Who’s Hot (and not) in college football entering Week 12. Chaos strikes as No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Washington fall on the same day.
It doesn’t matter if it’s NAIA or D3 or now at Eastern Michigan, this guy just keeps clearing hurdles and winning football games. In his third year coaching in Ypsilanti, where football is danger of financial insolvency, the 6-4 Eagles became bowl-eligible for just the second time this century. EMU hasn’t actually bowled since 1987, and will need to cop one of the next two against Northern Illinois and Central Michigan to reduce the chances of being overlooked when bids are issued next month.
In the Sun Belt game of the year with Appalachian State, the Trojans survived on a last-minute touchdown to remain unbeaten in league play. And with Arkansas State coming to The Vet this week, Troy has a chance to secure an outright championship with another victory. Neal Brown’s Trojans haven’t lost since falling at Clemson by six points on Sept. 10, which has not been lost on Power Five athletic directors in the market for a young coach with a high ceiling.
A year after going winless in George O’Leary’s final season in Orlando, the Knights are bowl-eligible after burying Cincinnati, 24-3, in front of a delighted Bright House Networks Stadium crowd. Scott Frost has done a remarkable job in his head-coaching debut, particularly considering the modest offensive personnel he inherited. UCF is winning with defense and heart, as Frost continues to rebuild the foundation at a program that is not unfamiliar with success, but had lost its way in O’Leary’s final years.
Miami WR Ahmmon Richards
The Hurricanes have regrouped from a harrowing four-game losing streak to comfortably win back-to-back games over Pitt and Virginia. And young players, like Richards, are a big reason why Miami is safely bowl-bound with remaining games against NC State and Duke. The rookie speedster from Wellington, Florida has provided quarterback Brad Kaaya with another field-stretching target, averaging more than 20 yards a catch and reaching 100 yards in each of the last two games. His playmaking ability has helped make it possible for Mark Richt to spend more time coaching up the underclassmen in December.
Utah DE Hunter Dimick
There were plenty of terrific defensive performances in Week 11. But none was remotely as dominating as Dimick’s, the Ute lineman who terrorized the Arizona State flanks for a school-record 6.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. It’s been an especially satisfying year for the senior, who spent most of 2015 hamstring by a nagging shoulder problem. Dimick and Utah control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South, with the Nov. 26 trip to Boulder likely to decide who faces the North winner in Santa Clara a week later.
Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson
Hugh Freeze decided to burn the redshirt year of his five-star recruit from Shreveport, Louisiana after Chad Kelly was declared out for the rest of the season. The 2017 team will benefit from the reps Patterson receives this month, but evidently so will the current squad. The rookie got off to a rather auspicious debut in College Station, rallying his Rebels back from a fourth-quarter deficit with 402 total yards and two touchdown passes. Plus, by reaching 5-5, the odds that Freeze can work with Patterson through December, both in practice and in a bowl game, have greatly improved.
Navy QB Will Worth
What a memorable senior season it has been for Worth, who was the backup when the year began and little more than a holder on field goals and PATs in 2015. This year, though, he’s the MVP of the Midshipmen, who assumed the AAC West Division driver’s seat after beating Tulsa, 42-40, Saturday. Worth rushed for three touchdowns, and has now run for more than 100 yards in five straight games, including in the Week 10 upset of Notre Dame.
The Mountaineers bent in Austin Saturday, but would not break against a Longhorn team that began the weekend on a two-game winning streak. West Virginia prevented D’Onta Foreman from taking the game over, got an outstanding all-around effort from senior cornerback Rasul Douglas and scratched out just enough offense to get out of town with a crucial win. The Mountaineers remain firmly in the Big 12 title chase heading into the game of the year so far against streaking Oklahoma in Morgantown.
Whatever ailed the Buckeyes for a few weeks at midseason seems to have been addressed by Urban Meyer and his assistants. Ohio State, which misfired for a long stretch against the likes of Wisconsin, Penn State and Northwestern, has now swamped Nebraska and Maryland by identical 62-3 scores in consecutive weeks. The Buckeyes are beginning to hum on both sides of the ball, and just in the nick of time, too, with the Big Ten’s two Michigan schools next on the schedule.
First the survival in Bloomington, a gut-check win over Indiana on a day that Saquon Barkley was caged up at the line of scrimmage. And then Michigan surprisingly lost at Iowa, opening a pathway for the Nittany Lions to win the Big Ten East Division. The Nits will be heavily favored to capture the next two over Rutgers and Michigan State. If Ohio State follows suit by beating the Spartans and the Wolverines, James Franklin, not Urban Meyer or Jim Harbaugh, will be coaching in Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 3.
Forget the records. This is the best Pac-12 team heading into the regular season’s final turn. Clay Helton has done a terrific job of keeping a collection of former blue-chippers focused after being clubbed in the opener by Alabama and starting the season 1-3. The Trojans have now won six straight, including Saturday night at Husky Stadium over No. 4 Washington. Special attention belongs to Helton’s defensive coordinator, Clancy Pendergast, whose unit dominated the Huskies in the box with defenders like Porter Gustin, Michael Hutchings and Rasheem Green.
You know it. You love it. It’s November chaos in college football, that perennial occurrence that puts the upper echelon of the rankings on spin cycle. Half of the top 10 fell, as well as the nation’s No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 teams on the same weekend for the first time since 1985. The only top 10 teams that weren’t pushed Saturday were top-ranked Bama, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 7 Wisconsin. The big winner? Anyone following the sport, because the mayhem is baked in. The final three weekends of the regular season will once again be crammed with intrigue and relevance as team’s jockey for titles and playoff berths.
The Zips won a school-first postseason game last December, beating Utah State in the Idaho Potato Bowl. Hooray. And Terry Bowden and the boys were lining up for a return engagement after beating Ball State on Oct. 22 to get to 5-3. However, they haven’t won since, and the losses have been ugly, including an eighth straight to Bowling Green, which entered Week 11 winless in MAC play. The Zips remain a victory away from bowl-eligibility, which seems out of reach in the finale at Ohio.
Against Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State this fall, the Scarlet Knights were outscored 185-0. 185 to zilch. Hard to fathom that level of futility, but it’s a stark reminder of how far rookie coach Chris Ash must go to make the program competitive in a deep Big Ten East Division. This past Saturday’s 49-0 loss to the Spartans was another jarring body blow for Rutgers, since Mark Dantonio’s team entered the weekend on a nasty seven-game losing streak.
So much for the Wildcats making noise in the SEC East. Their tenure as a divisional contender didn’t last very long following back-to-back losses to Georgia and Tennessee. The Vols game was an ode to the old Kentucky teams that have become painfully familiar to fans in Lexington. UT racked up more than 600 total yards and was never challenged after halftime. Now, the 5-5 Cats better secure bowl-eligibility this week against FCS Austin Peay, because a battle with rival Louisville looms to close out the regular season.
Duke recaptured the Victory Bell on Thursday night in Durham, and this one really hurts in Chapel Hill. Not only was it the Blue Devils’ first ACC win of the year, but it also prevented the Tar Heels from seizing control of the Coastal Division. Carolina couldn’t stop redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones, who accounted for 334 yards and three touchdowns, meaning the final two regular season games with The Citadel and NC State will be played with less at stake unless Va Tech stumbles again.
Prior to the start of the 2015 season, Arizona State had the look of a rising star out of the Pac-12. And Graham was fielding all of the praise and attaboys for raising expectations and the Tempe talent pool. But then the Sun Devils disappointed by going 6-7, a downward trend that’s continued this fall. ASU suffered its fourth straight loss Thursday, getting torched for 497 yards by a middling Utah offense. With a trip to play U-Dub this week, Graham will probably need to beat rival Arizona in Tucson the day after Thanksgiving to avoid another losing campaign.
Arkansas Following a Win
Consistency. It has eluded Bret Bielema’s Hogs all season long, which explains the team’s 2-4 mark in SEC play. Arkansas has answered each of its last four victories with a deflating loss by at least 19 points. So, it came as absolutely no surprise that Derrius Guice and LSU garroted the Hogs, 38-10, just a week after stunning Florida to return to the Top 25. Arkansas must now hit the road against Mississippi State and Mizzou in search of its first two-game winning streak since September.
The Pac-12 was having a tough time getting one of its own into the top 4 before Washington was exposed by USC. What now? The Huskies did not look like a playoff contender Saturday night, wilting in front of the Trojans’ front seven pressure. Unfortunately for the league’s playoff hopes, the best team right now, Troy, is going to need help just to win the South Division. And unless U-Dub can run the table in impressive fashion, the Pac-12 now looks very vulnerable to be on the outside looking in for a second straight year.
Go find 85 toe-tags. The Bears might be done for this season. After starting the year 6-0, largely against soft competition, Baylor has dropped three in a row, the last two in routs to TCU and Oklahoma. Leading rusher Shock Linwood has been shelved for disciplinary reasons, Seth Russell dislocated his ankle in Norman and the coach, Jim Grobe, didn’t recruit a single player on the roster. It’s hard to imagine where this team will find the motivation in upcoming games with Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia.
Auburn on Offense
The Tigers have struggled on offense the past two weeks. This last Saturday in Athens, it caught up to them, ending hopes of catching Alabama in the SEC West. On a day that RB Kamryn Pettway sat with an injury, Auburn paid the price for not having a complementary passing game to pick up some of the slack. Sean White was hapless, completing 6-of-20 for 27 yards and the interception that Georgia would turn into its only touchdown of the game. The Iron Bowl always matters, but just not as much as originally anticipated, and that’s too bad for all fans of the game.
Michigan on Offense
There were underlying concerns in Ann Arbor, despite the perfect record and No. 3 ranking. How would the team fair in a tough environment? And could an offense light on backfield stars answer the call in a physical game? The Wolverines failed both tests at Kinnick Stadium, and that’s a troubling reality for Jim Harbaugh with the Ohio State game in Columbus looming in two weeks. True, Michigan still controls its own playoff destiny, but Wilton Speight, who on Saturday went 11-of-26 for 103 yards, no touchdowns and one pick versus the Buckeye D shapes up as a mismatch.
Being Ranked No. 4
A week ago, Texas A&M was controversially slotted in at No. 4 by the College Football Playoff committee, one spot ahead of Washington. The Aggies fell a few days later to a poor Mississippi State team. The Huskies benefited by moving up a rung on the playoff ladder, but then squandered the four-hole by losing at home to USC. Yeah, it sounds great to be No. 4 in a four-team playoff, but it could also be the Bermuda Triangle of the rankings based on A&M and U-Dub have treated it the past two weeks.
Pitt is a talented team, but who figured the Panthers could break through against Clemson, let alone in Death Valley? However, the Tigers were a shell of their usual identity, especially on defense, where the team allowed five touchdown passes to Nathan Peterman. Plus, QB Deshaun Watson continued to flash the inconsistencies of a player who might be making a hasty decision to turn pro early. Clemson was four more wins against heavy underdogs away from coasting into another playoff. After blowing a game to Pitt, though, the Tigers are now vulnerable, especially if the Big Ten winds up with two one-loss teams.