College Football Playoff Outlook: Week 12

Story posted November 15, 2017 in Sports, CommRadio by Alex Loughin

Two big losses in the top five this past Saturday lead to a shake-up in this week’s rankings. As we approach the end of the regular season, each game is becoming more and more vital. Let’s look at the top contenders entering Week 12.

1. Alabama

Alabama scraped by No. 16 Mississippi State on Saturday night. DeVonta Smith caught a touchdown from Jalen Hurts with 25 seconds on the clock, lifting the Tide to a 31-24 victory.

The sophomore quarterback has been almost perfect when Alabama needed him most, and demonstrated that in primetime this weekend. On the season, Hurts has 19 total TDs and just one pick, and boasts a 79.8 QBR, good for eighth-best in the nation.

I mentioned a similar sentiment last week when Alabama had trouble against LSU, but this team is so reminiscent of all the Alabama championship squads of the past decade: Pulling off unlikely comeback victories over tough SEC opponents, and appearing to win easily against other schools while not performing even close to their best.

The Crimson Tide will host Mercer, and will likely play anything but a close game. Expect the Tide to sure up things against Mercer, before traveling to Jordan-Hare to face an Auburn team, fresh off a season-defining beatdown against Georgia.

Alabama’s defense, led by DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, must continue to play at an exceptional level if the Tide want to remain at No. 1 to close out the season. But for now, Nick Saban’s team is not going anywhere.

2. Oklahoma

Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma silenced their critics Saturday, defeating No. 6 TCU 38-20 at home.

The Sooners put on an offensive clinic in the first half, as Baker Mayfield went 18-27 for 333 yards, and three scores. RB Rodney Anderson had one of the best performances of the college football season, totaling 290 yards from scrimmage and scoring four touchdowns.

Oklahoma’s offense struggled to move the ball in the second half, and was blanked by the Horned Frogs. The Sooners defense came to play however, and held an explosive TCU team to just six points in the second half.

There really is no debate anymore, Oklahoma has the best offense in football. The question is, can a vulnerable defense hold its weight down the stretch and into the Big 12 Championship. In big games against Ohio State and TCU, the defense has responded to the challenge, but they have been known to crumble in the past.

Baker Mayfield is running away with the Heisman trophy, and has put Oklahoma in a great spot with just two weeks left in the regular season. The Sooners have their flaws, but they have performed brilliantly the whole season, and made themselves a hard team to leave out of the College Football Playoff.

Oklahoma faces 1-9 Kansas this week, and looks to move to 7-1 in the Big 12, and 10-1 overall.

3. Miami

The U is back, and hopefully they are here to stay.

Miami has been spectacular and surprising thus far, and embodied those qualities in a 41-8 thrashing of Notre Dame.

Watching on TV, the famed “Turnover Chain” was impossible to miss, as the Canes picked off the Irish three times and recovered a fumble. All the outside noise heading into the game surrounding Miami was that they had a relatively easy schedule, and all the chatter is now gone. This team is for real.

Having a defense that allows just 16.6 points per game, and an offense that can score enough points to win games, Miami is a gritty, grind-it-out type of team that matches up well with most rosters.

Even after a statement win, the Hurricanes’ toughest tests are ahead of them. Miami is an emotional team, and played a highly-emotional game. While they can enjoy the win, it is crucial for the players and coaches to remain focused and finish out the regular season undefeated, before facing Clemson in the ACC Championship.

Coming up, the Canes host a decent Virginia team, and will look to advance to 10-0.

4. Clemson

Clemson finally makes their return to the top four, after they keep winning and everybody else keeps losing.

The Tigers knocked off an abysmal FSU team, 31-14, en route to their seventh-straight ACC victory. Clemson has knocked off Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech, and NC State, all of whom were ranked in the top 20.

Like many of the other top teams, Clemson is led by a stout defense, with the ability to create turnovers, and turn them into points. The Tigers’ defense is ranked third in the nation in defensive efficiency, behind only Alabama and Georgia.

Clemson is a difficult team to judge this year, as they have beaten most opponents handily, while suffering one of the upsets of the season in a 27-24 loss to Syracuse.

By the end of the regular season, the Tigers will most likely be number two or three in this ranking, as they have been the past three seasons. Without star QB Deshaun Watson to lead them down the stretch, it will be interesting to see how the Tigers perform.

Clemson plays host to Citadel this weekend, in the Tigers’ easiest game on the schedule. Anything short of a dominant performance would be surprising, and Clemson should move on comfortably to South Carolina.

5. Auburn

6. Wisconsin

 

Alex Loughin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email arl5607@psu.edu