Week Nine of the College Football season didn't hold any cataclysmic upsets that would rock the current playoff landscape, but there was plenty of excitement both on and off the field.
Miami's eight-lateral final play to beat Duke and the ensuing bungling by the officiating crew (which was followed Sunday by the suspension of that crew) was perhaps the craziest series of events. Add to that a triple overtime thriller on Thursday night between Arizona State and Oregon, a near elimination of one-loss Stanford at the hands of a missed field goal by Washington State in the middle of a downpour on Saturday, newly named starting quarterback for Ohio State JT Barrett being suspended for DUI and legendary coach Frank Beamer announcing his retirement, and there was plenty going down Halloween weekend.
With the playoff powers primarily on byes this week or with manageable victories, there wasn't much motion in my top five. Florida's smackdown of Georgia at the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail party gave them a boost, and in my opinion, they've gotten more done on the field so far than their one-loss SEC rival Alabama. Stanford, with their tight win over Mike Leach's talented Cougars, also jumped Utah, who just managed to top Oregon State this week. This demonstrates just how slim the margin between rankings is and it kept the Cardinal in my fifth position while the Utes have fallen off.
While I detailed who I believe the committee will select this Tuesday in a previous article, here are the five teams I believe have proven the most after Week Nine based on performance to date, along with power five wins:
1 - TCU 8-0 (@Minnesota, @Texas Tech, Texas, @Kansas St, @Iowa St, West Virginia)
2 - Clemson 8-0 (@Louisville, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, BC, @Miami, @NC State)
3 - Florida 7-1 (@Kentucky, Tennessee, Ole Miss, @Missouri, vsGeorgia)
4 -Alabama 7-1 (vsWisconsin, @Georgia, Arkansas, @Texas A&M, Tennessee)
5 - Stanford 7-1 (@USC, @Oregon St, Arizona, UCLA, Washington, @Washington St)
Week Nine held plenty of excitement, but little overall impact to the college football playoff landscape. That won't be the case in Week Ten as some major showdowns challenge many of the undefeated and one-loss teams. Here are the top meaningful matchups of Week Ten.
TCU at Oklahoma State
The Horned Frogs have fought viciously through this season as injuries have plagued them week in and week out. A once-dominant defense has been held together by untested bodies and the magical duct tape of Gary Patterson's defensive tactical genius. Thus far it has been enough, and TCU is finally getting some experienced players back as they enter the teeth of their schedule. Oklahoma State might not be getting the press that the Horned Frogs are, but they are undefeated, have played nearly the same conference opponents and both teams rank in the top ten in passing and points scored. One perfect season will have to yield as TCU travels to Stillwater.
Duke at North Carolina
The Blue Devils may still be shell shocked from their "loss" to Miami on Saturday, but this is no time to let one loss turn into two and Head Coach David Cutcliffe will be focused on getting them mentally ready. These two teams couldn't be in more opposite mental states as North Carolina is fresh off a win over a ranked Pitt team and isn't about to give up their place at the top of the ACC Coastal easily. While this game is normally a big time basketball rivalry, its importance has transcended sports and will be a major factor in which team can make their way to the ACC Championship Game.
Florida State at Clemson
This game was meant to be the clash of the undefeateds with nothing less than the ACC Atlantic Division on the line. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, nobody gave Georgia Tech's field goal block team the memo, and the Yellow Jackets broke up Florida State's perfect season on the craziest play of Week Eight. Nevertheless, the winner of this game will almost certainly make their way to the ACC Championship Game, and for Clemson, a berth in the playoffs is still a strong possibility, but only if they can close out their perfect season.
Penn State at Northwestern
While neither of these teams is in a position to impact the playoff race, it is a meaningful matchup for both programs, and a very good measuring stick for their position in the Big 10. While Penn State has managed to build a 7-2 record, they have done so against a fairly weak schedule and lost to the two best teams they've played. The Nittany Lions will be going to a bowl, but their best win is currently over Indiana. This weekend against Northwestern is extremely important for them to create a team identity before they close the season with Michigan and Michigan State. The Wildcats, meanwhile, must have this win if they want to maintain any chance of coming back against Iowa in the West Division race.
Utah at Washington
The Utes were the hot team for the first half of the college football season. With a punishing loss to USC in Week Eight and a pedestrian win over Oregon State in Week Nine, however, it seems their early accomplishments have been all but forgotten. Utah can still make a great case for the playoff, but they must win out and take the Pac-12 Championship. It all starts by getting back on track against Washington, something far easier said than done. The Huskies upset USC earlier in the season and absolutely dominated Arizona last weekend.
California at Oregon
Staying in the Pac-12, we have two teams trending in different directions in the North Division. While Cal started the season winning their first five games, they have since taken a U-turn and lost their past three. The Bears can close out their season strong with opportunities against both Oregon and Stanford, but will be on the road for both contests. The Ducks, meanwhile, are steadily improving along with Vernon Adams' broken hand. After a narrow loss to Washington State, Oregon scored a close road win over Washington and are coming off a crazy triple overtime victory on the road against Arizona State. If they keep it going against Cal, the showdown with Stanford becomes all the more important, and the Ducks get an extra few days of rest after playing on Thursday night.
In addition to these meaningful matchups, Week Ten features a big time SEC battle in the Game of the Week and another MAC pillow fight of the week.
Game of the Week
The Game of the Week is the 4th ranked and undefeated LSU Tigers traveling to 7th ranked one loss Alabama. The winner of this game not only is in great position for the SEC West Division title, but also should have a solid hold in the playoff committee's top four. While Ole Miss still has something to say about who makes it to the SEC Championship, the loser of this contest is almost certainly eliminated. This series is a historic rivalry and has been a heated contest in recent years, particularly since Nick Saban became the head coach of the Tide only four years removed from winning a National Championship with the Tigers. Then, in 2011, these two teams played both in the regular season, resulting in an LSU victory, and again in the National Championship Game, resulting in an Alabama victory. The split victories along with LSU finishing the regular season undefeated with a win on the road over Alabama was a bitter pill for the Tigers to swallow as they watched the Tide hoist the trophy. LSU has not beaten Alabama since, but will put their perfect record on the line again this weekend in Tuscaloosa.
Pillow Fight of the Week
The Pillow Fight of the Week is a MAC East clash as UMass hosts Akron. The Minutemen have only a single victory on the season and are yet to win a conference game, despite being ranked in the top twenty in passing yards per game. The Zips have picked up three wins so far, but their only conference victory came against MAC West basement dweller Eastern Michigan, which was the first time in the past month Akron has scored over 12 points in a game. Akron's defense versus the UMass passing game will be an interesting battle as both teams look for their first division win in the Week Ten Pillow Fight.