Entering Week 11, there were six teams in a class of their own. Half of them — No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Washington — lost, with two of those results coming on game-deciding field goals.
It was the chaotic weekend fans had been waiting for; No. 8 Auburn went down. So did No. 9 Texas A&M. Plenty of other ranked teams either fell or received good scares.
Here’s the thing, though …
The big picture is pretty much the same. Those same six teams in a class of their own? They’re still the favorites to get in. Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson, Louisville and Washington (they might be ranked in that order on Tuesday) remain the clear favorites to make up the four-team playoff field.
Did the crazy weekend change anything? Slightly. Thanks to Michigan’s loss at Iowa, unlikely Big Ten heroes Wisconsin and Penn State very might well meet in the conference championship game (with the winner likely earning a playoff bid). Washington’s margin for error has gone from large to razor thin, potentially leaving open the door for another two-loss team (Oklahoma? Utah? Colorado?).
We probably can count on Alabama to claim one spot, the winner of Michigan-Ohio State to get another, and either Clemson or Louisville to claim a third (perhaps both of them will get in).
Here’s how I think the field will shake out:
- No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Wisconsin
- No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson
The Crimson Tide win out. Ditto for the Buckeyes, who beat Michigan by two touchdowns in Columbus, setting up a Penn State-Wisconsin Big Ten championship game (Wisconsin wins and earns the committee’s final seed). Clemson wins its final two games, then dumps Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game. Washington wins the Pac-12, but is doomed by a weak schedule. Louisville watches the ACC championship from home, then gets left out of the playoff field in favor of the Big Ten champs.
Of course, anyone hoping for maximum entertainment should pray the committee sets up Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals against Nick Saban’s vaunted Alabama defense.
Speaking of which …
Yes, the Heisman race is over
There was a moment Saturday when it seemed as if Lamar Jackson had lost his magic. Louisville trailed unranked Wake Forest by two scores and the Cardinals offense could not move the football.
One could sense that Louisville’s dream season was on the brink, and Jackson’s huge lead in the Heisman Trophy race was in danger. Then, in “blink-and-you-missed-it” sequence, the Cardinals piled up several fourth-quarter touchdowns to ensure a 44-12 victory.
Jackson’s numbers (145 yards passing, 153 rushing and 1 total touchdown) weren’t anywhere near his average output, but still well above the type of output that has doomed Heisman favorites in previous seasons.
And — here’s the key — his primary competition collapsed around him.
Washington quarterback Jake Browning melted down. Michigan cornerback Jabrill Peppers had little statistical impact in the Wolverines’ first loss. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson made a few crucial errors in the Tigers’ first regular season “L” since 2014.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts was impressive, and he’ll likely get an invitation to New York, but he’s not a legitimate threat to beat out Jackson for the award.
Consider that Jackson’s raw numbers are untouchable — 27 scores through the air, 19 more on the ground, and well over 4,000 total yards — and consider that he’s the clear MVP of a one-loss team in a Power 5 conference, and there’s really not much left to say.
A star is born
While some programs are still in a decades-long wait for their next superstar quarterback, Ole Miss already has passed the torch from one of its all-time greats to a true freshman who lit up the No. 8 team in the country on Saturday.
Shea Patterson is his name. Football is his game. And he’s already drawing comparisons to one of the greatest players in college football history:
— CFBonESPNRadio (@CFBonESPNRadio) November 13, 2016
The 19-year-old from IMG Academy — Florida’s finest football farm — was supposed to remain on the sideline all season, but Hugh Freeze decided to burn the kid’s redshirt last week and allow the Patterson Era to begin.
He got off to a slow start at Texas A&M, but that Manziel-esque touchdown play unlocked his potential. Patterson led two more touchdown drives (each longer than 60 yards) and then conducted a 9-play, 36-yard drive that put Gary Wunderlich in position to drain a 39-yard game-winning field goal.
His final line: 25 of 42 for 338 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception and 64 more yards on the ground.
— Shea Patterson (@SheaPatterson_1) November 13, 2016
Other SEC moments that caught our eye
- The SEC’s other other superfrosh quarterback finally struggled. South Carolina’s Jake Bentley had been enjoying a dream start to his career, but failed to get USC on the scoreboard at Florida until late in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Florida’s new (old) choice at quarterback, Austin Appleby, posted a strong box score: 17 of 21 for 201 yards (9.6 yards per attempt), 2 touchdowns and 1 pick. He was also named an SEC Scholar Athlete of the Week by CBS, thanks in part to his 4.0 GPA in Florida’s sports management program.
- Don’t throw it, don’t throw it, don’t throw it, don’t throw it, don’t throw it, don’t throw it, don’t throw it, don’t throw it, don’t thr–
Sometimes trick plays don't work as planned… https://t.co/gb5Na6xEaq
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) November 12, 2016
- No SEC team has been as hot and cold as Arkansas. The Razorbacks lost to LSU by 4 touchdowns at home. They’ve also lost games by 53 (to Auburn), 21 (to Texas A&M) and 19 (to Alabama). But the Hogs also have a trio of wins against teams that were ranked in top 15 at the time of their matchup, including a 21-point beatdown of No. 11 Florida just seven days before LSU returned the favor.
- Leonard Fournette was the star of that Arkansas-LSU game, scoring three times to boost his career touchdown total to 41. That put him in a tie with former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore for 16th in SEC history. Fournette is now 6 touchdowns away from being all alone in 6th place, but Tim Tebow’s record (57) is probably safe.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 13, 2016
- In case you missed it: Basketball season is upon us, and Kentucky has an incredibly talented team again. Freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox set a school record with 12 assists in his first career game:
The most assists in a @KentuckyMBB debut.
De'Aaron Fox breaking records with style. pic.twitter.com/ucmjRtgyTy
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 12, 2016
Non-SEC moments that caught our eye
- Kansas kick returner LaQuvionte Gonzalez’s plan? To camouflage himself in the end zone before leaping up to receive a lateral. It worked:
Kansas with the camouflage kickoff return attempt against Iowa State pic.twitter.com/xJdp9xLyVb
— Heavens! (@HeavensHawkeye) November 12, 2016
- Minnesota and Nebraska played for the $5 Bits of Broken Chair trophy on Saturday. What’s that, you ask? Another dumb, school-manufactured PR stunt that’s designed to create a “rivalry” where there isn’t one? No, actually. This was a trophy birthed on social media. SBNation.com explained the whole backstory before the weekend, but the Chair made its debut in 2014 after an interaction between the Golden Gophers mascot and “Fake Bo Pelini,” and Nebraska coach Mike Riley accepted the trophy after last season’s Cornhuskers victory.
Nebraska wins the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy pic.twitter.com/CekoPzyg6C
— Pick Six Previews (@PickSixPreviews) November 13, 2016
- Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys moved to an NFL-best 8-1 with a last-minute win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had the play of the day: a fake spike that led to a go-ahead touchdown toss with 42 seconds remaining:
Got em' with the fake spike TD pic.twitter.com/949Qrg0vnj
— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) November 14, 2016
Looking back: Did you catch these?
- We know Alabama-Auburn is one of the SEC’s 5 biggest games remaining, but it’s not No. 1. Make sure you have these matchups earmarked.
- One set of computer rankings finally gave Alabama its due after a weekend full of upsets. But seriously: What took so long?
- Auburn’s bad day on offense didn’t prevent offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee from appearing on a reported short list of candidates to fill a southern FBS opening.
- LSU appears to be in line for a bid to this major bowl game.
- A weekend of chaos in the SEC led to some pretty difficult decisions in the SEC Country Power Poll. Here’s what the 26 voters decided.