As if to celebrate Halloween, college football showered fans with on-field treats in a downright wild Week 9.
Michigan, Washington, Clemson and Louisville all survived road scares. Ohio State struggled with Northwestern at home. And both undefeated Big 12 teams lost to unranked opponents.
But the real shocker was Tennessee, coming off a bye week and two consecutive losses before it, inexplicably falling to an outmatched South Carolina team Saturday in Columbia.
Otherwise, it was a predictable weekend for the SEC, with Florida taking care of Georgia and Auburn riding its hot streak past Ole Miss on the road.
We’ll break all that down and more in this week’s bowl projections:
|Peach (Dec. 31, Atlanta) — CFP||#1 Alabama||#4 Washington||Top 4, Playoff rankings|
|Fiesta (Dec. 31, Glendale) — CFP||#2 Michigan||#3 Clemson||Top 4, Playoff rankings|
|Orange (Dec. 30, Miami) — NY6||Wisconsin||Louisville||Big Ten/SEC/ND vs ACC #1|
|Sugar (Jan. 2, New Orleans) — NY6||Texas A&M||West Virginia||SEC #1 vs Big 12 #1|
|Cotton (Jan. 2, Arlington) — NY6||Auburn||W. Michigan||At-large vs at-large|
|Rose (Jan. 2, Pasadena) — NY6||Ohio State||Utah||Big Ten #1 vs Pac 12 #1|
|Citrus (Dec. 31, Orlando)||LSU||Virginia Tech||SEC #2 vs ACC/Big Ten|
|Outback (Jan. 2, Tampa)||Florida||Nebraska||SEC#3-8 vs Big Ten #2-4|
|TaxSlayer (Dec. 31, Jacksonville)||Tennessee||Florida State||SEC #3-8 vs ACC/Big Ten|
|Music City (Dec. 30, Nashville)||Georgia||Indiana||SEC #3-8 vs ACC/Big Ten|
|Texas (Dec. 28, Houston)||Arkansas||Oklahoma St.||SEC #3-8 vs Big 12 #4|
|Belk (Dec. 29, Charlotte)||South Carolina||Miami||SEC #3-8 vs ACC #3-6|
|Liberty (Dec. 30, Memphis)||Ole Miss||TCU||SEC #3-8 vs Big 12 #5|
|Birmingham (Dec. 29, Birmingham)||Kentucky||Memphis||SEC #9 vs American|
|Independence (Dec. 26, Shreveport)||Middle Tennessee||Georgia Tech||SEC #10** vs ACC|
|No bowls: Mississippi State, Missouri, Vanderbilt||**Replaced by fill-in|
You can’t spell ‘tumbling down’ without ‘U-T’ either
The Vols’ offense looked entirely out of sorts against the thorn in their side that has been Will Muschamp. Josh Dobbs threw a couple of costly picks, and the offensive line generated little to no push as South Carolina held them to 3.7 yards per carry.
Worse still, freshman quarterback Jake Bentley sliced up Tennessee’s injury-depleted defense in an efficient 15-for-20, 2-touchdown passing performance.
The mystique surrounding this team and its flair for the dramatic is pretty much gone. Auburn, Florida and LSU all seem better candidates to play in a New Year’s Six bowl at this point, even with an easy remaining schedule schedule for the Vols (Tennessee Tech, Missouri, Kentucky and Vanderbilt).
Pitting them against Florida State, another team with high expectations that’s fallen short in big games, seems like a fitting matchup.
Hotter than Hades
Speaking of Auburn, Gus Malzahn’s team has been on fire since Week 4, when it held on to beat LSU in the final seconds. Three of the Tigers’ four games left are absolutely winnable (Georgia, Vanderbilt, Alabama A&M).
If they wind up 9-3 with their only losses being Alabama, Clemson and Texas A&M, there’s little doubt they deserve a New Year’s Six berth.
Western Michigan now seems to have an inside track to earning the Group of Five auto-qualifier bowl berth, although Boise State and San Diego State are waiting in the wings. The MAC Broncos score a bunch of points, and Auburn has done that lately, so, on paper, it looks like a decent pairing. In reality, the game probably will resemble Georgia’s beatdown of Hawaii in the 2008 Sugar Bowl.
By beating Nebraska in overtime, Wisconsin very much appears on track for the Orange Bowl, which means the SEC would face an ACC school in the Citrus Bowl. Leonard Fournette remains one of the country’s elite talents, and Virginia Tech has an offensive weapon of a similar caliber in quarterback Jerod Evans.
A new contender appears
On the heels of its massive upset victory, South Carolina made the cut to go bowling for the first time in several weeks. The Gamecocks need to beat only Missouri and Western Carolina at home to reach 6-6.
Geographically, the Belk Bowl makes more sense than the Texas or Liberty, and USC likely could draw a bigger fan base into the Charlotte area than could Kentucky. Miami has lost four straight and would be a pretty good matchup. Plus, who doesn’t want a Will Muschamp-Mark Richt rematch?
Likewise, Ole Miss can coax fans into nearby Memphis and is better equipped to handle a high-scoring Big 12 foe like TCU.
Although a better team than South Carolina, Kentucky will have to settle for a trip to Birmingham for an AAC matchup.
Week 10 games to watch:
- No. 1 Alabama at No. 15 LSU
- No. 10 Florida at Arkansas
- Georgia at Kentucky
If LSU can beat the Crimson Tide, Ed Orgeron probably earns the permanent coaching job, and the Tigers probably wind up in a New Year’s Six bowl game. If not, well, it wouldn’t be a big surprise; Alabama seems poised to roll through its final four regular-season games without much trouble.
And then there’s the SEC East. If Florida loses at Arkansas and Kentucky stays hot against a struggling Georgia team, the division race becomes even more muddled and gives the Wildcats a real chance to make its first-ever SEC title game appearance.
Projected SEC standings entering Week 10:
|SEC WEST||SEC EAST|
|Alabama (12-0, 8-0)**||Florida (8-3, 6-2)|
|Texas A&M (11-1, 7-1)||Tennessee (9-3, 5-3)|
|Auburn (9-3, 6-2)||Kentucky (6-6, 4-4)|
|LSU (7-4, 5-3)||Georgia (7-5, 3-5)|
|Arkansas (7-5, 3-5)||South Carolina (6-6, 3-5)|
|Ole Miss (6-6, 3-5)||Missouri (3-9, 1-7)|
|Mississippi St (3-9, 1-7)||Vanderbilt (4-8, 1-7)|
|** = SEC champion|