by Chad Peltier
Every week is a crazy week, but this last one might be at the top of this season's list. Three previously undefeated schools picked up their first losses, including Oklahoma State, Houston, and most notably, Ohio State. We will almost assuredly have a new playoff ranking where two of the group of Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Iowa join Clemson and Alabama. But with rivalry week coming up, none of these teams are really safe. Yes, Penn State and Nebraska have just minimal chances to knock off Michigan State and Iowa, meaning that the likely Big Ten playoff representative won't be decided until the Big Ten Championship Game, but Notre Dame faces a tough matchup with Christian McCaffrey and Stanford, and Alabama has the always-tough rivalry game with Auburn in the Iron Bowl. It would be one of the biggest upsets of the year if South Carolina handed Clemson its first loss. The Big 12 is extremely interesting by itself. While Oklahoma has the easiest path to the playoff if they win out, they face rival Oklahoma State this week. A Sooners loss to the Cowboys combined with a Bears win over TCU might put Baylor over the edge (again, taking other rivalry game results into account).
- This was a rough week for the SEC East. Even outside of Vanderbilt getting shut out by Texas A&M, Georgia needed overtime to beat Georgia Southern, Florida needed the same to put away 2-9 Florida Atlantic, and South Carolina straight up lost to the Citadel. So what happened in each of these? Unfortunately, these weren't really big flukes, but continuations of season-long problems. Neither South Carolina nor the Citadel had a turnover, and Gamecocks quarterback Perry Orth actually threw for 367 yards, but the total lack of a running game (Brandon Wilds averaged 2.5 yards per carry) and vulnerability to the Citadel's run game did the Gamecocks in after a go-ahead touchdown was called back due to penalty. South Carolina allowed two Citadel running backs to cross the century mark thanks to explosive runs even though Citadel quarterback Dominique Allen only threw three passes. Georgia knew that Georgia Southern wouldn't throw the ball either (they attempted seven passes for 44 yards), but still allowed 233 yards rushing and were unable to generate any consistency on offense. Sony Michel had a 25-yard burst in overtime to preserve the win, but was otherwise held in check. Between two fumbles (one of which was a scoop-and-score by the Georgia Southern defense) and missed scoring opportunities in the first half, this one was very close to an upset. Issues abound for the Dawgs, as offensive play calling, quarterback development, and offensive line protection have all been issues this season. Finally, Florida was outgained by Florida Atlantic and had just a 15 percent third-down conversion rate, but won the turnover margin to narrowly avoid an upset against a team that has won two games to date this season.
- By the time you're reading this, LSU and Les Miles may have already parted ways, which is shocking in one sense, but predictable in another. If that's the case, then the 38-17 loss to Ole Miss was the nail in the coffin. So what happened for the Tigers to lose their third straight? Simply put, it's no coincidence that Leonard Fournette was bottled up for a third-straight game. The LSU offense also had three turnovers, three scoring opportunities end as turnovers on downs, and four three-and-outs for absolutely horrible drive efficiency. Brandon Harris actually threw for 324 yards, but had just a 34 percent passing success rate. There was a lot of production from explosive plays, but much of the time it was ultimately wasted in drives that ended with a turnover or downs. With so much passing inefficiency, Ole Miss was ultimately fine allowing a few explosive pass plays in order to stop Leonard Fournette.
- Oregon topped USC by 20 points largely on the back of Vernon Adams' incredible six-touchdown performance, though Royce Freeman's three explosive runs certainly helped as well. What was incredible is that Adams created explosive passing plays with six different receivers, five of whom scored touchdowns on the plays. The average reception for an Oregon receiver went for 20 yards. That not only condemns the Trojans' pass defense, but also should make Oregon fans long for what this season could have been had the Ducks' quarterback been healthy for the entire season. The Ducks averaged 4.9 points per scoring opportunity in the win.
- So how good is Notre Dame? The popular opinion prior to last week was that they would be knocked out of the Playoff Selection Committee rankings if Oklahoma kept winning, but now that Ohio State lost that makes things much more difficult to predict -- but what about Notre Dame's lackluster 19-16 win over Boston College (of course, this may be premature considering the Notre Dame-Stanford game next week)? The answer was pretty simple -- the Fighting Irish had five turnovers, including three interceptions from quarterback Deshone Kizer. Kizer has been pleasantly surprising this year for Notre Dame -- many actually thought freshman Brandon Wimbush might eventually get the job over him when Malik Zaire went down -- but he has averaged nearly 9 yards per attempt. But in his two close wins, including 24-20 over Temple and this week's win over Boston College, Kizer has thrown for a lot of yards but also multiple interceptions. This week Kizer was forced to throw a lot because of Boston College's excellent run defense (they are now second overall in rushing S&P+ on defense), which limited C.J. Prosise to 57 total yards, and Josh Adams to 2.6 yards per carry. The rushing inefficiency and turnovers combined to make this a close one for the Irish.
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- In the wake of Ohio State's loss to Michigan State -- which was a huge upset going by either the Vegas spread or the advanced stats -- most analysts are saying that the Spartans "exposed" Ohio State, but I don't think that's true. The loss may have exposed previously unknown locker room issues (and that's another story for now), but the Buckeyes' on-field struggles were the same they have had all season, just magnified by their best opponent and biggest stage yet. For one, the offense failed to generate a single explosive play. The wide receivers failed to get separation or shake Spartans defensive backs, and the offensive line was weak in pass protection, failing to give J.T. Barrett enough time to throw deep. The run game never got past the second level, which is why Ezekiel Elliott had a 17 percent opportunity rate even if his success rate was actually 50 percent. He had a number of short-yardage successful runs (particularly on their touchdown drive) but couldn't break any explosive carries. Without anything in the passing game and a run game that was stopped between 2- and 5-yard gains, the Buckeyes couldn't generate scoring opportunities. In fact, they only had two scoring opportunities (18 percent of their drives) compared to an astounding six three-and-outs. They had three times the number of wasted drives compared to scoring opportunities, and there's no way a team can be successful with that ratio of drive inefficiency. Third downs were difficult, averaging nearly 5.7 yards to go, which makes the 29 percent third down conversion rate almost seem impressive. Finally, Ezekiel Elliott (and Ohio State fans) complained about his lack of carries -- but since the offense only had 45 total plays, that kind of puts things in perspective.
- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford. If anything, do-everything running back Christian McCaffrey might be undervalued for the Heisman, but a big performance against Notre Dame next week could change all that. Yes, he played Cal's "defense," but he nevertheless had 192 rushing yards on 29 carries as well as leading the team in receiving thanks to his 49-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
- Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State. Dak Prescott wasn't supposed to have the year he's having considering the offseason turnover that Mississippi State has experienced. But against Arkansas, which has displayed a stout defense in recent weeks, Prescott threw for 508 yards and averaged more than 10 yards per attempt. The senior has likely rocketed up draft boards with his recent performances and now is second in the SEC in passing yards.
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- Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas. But Prescott's performance shouldn't overshadow Arkansas's Brandon Allen, who threw for seven touchdowns and 406 total yards as the Arkansas run game was limited to just 2.5 yards per rush.
- Baylor's offensive line. Baylor's offensive line faced one of the most intense pass rushes in Oklahoma State, but allowed just a single sack to Emmanuel Ogbah and four tackles for loss as Baylor's offense continued to roll.
- Andrew Billings, DE, Baylor. Not to be outdone by his offensive line, Andrew Billings came alive, recording two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss against Oklahoma State.