Week Ten of the college football season was billed as Separation Saturday and it lived up to its name and then some. Undefeateds TCU, Michigan State, Memphis and LSU all fell while Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma State scored signature wins. Ole Miss, the team that held the keys to an SEC nightmare scenario with a win over Alabama, was also cut down by a desperation play from Arkansas to convert on 4th and 25 in overtime followed up by a two point conversion completed on the second attempt due to a facemask penalty. One loss teams such as Stanford, Notre Dame, Utah and Oklahoma all took a step forward as the carnage of separation Saturday started to trim the fat off the top of the rankings.
In response to Separation Saturday, my rankings have been shaken up as well. Oklahoma State finally makes an appearance with their big win over TCU, and jumps all the way to number two. The Tide jump the Gators with a big win over LSU and TCU has fallen completely off the list as their strength of schedule just doesn't match up to the other one loss teams. Separation between these one loss squads is virtually non-existent and undefeateds Ohio State, Baylor and Iowa have yet to make an appearance as they have yet to play anyone of note.
While the committee rankings will differ, here are the teams I believe have proven the most after Week Ten based on performance to date, along with power five wins. I usually only list my Top 5, but numbers four through seven were separated by such a small margin that all were included. Five of these seven teams are likely to play each other before the end of the season, so things will settle soon enough.
1 - Clemson 9-0 (@Louisville, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, BC, @Miami, @NC State, FSU)
2 - Oklahoma State 9-0 (@Texas, K-State, @West Virginia, Kansas, @Texas Tech, TCU)
3 - Alabama 8-1 (vsWisconsin, @Georgia, Arkansas, @Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU)
4 - Florida 8-1 (@Kentucky, Tennessee, Ole Miss, @Missouri, vsGeorgia, Vandy)
5 - Notre Dame 8-1 (Texas, @Virginia, GA Tech, Navy, USC, @Temple, @Pitt)
6 - Stanford 8-1 (@USC, @Oregon St, Arizona, UCLA, Washington, @Washington St, @CU)
7 - Utah 8-1 (Michigan, @Oregon, California, Arizona St, Oregon St, @Washington)
Week Ten began to separate the good teams from the great and Week Eleven will be no different. Several one loss and undefeated teams face big tests as the season draws into its final weeks. Here are some key clashes of Week Eleven.
Oregon at Stanford
This matchup may not be viewed quite the same as it was in previous seasons or at the beginning of the year. But despite Oregon's losses to Michigan State, Utah and Washington State, the Ducks have steadily improved. With the return of dynamic quarterback Vernon Davis, Oregon topped Washington, put up 61 points on Arizona State and cruised past Cal by 16. Stanford has also bounced back from an opening loss to Northwestern and is now regarded as one of the strongest teams in the country. This rivalry has been an enormous challenge for both teams over the past decade as each has come to power and the difference in style of play ensures the contest will be exciting to watch and a hard fought victory for either team.
Oklahoma at Baylor
The Big 12 lost one undefeated team in Week Ten and the Sooners would like to bump off another in Week Eleven. If Oklahoma wants to claim their stake as a one loss team deserving of a playoff berth they must run the November gauntlet, starting with Baylor, then TCU, then Oklahoma State. While the Bears remain undefeated, they are positioned much like last season, where a single loss took them out of playoff contention due to a weak strength of schedule. As such this is likely an elimination game for both teams, and will be visited by GameDay as one of the marquee matchups of the week.
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech
While this matchup may not have the cachet it once did, the Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech rivalry is one that should not be so quickly forgotten. The winner of this game has represented the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game every year but once since its inception. And while this trend will not continue this season, the matchup is still one worth following, as six of the last seven have been decided by a touchdown or less. While Georgia Tech looks to score another signature win after their upset of Florida State, the Hokies hope to give Frank Beamer a rivalry win in his final year.
Kansas State at Texas Tech
The focus of the Big 12 may be on the gauntlet being played by its top teams, but the middle of the conference shows a great deal of parity as well. While Kansas State and Texas Tech have only combined for two conference wins, this is likely because their schedules were front loaded and each are looking to pick up a few more wins for bowl eligibility. This clash will be a great measuring stick for each to determine where they really stack up in this deep conference.
Alabama at Mississippi State
The Tide scored the big win over LSU in the Week Ten Game of the Week, but due to their early season loss to Ole Miss, Alabama still has no room for error. If Nick Saban and company drop another game to Mississippi State, or in the Iron Bowl against Auburn, LSU will jump right back into the lead in the SEC West. While Mississippi State has lost to the only two ranked teams on their schedule, they've played their way to a quiet 7-2 record thanks to a 15th ranked defense. The Tide will be favored, but must quickly recover from a tough game against LSU to avoid a letdown on the road in Week Eleven.
BYU at Missouri
The matchup between independent BYU and previous two time SEC East Champion Missouri would be an interesting enough non-conference matchup this late in the season on its own, but the recent developments off the field at the University of Missouri lend even more intrigue. During their Week Ten bye, a portion of the team released a statement via twitter that they would not participate in university athletics until Missouri President Tim Wolfe resigned from office. The statement was a result of several racial incidents that occurred at the university and the group's belief of improper handling by the administration. It is unclear how many players may not participate, but 32 of the 64 players on the depth chart appeared in a picture along with the initial statement.
In addition to these key clashes, Week Eleven features the season's first Group of Five Game of the Week and a truly stellar pillow fight of the week.
Game of the Week
The Game of the Week is one-loss Memphis at undefeated Houston. This game lost a bit of luster when Memphis' undefeated season ended in Week Ten against fellow AAC West Division member Navy, however it still carries a great deal of weight for both of these teams looking to make the AAC Championship Game as well as a New Year's Six bowl. The winner of this game has the inside track for both of these accolades as long as they can finish out the division and handle Temple in the Championship Game. While Memphis has a fearsome air attack, ranking 7th in passing yards per game and 3rd in points scored per game, Houston has been far more balanced. The Cougars rank 5th in points per game and also boast a solid defense, ranking 16th in points allowed. They look to continue their unbeaten season in the Week Eleven Game of the Week.
Pillow Fight of the Week
The Pillow Fight of the Week is AAC bottom feeder Tulane traveling to struggling independent Army. Each of these teams have only won two games on the season, one for each over an FCS opponent as well as wins over 1-9 Eastern Michigan and 0-10 UCF. Both teams scored only three points in their Week Ten losses and correspondingly, both fail to make the cut of the top 100 teams in points scored per game. The Green Wave played a close one last week, only falling by four, but they'll be on the road against the Black Knights in the Week Eleven pillow fight of the week.