashion (48-0) against Kansas State, I’m sounding the alarm on the Cowboys. Lucky for them, Ok. State has a 4-game stretch that features Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, so they should be able to get back on track.
- Texas A&M (3-5): The Aggies lost their fourth consecutive game of the season to Ole Miss last week. One of the most frustrating things for A&M, besides the fact that Jimbo Fisher is still the head coach and that Aggies players are getting suspended left and right, is that they’ve lost 3 consecutive 1-score games now. To make a bowl game, A&M will need to win 3 of their last 4 against Florida, Auburn, UMass, and LSU.
- BYU (4-5): The Cougars are on quite the backslide now, having lost 4 consecutive games to fall below .500. They lost in blowout fashion in their games against Arkansas and Liberty, but their worst loss of the season was this week, against East Carolina at home. They don’t have a ton of time to turn it around, given that they only have 3 more games, but the Cougars play Boise State, Utah Tech, and Stanford to close out the season, so they have a fighting chance at a bowl berth.
- Virginia Tech (2-6): Tech opened the season with 2 wins in their first 3 games. Granted, one of them was over FCS Wofford, and they probably should’ve beaten Old Dominion to open the season, but the Hokies didn’t look outright terrible. Since that win over Wofford, Tech has lost 4 consecutive games, including a big-time heartbreaker on Thursday, October 27, against #24 NC State. Tech led 21-10 at the opening of the fourth quarter, but proceeded to give up touchdowns on consecutive drives to give NC State the lead. Given an opportunity to retake the lead with 7 minutes remaining, the Hokies led a 3-play, -7 yard drive, and had to punt it away with 5-and-a-half minutes remaining. They never got the ball back.
- Iowa State (3-5): Speaking of teams on big backslides, the Cyclones kicked off the season with 3 consecutive wins, including a 3-point win over in-state rival Iowa in Week 2. Since that 3-game stretch, ISU has cratered, dropping 5 consecutive games to Big 12 opponents. They have the same affliction as Texas A&M, in that 4 of those 5 losses have come by a touchdown or less. ISU needs to win 3 of its final 4 games to reach bowl eligibility, but they will have to beat one of Oklahoma State or TCU to get there.
Also considered: Washington State
Ranking the Top 25 and Bottom 10 Teams
- I really wanted to move TCU above idle Alabama in this week’s rankings. The Horned Frogs have been excellent this season in just about every game, including wins over ranked teams like Oklahoma State and Kansas State. They’ve taken over the Big 12 in a down year for Oklahoma and have the best odds, per Bill Connelly’s SP+, to win the Big 12 title. I’m just not ready to lump them in with the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, etc. as the cream of the crop in the FBS landscape because they haven’t looked dominant enough to be there. They’re very good, but they’re not efficient like the top teams in college football are:
College Football's Most Efficient Teams through Week 9
OPPONENT-ADJUSTED P5 VERSION
🟢⬆️➡️: Good Offense, Good Defense
🔵⬆️⬅️: Good Offense, Defense Needs Work
🟡⬇️➡️: Bad Offense, Good Defense
🔴⬅️⬇️: We're technically a football program! pic.twitter.com/3m5yUuJ3u1
— parker (@statsowar) October 30, 2022
- If you look in the top left quadrant, you’ll see TCU in the same area as USC and UCLA, who score on practically every possession but whose defenses make fans lose sleep at night. That’s the mark of a very good, not great team. The teams that deserve to be ranked in the Top 6 are the teams in the top right quadrant, who have both the elite offense and the elite defense to make you terrified to play them. TCU needs to look the part of a Top-6 team to surpass Alabama, undefeated or not.
- Tulane looks like the class of the American and the Group of Five teams, and have played like it since that shocking loss to Southern Mississippi in Week 4. The Green Wave also have that quality win over Kansas State on their resume, which is sure to come in handy when the Playoff Committee is selecting bowl placements for the American conference. I’m looking forward to the Tulane/UCF matchup in New Orleans in two weeks, because that will likely decide the American Conference title game participants.
- Liberty is a difficult program to gauge, and they have a lot of the same resume issues as Coastal Carolina does. The Flames and the Chanticleers are both 7-1, which is very good, but to get there, they have played some middling-to-awful teams. Pretty much any decent college football team could go 3-0 in a stretch that includes Akron, Old Dominion, and UMass, and the Flames didn’t shred those three like a team in the Top 25 should. The reason Liberty is on this list and Coastal is not is that Liberty now has the huge win over BYU, showing that they’re worthy of the Top 25. Coastal doesn’t have a signature win; they just have 7 decent wins and an ugly loss to Old Dominion.
Also Receiving Votes:
- Coastal Carolina
- Kentucky — The Wildcats have lost three of their last 4, but I’m willing to give them a pass for the South Carolina loss because they were missing starting QB Will Levis. Even with Levis, Kentucky looked lost against Tennessee, falling 44-6 in Knoxville. They’ve got Missouri and Vanderbilt next, so if they can get back on track, they’ll be 7-3 before hosting Georgia in Lexington.
- Maryland — The Terrapins keep hanging around in the Big Ten, and are now 6-2 heading into their final 4 games. They’ve won the games they’re supposed to win, and have been a tough out in the games they’ve lost — a 2-point defeat to Purdue and a 7-point loss to Michigan. A win against Wisconsin will be enough to propel the Terps into the Top 25.
- Cincinnati — The Bearcats had ripped off 6 straight wins after their opening loss to Arkansas but finally bit the bullet against UCF last week. Their resume looks a little weak to warrant a Top 25 ranking, especially since they haven’t won a game by double digits since Week 5’s game against Tulsa. They shouldn’t stay out of the Top 25 for long, though.
- South Carolina — The Gamecocks had finally reached the promised land of the Top 25! They were coming off wins against Kentucky and Texas A&M, which the Gamecocks don’t normally win! Then, they flopped against Missouri?
Playoff and Bowl Projections
Article Featured Image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)