Another week, another set of college football rankings. And USC, which had been flirting with disaster all season, finally got caught on the road against Washington State. That changes the landscape of the Pac-12 -- along with the College Football Playoff picture.
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First, let’s give it up for the No. 11 Cougars. Wazzu, led by senior QB Luke Falk, is in the midst of one of the most impressive program turnarounds in recent memory. Washington State went 3-9 in 2014, but it’s gained steam ever since. In-state rival Washington, ranked sixth, is most likely to win the Pac-12 with USC’s loss. But Wazzu has a real chance to win the conference and make the Playoff.
Had you told someone that three years ago, they would have looked at you funny. What a job by Mike Leach and his crew. The Apple Cup just became one of the most anticipated games on the college football schedule.
On the flip side, the Trojans fell nine spots to No. 14. USC is supremely talented, but it’s just looked out of sync all year. When the offense plays well, the defense falters, and vice versa. To be fair, USC was underwhelming last September, too, and it made a late Playoff charge. This isn’t over yet for the Trojans. But they’ll need both of the Washington schools to slip up, and with the way they’re playing, that may be unlikely.
Elsewhere in the top 10, Georgia rose two spots – leapfrogging Washington – to No. 5 after its 41-0 pummeling of Tennessee. The Bulldogs are a complete team. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel form one of the top one-two backfield punches in the land. Jake Fromm is an impressive freshman QB. The defense is the scariest in the country outside of Clemson or Alabama.Speaking of Alabama, the Tide and the Bulldogs look to be on a collision course to meet in the SEC championship game. Could the SEC send two teams to the Playoff this year?
It’s quite possible. Georgia has compiled an excellent resume, beating Notre Dame and Tennessee on the road along with Mississippi State at home. The SEC East isn’t particularly strong outside of the Bulldogs. There may not be another loss on the schedule.
And of course, Alabama is Alabama. Georgia jumping Washington is significant. Yes, there’s plenty of season to go. But if a top-four team falters, the Bulldogs are next in line. Not the Huskies. The nonconference win at Notre Dame is the main reason why. That’s a perk of aggressive scheduling.
Moving down the rankings, there wasn’t much shuffling outside of two new additions – No. 24 NC State and No. 25 UCF.
The Wolfpack burst onto the radar by upsetting Florida State last week. They notched another ACC victory over Syracuse on Saturday. NC State has a tough schedule coming up – Louisville and Notre Dame are two of their next three opponents, so this may be short-lived. Regardless, give it up for a Wolfpack program that hasn’t had a lot to cheer about lately. It would be shocking if someone other than Clemson won the ACC, but they could finish top three in the conference. That’s no small feat for a team than was an afterthought coming into the season.
UCF, meanwhile, becomes the fourth school from The Sunshine State to be ranked in this week’s poll. Scott Frost has done a masterful job with the Knights. In 2015, they didn’t win a game. 0-for-12. In 2017, they’re 3-0 with wins over FIU, Maryland and Memphis. Oh, and none of them have been close. UCF is outscoring opponents 139-40. It has the seventh-ranked scoring offense in the country.
It was the week of the turnaround in college football. Washington State is lurking outside of the top 10. UCF, winless two seasons ago, is ranked.
That said, the big boys are the big boys. Alabama and Clemson look as dominant as ever. The cream of the crop is strong this year, but look hard enough, and there are contenders in unlikely places all over the country.
More entertainment, please. Chances are, college football will deliver. It always seems to.