Week 13 was an interesting week in college football. Some teams’ playoff hopes barely survived, while others saw their playoff hopes crash and burn. Here are the winners and losers from week 13, coming to you a few days early!
The Sooners are living on the edge. Faced with a 25-point road deficit last week against Baylor, Oklahoma roared back to seal a comeback victory and keep its playoff hopes alive. This week, No. 9 Oklahoma faced TCU at home and almost experienced the opposite scenario. Against the Horned Frogs, it was Oklahoma that took a big lead early, only to see TCU close the gap late and almost complete a comeback against the Sooners. Fortunately for Oklahoma, it held onto both the win and its narrow playoff chances. By virtue of the win, Oklahoma (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) also clinched a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game, where they will have a rematch against No. 14 Baylor (10-1, 7-1 Big 12). Oklahoma has a very narrow path to the playoff, but should the Sooners win their final two games of the year against No. 21 Oklahoma State and Baylor, they certainly have a strong case.
If Oklahoma’s playoff hopes survived, then No. 6 Oregon’s died. The Ducks were up against an Arizona State team that had lost four games in a row. In their last game, the Sun Devils had given up 35 points in a loss to Oregon State, yet the Ducks were perpetually stymied by ASU head coach Herm Edwards’ defense for most of the game. And then, when Oregon’s offense finally woke up and started scoring some points, the defense gave up an 81-yard touchdown pass on third-and-16, basically ending the game. It was a lifeless performance by Oregon (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12), and one in which the Ducks likely saw their playoff chances collapse. If there’s one message the College Football Playoff Selection Committee has consistently sent every year in making its College Football Playoff selection, it’s that a team’s second loss is fatal.
No single team benefited from Oregon’s loss more than No. 5 Alabama, as one hurdle standing between them and the College Football Playoff was knocked down. The consensus is that Alabama (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) would need a lot of help to make the playoff, and this week they got it. Oregon was the likeliest team to get that fourth playoff spot, assuming No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Clemson all won their respective conferences. A one-loss Oregon that won the Pac-12 would definitely have been a better team than Alabama, but now that Oregon’s out of it, can the same be said of the other playoff contenders? Is a one-loss No. 7 Utah team better than the Crimson Tide? Is Oklahoma or Baylor? Those are much tougher calls and ones that could even be in Alabama’s favor. Does Oregon’s loss mean that Alabama is favored to get in now? I’d still say no, but the path is certainly easier now for Nick Saban’s team.
It was the second-to-last week of the regular season. Selection Sunday is almost upon us. There were big, consequential games in most of the major conferences, games that made or broke teams’ seasons. And the biggest game in the SEC was Texas A&M at No. 4 Georgia. Or maybe Arkansas at LSU? Those games are hardly consequential and interesting. These matchups stem from an awful practice by many SEC schools to schedule nonconference games against really weak opponents this week of the season. For example, Alabama hosted Western Carolina, while No. 15 Auburn played against Samford, games that were over after the end of the first quarter. I understand that these smaller schools receive significant compensation for playing in these games, but could the SEC schools at least do us the favor of scheduling these games at the beginning of the season? Not a single fan wants to watch this garbage at this crucial point in the season. It’s a bad look for college football, and it’s a horrible look for the conference that calls itself the best conference in college football.
Honorable Mention: FIU
On one side, it was a storied football program, the Miami Hurricanes, who have five claimed national titles and six Orange Bowl victories. On the other side, it was a football program that’s not even two decades old. FIU has only appeared in four bowl games in its history, winning two of them. Yet this discrepancy in greatness did not matter on the football field on Saturday, where the Panthers (6-5, 3-4 Conference USA) shocked the Hurricanes (6-5, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) in Marlins Park. The two teams had met three times previously, with Miami winning all of them, but now FIU has bragging rights in this crosstown showdown.