AP Top 25 Takeaways: 3 top-10 blowouts reshape playoff race
By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer
On a Saturday that reshaped the College football Playoff race, three top-10 matchups produced three lopsided games that left Auburn, Miami and Oklahoma with well-defined paths to the final four.
Out: Speculation about two SEC teams making the playoff. In: Speculation about a two-loss team making the playoff.
Thoughts, takedowns and takeaways from Week 11 of the college football season.
1. The only thing missing from this Miami beat down of No. 3 Notre Dame was Jimmy Johnson on the Hurricanes’ sideline calling for a blocked punt in the fourth quarter.
2. The seventh-ranked Hurricanes won some games early this season they probably should have lost, started believing they were good and now they actually are that good. Funny how teams evolve.
3. Baker Mayfield passed for 333 yards against one of the best defenses in the country in TCU and now has four weeks to work on that Heisman Trophy acceptance speech and avoid throwing away an award that’s pretty much his to lose.
4. Can we take Auburn coach Gus Malzahn off the hot seat now or nah?
5. The question was: Can Georgia win if a defense forces freshman Jake Fromm and the passing game to do the heavy lifting? Auburn was the first team to force the Bulldogs into that position and the answer was: Absolutely not.
6. So forget about all that two SEC teams in the playoff stuff, right? Not so fast. Georgia is locked into the conference championship game. If the Bulldogs were to beat an unbeaten Alabama in Atlanta, leaving both 12-1, that whole two-SEC-teams thing is still on the table. But Auburn didn’t help.
7. The top-ranked Crimson Tide will take over that spot when the new playoff selection committee rankings come out Tuesday after escaping Mississippi State in Starkville to set up a winner-takes-the-SEC-West Iron Bowl in two weeks.
8. The next three? Miami, Clemson and Oklahoma in some order. Auburn, with two losses, is in the on deck circle with Wisconsin.
9. The Badgers are 10-0 for the first time in school history, doing what Ohio State could not last week: shutting down Iowa, despite an offense that turned the ball over four times and handed the Hawkeyes 14 points.
10. Losses by Georgia and Notre Dame helped the Badgers, too. So a good day overall for Wisconsin, if you want to ignore that quarterback Alex Hornibrook has now thrown 12 interceptions, 11 in seven Big Ten games.
11. Note to quarterbacks: Stop throwing at Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson, who has pretty much wrapped up a spot on the AP All-America team with five picks the last two weeks and two TDs against Wisconsin.
12. No. 21 Michigan comes to Camp Randall in Madison next week in the marquee game of what will be a fairly weak slate of games. Prediction: Wolverines beat the Badgers and then we can stop all the speculation about whether Wisconsin will get left out of the playoff despite going unbeaten.
13. The next couple of months in Columbus, Ohio, could include a lot of time spent wondering what the heck happened to the Buckeyes in Iowa City last week. The Ohio State team that showed up against Michigan State looked like one of the best in the country. The Buckeyes (8-2) are two wins away from a Big Ten title matchup against the Badgers, and don’t quite throw dirt on those playoff chances yet.
14. And if we’re going to start talking about two-loss teams in the playoff, No. 15 USC is probably going to want in that conversation, too.
15. Before Miami stepped on the field it was an historic day for the program. Losses by Virginia and No. 17 Virginia Tech meant the Hurricanes are ACC Coastal Division champions for the first time. Hard to believe it took this long considering Miami entered the ACC in 2004 having gone 46-4 with one national title and one near miss in the previous four seasons playing in the Big East. The Hurricanes were the gold standard in college football and then they weren’t, and their struggles dragged ACC football down like an anchor for years.
16. The Hurricanes will play defending champion No. 4 Clemson in Charlotte, and the ACC could finally have the scenario Commissioner John Swofford dreamed of when Miami joined the league. Two national championship contenders playing in the conference title game.
17. We interrupt all this playoff chatter to talk about Nebraska football.
18. Minnesota 54, Nebraska 21 , in the most lopsided win in the series for the Gophers since 1945 — back when Minnesota was a college football powerhouse and Nebraska most definitely was not. These Gophers still need a victory to become bowl-eligible, but they ran for 409 yards against coordinator Bob Diaco’s defense.
19. The Cornhuskers (4-6) have two games left against No. 16 Penn State and No. 25 Iowa to maybe get bowl-eligible and save coach Mike Riley’s job but let’s be realistic here; neither of those things is likely to happen.
20. No. 14 UCF improved to 9-0 under former Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost with a 49-24 victory against UConn.
21. If Nebraska wants Frost, it might have to fend off about half the Southeastern Conference to get him. Bret Bielema may have reached the point of no return with Arkansas on Saturday.
22. For those who come up short in the Frost sweepstakes, there is another coach in south Florida whose team is scoring in bunches and poised to play for a conference title. And FAU’s Lane Kiffin has SEC coaching experience. Kiffin’s Owls have won six straight , taking control of Conference USA East while scoring at least 30 points in eight straight games.
23. Saquon Barkley scored a couple of touchdowns for Penn State but managed only 35 yards rushing and 20 receiving against Rutgers. The Heisman Trophy is not happening. Penn State’s opponents are stacked to stop Barkley and the Nittany Lions’ line is not good enough to give him room.
24. Stanford’s Bryce Love, though, is back in it though it looks like the race is for second. He could be the fourth Stanford player to finish second in the Heisman voting since 2009, joining Christian McCaffrey, Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart.
25. Louisville Heisman winner Lamar Jackson became the first player in NCAA history with consecutive seasons of 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing. Hope Heisman voters are noticing.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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