Ohio State might have made a definitive statement in its 52-12 win over Michigan State, but the College Football Playoff contenders get enough pub during the week. How about some love for Coastal Carolina and BYU, who might have played the best game of the season despite scheduling their matchup on the fly?
(Side note to every team in America that schedules its nonconference games 15 years in advance: These two programs showed that compelling in-season matchups are not nearly as impossible as everyone wants us to believe).
Two teams looking for a schedule boost and a dark horse shot at crashing the playoff party realized they needed each other so they made it happen. It was playfully dubbed "Mormons vs. Mullets" and delivered on the entertainment value all the way to the end -- when BYU marched from its 18 to the Coastal Carolina 18 in 52 seconds for one last chance at the win. Zach Wilson threw complete to Dax Milne, but he was tackled at the 1 with no time left on the clock, shades of Super Bowl XXXIV when the Titans came up one yard short of the goal line in the end against the Rams.
Cincinnati remains the favorite to win the Group of 5 New Year's Six bowl spot, but Coastal Carolina has given the committee plenty to think about going into this week's rankings. The top seven might end up looking the same (again) but where the committee moves Coastal Carolina could provide some intrigue. The Chanticleers have certainly proved they deserve to move up.
1.Alabama Crimson Tide (9-0)
Once again, the Crimson Tide proved why they are the overwhelming choice as the top team in the country in their 55-17 win over LSU. Consider the back-and-forth thriller they played last season and what happened on Saturday -- a methodical dismantling of the defending national champion that once again showcased all the offensive skill players on the Alabama side. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith had 200 yards alone in the first half, Najee Harrisfinished with 145 yards on the ground and Mac Jones made it all look so effortless in throwing for 385 yards and four scores.
Up next: at Arkansas (Saturday, TBA)
2.Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-0)
Ian Book put an exclamation point on his final home game at Notre Dame, becoming the winningest quarterback in school history in a 45-21 victory over Syracuse. Book was responsible for a season-high five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing), and the Irish have scored 45 or more points in five games this season, tied for most in a season in school history. It appears the Irish are in great position to make the College Football Playoff -- no matter what happens in the ACC championship game.
Up next: Clemson, ACC championship game, (4 p.m. ET, Dec. 19, ABC)
3.Clemson Tigers (9-1)
Tale as old as time ... as in, Clemson is back in the ACC championship game for the sixth consecutive year, clinching a spot after a 45-10 victory over Virginia Tech that went from a close game to blowout by the time the third quarter ended. In the win, Trevor Lawrence became the school's all-time wins leader as the starting quarterback with 33. Now as they look forward, the Tigers have no margin for error in the ACC title game against Notre Dame. Clemson has to win to assure its spot in the playoff.
Next up: Notre Dame, ACC championship game, (4 p.m. ET, Dec. 19, ABC)
4.Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0)
There were plenty of questions about how the Buckeyes would play with four starters and 23 total players out against Michigan State and coach Ryan Day watching from home. The Buckeyes answered all of them, and proved they deserve to be in the College Football Playoff mix after a 52-12 win. Quarterback Justin Fields had over 300 yards of total offense and four total touchdowns as the Buckeyes put together the type of dominant performance we all expected once their season began.
Up next: Michigan (noon ET, Saturday, Fox)
5.Texas A&M Aggies (7-1)
The Aggies continued to bolster their College Football Playoff case in a 31-20 win over Auburn. Quarterback Kellen Mond played much better than the previous time out, scoring three total touchdowns, and helped Texas A&M rally from a third-quarter deficit. Texas A&M scored 17 unanswered points, and shut down the Tigers' offense in the fourth quarter. Though the Aggies will more than likely be on the outside looking in again in the next rankings, adding another win only helps their case.
Up next: Ole Miss (Saturday, TBA)
6.Florida Gators (8-1)
It is not overstating it to say that Kyle Trask has helped rejuvenate the Gators' program, taking a star turn at the star position to get Florida back into the SEC championship game. It was more of the same in a 31-19 win over Tennessee as Trask threw for 433 yards and four touchdowns. To capture just how important Trask has been to Florida's success, this stat says it all: Trask is the first Gator to throw for 3,000 yards in a season since Tim Tebow in 2007.
Up next: LSU (Saturday, TBA)
7.Cincinnati Bearcats (8-0)
The Bearcats have clinched a spot in the American Athletic Conference championship game even without having played a game since Nov. 21 because of coronavirus issues. They should be good to play their next scheduled game at Tulsa, which presents an interesting scenario. This could end up being a rematch in the conference title game the following week. That happened last year, but with not-so-favorable results: Cincinnati lost to Memphis to close out the regular season and then again in the title game.
Up next: at Tulsa (Saturday, TBA)
8.Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (10-0)
Let's move the Chanticleers up, why don't we? They deserve it after a heart-stopping 22-17 victory over BYU, their second win over a ranked opponent this season. And they did it exactly the way they planned. They controlled the clock and were the aggressors on the line of scrimmage, rushing for 281 yards -- the most on the Cougars all season. With the victory, Coastal Carolina became the first Sun Belt team to win 10 games in a row at any point within a season.
Up next: at Troy (3 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN+)
9.Indiana Hoosiers (6-1)
Indiana went into its game against Wisconsin without star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (torn ACL) but put together yet another impressive performance in a 14-6 win over the Badgers. What the Hoosiers have accomplished this season is remarkable: They are 6-1 for the first time since 1993 and have now beaten three ranked teams in a season for the first time since 1945. The defense stepped up against Wisconsin, holding the Badgers to six points -- the fewest points allowed to a ranked AP opponent since 1993 against Michigan State.
Up next: Purdue (Saturday, TBA)
10.Miami Hurricanes (8-1)
In their first game since mid-November, the Hurricanes looked downright dominant in a 48-0 win over Duke -- a team that was added to its schedule six days earlier as a result of coronavirus-related reshuffling. Coach Manny Diaz said earlier in the week he was not sure how the Hurricanes would manage a shortened week of practice while missing several players, but they seemed to handle it just fine. It was their most lopsided conference shutout since beating Syracuse 59-0 in 2001.
Next up: North Carolina (Saturday, TBA)
11.BYU Cougars (9-1)
The Cougars deserve an inordinate amount of credit for taking on the cross-country trip to play Coastal Carolina on short notice in an effort to boost their strength of schedule. They simply fell one yard short in a 22-17 loss to the Chanticleers, after Dax Milne was tackled just short of the goal line with no time remaining. It has been an unexpected run for BYU, which despite the loss has put together its best season in years and still has a chance to finish with 10 wins.
Up next:San Diego State (10 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN2)
12.Iowa State Cyclones (8-2)
Matt Campbell has done a phenomenal job with the Iowa State program, and the Cyclones reached another milestone, clinching their first appearance in the Big 12 title game. They were dominant in a 42-6 win over West Virginia to move to 8-2. Brock Purdy threw for three touchdown passes, and Breece Hall scored a touchdown in his 10th straight game, tying Troy Davis for the most consecutive games scoring a TD in Iowa State history (1995-96). Hall is the first player in school history to do it in a single season.
Up next: Big 12 championship game (noon ET, Dec. 19, ABC)
13.Georgia Bulldogs (6-2)
Let's just say Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity was not super happy about the Bulldogs' scheduled game against Vanderbilt being pushed back to Dec. 19 because the Commodores didn't have enough players to play Saturday. As McGarity pointed out, there are no guarantees the game gets played Dec. 19, either. This was the second time in four weeks they saw a game postponed because the opponent didn't have the SEC roster minimum.
Up next: at Missouri (Saturday, TBA)
14.Oklahoma Sooners (7-2)
This might be a season that doesn't end in a playoff appearance for the Sooners, but there's still an opportunity at the Big 12 title. Though their 27-14 win over Baylor wasn't filled with the offensive fireworks everyone has grown accustomed to seeing and was more like a slog than anything else, Oklahoma did win its sixth straight game and put itself in position for a rematch with Iowa State in the Big 12 championship game.
Up next: at West Virginia (Saturday, TBA)
15.USC Trojans (3-0)
The Trojans saw their game against Washington State moved to Sunday after coronavirus issues impacted both teams, canceling their respective games last weekend. Coach Clay Helton said this past week the Trojans were in a "really good place" to play, though both teams might be short-handed. For USC, it's another chance for quarterback Kedon Slovis to keep building on a strong start to the season.
Up next:Washington State (Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
16.Northwestern Wildcats (5-1)
The Wildcats saw their game against Minnesota canceled because of widespread coronavirus issues with the Golden Gophers, the first game this season Northwestern has been unable to play. But they clinched a spot in the Big Ten title game as the West Division champion, even if the conference changes the requirement rules. It's a tremendous accomplishment for a team that went 3-9 last season.
Up next: Illinois (Saturday, TBA)
17.Tulsa Golden Hurricane (6-1)
The Golden Hurricane were picked to finish ninth out of 11 teams in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll. But a 19-6 win over Navy clinched a spot in the conference championship game against Cincinnati -- the team they are scheduled to play next weekend. Jaxon Player had an especially impressive performance against the Midshipmen, with 12 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Up next: Cincinnati (Saturday, TBA)
18.Iowa Hawkeyes (5-2)
The Hawkeyes rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat Illinois 35-21 as Spencer Petras threw for three touchdown passes. Iowa rushed for over 200 yards to win its fifth straight game after an 0-2 start. The comeback marked the Hawkeyes' second victory in the past 10 seasons in conference play when trailing by at least 14 points.
Up next: Wisconsin (Saturday, TBA)
19.LouisianaRagin' Cajuns (9-1)
The Ragin' Cajuns beat Appalachian State for the first time in school history Friday and moved to 9-1 for the first time, but all anyone wanted to talk about after the game was the decision to take an intentional safety from their own 35-yard line to avoid another bad special-teams snap. Coach Billy Napier defended the decision in the aftermath, and as unorthodox as it might have been, it worked (this time). Now comes the biggest test: Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt championship game.
Up next: Coastal Carolina (Dec. 19, TBA)
20.North Carolina Tar Heels(7-3)
As expected, the Tar Heels rolled past Western Carolina 49-9 to close out their final home game of the season. Sam Howell threw two touchdown passes to give him 64 in his career, tied with Bryn Renner for second in school history. Running back Michael Carter tied his career high with three touchdowns in the first half. Though it did not qualify for the ACC championship game, North Carolina still has an intriguing matchup against Miami next weekend to end the regular season.
Next up: at Miami (Saturday, TBA)
21.NC State Wolfpack (8-3)
The Wolfpack capped their regular season with a 23-13 victory over Georgia Tech, doubling their win total from a year ago. While it is true they avoided playing Clemson and Notre Dame in the reconfigured ACC schedule this season, they were able to post one of the best seasons under Dave Doeren despite losing starting quarterback Devin Leary after four games.
Up next: TBD
The Flames were unable to play Coastal Carolina because of coronavirus issues on their team, a disappointing development considering what was in line to be a blockbuster game. Instead, Coastal got a game with BYU and Liberty has no more games left to play in the regular season.
Up next: Possible bowl game
Two words: Jarek Broussard. In a 24-13 win over Arizona, Broussard rushed for 301 yards, the fourth player in school history to run for 300 yards yards in a game and the first since Chris Brown in 2002. The Buffaloes are off to a 4-0 start and deserve to enter the rankings this coming week -- especially as Pac-12 brethren Oregon and Washington lost on Saturday.
Up next:Utah (Friday, TBA, Fox Sports 1)
24.San Jose State Spartans (5-0)
Welcome to the top 25, Spartans! After seeing two straight games canceled, San Jose State had its home game against Hawai'i moved to the islands because of new coronavirus restrictions in Santa Clara County, California. But that did not stop the Spartans from posting yet another win, 35-24 over the Rainbow Warriors. San Jose State is now 5-0 for the first time since 1939 and is the third team in Mountain West Conference history to start a season 5-0 with all five wins by double digits.
Up next:Nevada (Friday, 10 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
25.Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-3)
The Cowboys were on the brink of falling completely out of the top 25 after a disappointing 29-22 loss to TCU. After a 4-0 start, Oklahoma State has lost two of its past three and this one especially hurt after two red zone failures in the fourth quarter were costly.
Up next:at Baylor (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU)