5 takeaways from college football's regular season finale as playoff picture is as chaotic as ever
College football's regular season went out with a bang. Here's everything you need to know about Week 13, and what it means for the postseason:
1. November ends with the top two teams losing
The last full college football weekend of the 2017 season featured plenty of rivalry blowouts and not necessarily a lot of memorable games, but any late-November weekend in which teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 both lose can't help but feel monumental.
1st time that No. 1 and No. 2 in the rankings of record (AP, BCS, or CFP) lose in the same week since 2012— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 26, 2017
No. 1 Alabama lost 26-14 at Auburn on Saturday. That happened a day after No. 2 Miami lost 24-14 at Pittsburgh on Friday. After a light Week 12 slate produced few changes in the College Football Playoff top 25, this Tuesday's second-to-last rankings can't help but see significant changes, with either Clemson (which beat South Carolina 34-10) or Oklahoma (which beat West Virginia 59-31) slated to be No. 1. Alabama and Miami, meanwhile, could both fall out of the top four. For now, at least. Miami can still play its way into the field with a win over Clemson, and just a little bit of help could push Alabama into the bracket.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: No. 1 and 2 go down; Playoff picture murky at best | Full scoreboard
Thanks to the losses by Alabama and Miami, the number of undefeated FBS teams has been trimmed to two: 12-0 Wisconsin (beat Minnesota 31-0) and 11-0 UCF (beat South Florida 49-42). There's a strong chance that neither regular-season unbeaten will make the playoff, as UCF, which was ranked 15th last week, has no chance and Wisconsin would be knocked out if it loses the Big Ten title game to Ohio State, which is by far the strongest opponent on its schedule.
The playoff could be pretty clear if Wisconsin wins the Big Ten and Oklahoma wins the Big 12 to join the champions of the SEC and ACC. But if the Badgers and/or Sooners lose, get your arguments ready.
2. Conference championship matchups are set
Entering Week 13, six of the 18 spots in the conference championships (every league except the Sun Belt) were up for grabs. They've now been filled, creating the following championship schedule next weekend (all times Eastern):
Pac-12: USC vs. Stanford (8 p.m. Friday, ESPN). USC didn't play this week, and Stanford won a nonconference game against Notre Dame (which may knock the Fighting Irish out of the New Year's Six bowls). The Pac-12 North title was decided by the Apple Cup: Because Washington routed Washington State 41-14, the Huskies and Stanford finished in a tie atop the division at 7-2. Stanford beat Washington head-to-head, sending the Cardinal to Santa Clara for a rematch with the Trojans, who they lost to 42-24 back in September.
American: Memphis at UCF (Noon Saturday, ABC). Memphis had already clinched the AAC West and spent Saturday demolishing East Carolina 70-13 with a ridiculous average of 13 yards per play. The Tigers will visit Orlando after UCF won the 49-42 thriller against South Florida. UCF beat Memphis at home 40-13 in October.
MAC: Toledo vs. Akron (Noon Saturday, ESPN). Toledo needed a win or a Northern Illinois loss to win the MAC West. Akron needed a win or an Ohio loss to win the MAC East. Both ended up with outright division titles: Toledo blew out Western Michigan while Northern Illinois lost to Central Michigan, and Akron topped Kent State while Ohio lost to Buffalo. Akron will make its first league title game trip since 2005; Toledo will make its first since 2004. Toledo crushed Akron 48-21 last month.
Conference USA: North Texas at Florida Atlantic (Noon Saturday, ESPN2). In a league in which 10 teams are bowl eligible, both the Mean Green (9-3, 7-1) and Owls (9-3, 8-0) won outright division titles. North Texas' only conference loss came on Oct. 21, when it lost 69-31 at Florida Atlantic.
Big 12: Oklahoma vs. TCU (12:30 p.m. Saturday, Fox). Oklahoma (59-31 vs. West Virginia) and TCU (45-22 vs. Baylor) both won easily this week, with TCU locking up a spot in Arlington as the conference title game returns for the first time since 2010. Oklahoma beat TCU 38-20 a few weeks ago.
SEC: Auburn vs. Georgia (4 p.m. Saturday, CBS). Georgia had already locked up the East and ended its regular season on a high note with a 38-7 blowout win at rival Georgia Tech. It will return to Atlanta next Saturday for a rematch with Auburn, which beat Alabama on Saturday, two weeks after beating Georgia 40-17. This is the first time Auburn and Georgia will play each other in the SEC championship game.
Mountain West: Boise State vs. Fresno State (7:45 p.m. Saturday, ESPN). The Broncos and Bulldogs had already clinched their divisions before they met in Week 13. Fresno State won 28-17 for the Milk Can trophy, and now the host for the conference title game will be determined by computer rankings.
ACC: Miami vs. Clemson (8 p.m. Saturday, ABC). Both teams clinched before Saturday, but Miami's resume took a hit this weekend anyway: It lost for the first time this year, falling to a sub-.500 Pitt team, and the best team it beat, Notre Dame, lost to Stanford to fall to 9-3. Miami's first trip to the ACC title game is a clear-cut playoff play-in game against the defending national champions.
Big Ten: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin (8 p.m. Saturday, ABC). Ohio State's win over Michigan and Wisconsin's win over Minnesota ensured that both teams still have playoff hopes entering this game. For Wisconsin, it's simple: Win and the undefeated Badgers are in. For the Buckeyes? It's win and hope that the committee likes their wins over Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State more than it dislikes their losses to Oklahoma and, especially, Iowa.
The first seven conference championship games on the schedule are all rematches of regular-season games that were decided by double-digits. The only new matchups are the two big prime-time games in the ACC and Big Ten.
The Sun Belt won't stage a championship game this year, but it has another week of regular-season games. Troy, Arkansas State and Appalachian State are tied for first place at 6-1. Troy will visit Arkansas State in Week 14. Appalachian State, which played neither the Trojans nor Red Wolves, hosts Louisiana-Lafayette.
3. Not starting makes no impact on Baker Mayfield
Mayfield's punishment for the Kansas controversy lasted two plays against West Virginia. Kyler Murray started and ran for 66 yards on the first play; Rodney Anderson scored on the next play. Mayfield then came in and kept the frantic scoring pace up: Oklahoma had only one punt, which came in the fourth quarter, and scored touchdowns on its first six drives. It added a 51-yard Austin Seibert field goal on the last play of the first half after a West Virginia fumble.
In a 59-31 Oklahoma win against a West Virginia team playing without injured QB Will Grier, Mayfield completed 14 of 17 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns. The Sooners had 646 total yards on just 54 total plays, good for an average of 12 yards per play. Mayfield still has a game left against TCU, but the Heisman is almost certainly his after back-to-back top-four finishes the past two years.
4. Ohio State's dominance against Michigan continues
Quarterback play hindered Michigan most of Saturday afternoon at the Big House. With Wilton Speight and Brandon Peters both out, John O'Korn got the start and got off to an excellent start, leading the Wolverines to an early 14-0 lead. However, O'Korn struggled with accuracy much of the game, including what essentially was the game-sealing interception thrown directly to Ohio State's Jordan Fuller with 2:36 left. The Wolverines were trailing by four at that point, and Mike Weber scored three plays later to give Ohio State its 31-20 advantage.
Ohio State had its own quarterback issues to deal with, but it had little trouble overcoming them. J.T. Barrett left the game with a knee injury in the third quarter with the Buckeyes trailing by six. Up until then, Barrett had completed just 3 of 8 passes for 30 yards and a TD and rushed 15 times for 67 yards and a TD. It was revealed afterward -- first by a fiery Urban Meyer -- that Barrett's injury was caused by a cameraman on the field before the game.
The veteran Barrett was replaced by redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins, who shined in a quarter and a half. He led Ohio State to 17 straight points, completed 6 of 7 passes for 94 yards and rushing three times for 24 yards. The highlights included a 27-yard strike to Austin Mack between defenders on third-and-13 and a 22-yard run down to the one-yard line.
Quarterback inconsistency has plagued Michigan all season. Ohio State. meanwhile, rode its backup to a comeback win. It has now won six straight and 13 of 14 against the Wolverines.
5. No sub-.500 teams will be going bowling
Last year, 78 teams reached bowl eligibility, but with 40 games, two sub-.500 teams -- Mississippi State and North Texas -- were needed to fill out the bowl roster. This year, the Poinsettia Bowl is gone, meaning that there are 39 bowl games and 78 spots for bowl-eligible teams. There were 70 teams with six or more wins entering Week 13; there are now 79, meaning that at least one eligible team will get left out.
Texas Tech, Temple, Louisiana Tech and Buffalo all got to six wins with Week 13 victories, and Purdue (over Indiana), UCLA (over Cal), Utah (over Colorado), Middle Tennessee (over Old Dominion) and Duke (over Georgia Tech) all won play-in games against fellow five-win teams to reach eligibility, too.
Several teams with a chance to get to bowl eligibility fell short, none more painfully than Tulane, which has played in only one bowl game in the past 15 seasons. The Green Wave needed to win at SMU on Saturday, and they thought they had the game-winning touchdown when Jonathan Banks rushed toward the goal line on the final play of the game. It looked as if he scored, but officials ruled Banks down just short. Upon further review, the call stood without enough evidence to overturn. Tulane's postseason hopes were denied by a matter of inches.
Florida State (vs. UL Monroe), UL Lafayette (at Appalachian State) and New Mexico State (vs. South Alabama) can all get to six with a win next week, so as many as 82 teams could be eligible for 78 spots.