This is the annual part where we say that it seems like just yesterday it was Labor Day weekend, and now it’s Thanksgiving. The season just flies by. This is the best week of the college football season, chock full of traditional rivalries with major stakes. That includes the Iron Bowl, Georgia and Tech and Clemson-South Carolina, with at least one team playing in a de facto Sweet 16 game. The pressure is enormous on the teams fighting for one of those precious four slots – you don’t want to get knocked out by your most bitter rival.
1. Alabama – For the ninth time in the last ten years, Nick Saban has led the Crimson Tide to at least 11 regular season wins. Amazing. Now comes a monster Iron Bowl with a berth in Atlanta on the line. The Tide has likely locked a playoff berth no matter what.
2. Miami – Things were a little tense with the Wahoos down in South Florida, as Miami trailed 14-0 out of the gates to Virginia. But the Hurricanes would come storming back to get a huge win. Friday at Pitt may be tough if the weather is bad.
3. Wisconsin – This was the win the Badgers were looking for. Wisconsin came back from 10-7 down in the third quarter to Michigan, scoring 17 straight to top the Wolverines 24-10. A road game at Minnesota awaits then the Big Ten Championship Game.
4. Georgia – The Bulldogs pulled away in the second half to beat Kentucky 42-13, improving to 10-1 on the year. Now comes the annual challenge with Tech and the Yellow Jackets high-powered offense on The Flats.
5. Oklahoma – Boomer Sooner delivered at Kansas to make it 10-1 on the year. Now West Virginia, which lost to Texas comes to Norman. Lincoln.Riley inherited a terrific team from Bob Stoops and they are in the thick of the playoff talk.
6. Clemson – The Tigers are 10-1 after beating The Citadel, just continuing the impressive run Dabo Swinney has delivered. It could be tough this week against a surprisingly tough South Carolina squad in Columbia.
7. Auburn – The Tigers are smoking hot and now comes an enormous Iron Bowl. Nobody was thinking SEC Championship Game and playoff potential after the loss to LSU, but Auburn is right in there for everything.
8. Ohio State – It was no problem for the Buckeyes against Illinois in the Horseshoe. Now comes the big one with Michigan in the Big House. A berth in the Big Ten title game would come with a win. And we know the committee loves the Buckeyes.
9. Penn State – The Nittany Lions improved to 9-2 with a win over Nebraska. It’s strange seeing Big Red struggle so. Penn State will try and cap off the regular season with a 10-2 mark, as Maryland awaits in College Park.
10. Central Florida – Scott Frost’s Golden Knights are undefeated still after a 45-19 rout of Temple. It sets up “The War on I-4” against once-beaten South Florida. Frost could very well land at home in Nebraska or in the SEC.
11. Notre Dame – It’s always a tough chore against the Midshipmen, but the Fighting Irish pulled out a 24-17 win and are now 9-2. Now comes a tough trip to Stanford and a tough Cardinal team.
12. TCU – The Horned Frogs put together a very impressive effort, short-handed, they took care of Texas Tech 27-3 in Lubbock. TCU is eyeing a berth in the Big XII Championship Game and a 10-2 record against Baylor Friday.
13. Washington State – The Cougars were off this past week to get ready for a huge showdown with Washington in Seattle. If Washington State wins, then it’s a rematch with the Men of Troy, who they famously beat in Pullman back in September.
14. Southern Cal – Playing for a 12th straight week, the Trojans staved off the upset bid from crosstown rival UCLA to win 28-23. USC is off this week and then plays either Stanford or Washington State for the PAC 12 crown.
15. Mississippi State – It was a grinder with Arkansas, as the Razorbacks smelled the upset. But MSU was able to pull it out to make it 8-3 on the year. If the Starkville Maroons handle Ole Miss Thursday in the Egg Bowl, it’s a superb season and sweet bowl.
16. Memphis – The Tigers are having a tremendous season, and the record is now 9-1 after blowing out SMU. Now comes East Carolina, as the Tigers try and make it 10-1 rolling into the conference title game of the American.
17. Washington – A 33-30 shootout victory over Utah pushed the Huskies to 9-2 on the year. Now comes the Apple Cup with the Cougars, who are also 9-2. A WSU win, and they go for the PAC-12 title, if the Huskies prevail, it’s Stanford and USC.
18. South Carolina – Will Muschamp has the spirits of the Gamecock faithful soaring, as a win over Wofford pushed South Carolina to 8-3. Now comes Clemson, and South Carolina would love to deliver a stunning blow to the big rival.
19. South Florida – Charley Strong’s Bulls have a big one against undefeated Central Florida Friday. The winner in Orlando will then face Memphis and have a great shot to play in a major bowl game.
20. LSU – It is impressive how the Fightin’ Tigers have battled back since the loss to Troy. A win over the Aggies would give them a 9-3 mark. As usual, LSU is physical and talented. They looked good in Knoxville this past weekend.
21. Stanford – The Cardinal sit at 8-3, and host Notre Dame Saturday. Bryce Love is a tremendous running back. It’s a big day for Stanford. If Washington beats WSU, the Cardinal go play for the PAC-12 crown.
22. Oklahoma State – ‘The Wizard’ Bill Snyder worked his magic for Kansas State, as the Wildcats upset the Cowboys and their Big XII title hopes. Mike Gundy’s Pokes close it out at home against Kansas.
23. Northwestern – The Wildcats have had an outstanding season and have shaken up some other teams would be superlative campaigns – namely Iowa and Sparty. Northwestern will eye its in-state supremacy, venturing to Champagne to play the Fighting Illini.
24. Boise State – The Broncos beat Air Force 44-19 for a seventh straight win. Brett Rypien is having a fine season at quarterback. Sitting at 9-2, Boise State closes out on the road at Fresno State, aiming for another 10-win season.
25. Michigan State – The Spartans are now 8-3 after the 17-7 win over Maryland. See above, that overtime loss to Northwestern is a stinger. Mark Dantonio has done a tremendous job in East Lansing. It’s off to Rutgers Saturday.
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