The College Football Playoff picture got a little clearer in Week 11.
No. 11 Ole Miss saw its slim playoff hopes disappear with a home loss to No. 9 Alabama on Saturday afternoon, a fateful slip ruined No. 6 Oregon’s chances at the playoff in a 37-34 loss to No. 25 Washington in Eugene, and No. 12 UCLA watched its CFP dreams vanish in a 34-28 loss to Arizona.
With both the Rebels, Ducks and Bruins all suffering their second losses, there are now just eight Power Five teams with one loss or fewer heading into the final two weeks of the regular season. And that number could shrink sizably by the time conference championship weekend rolls around in December.
Here are the eight games over the next two weeks that we think will have the most impact on the College Football Playoff ahead of the conference title games.
No. 4 TCU at Baylor
This could have been a Big 12 title game prelude but the Bears are out of the Big 12 title chase after losing to Kansas State on Saturday night. Baylor is still a tricky opponent for the Horned Frogs, however, thanks to a solid defense and an offense that had put up at least 35 points in its last four games before grinding to a halt against the Wildcats. TCU could possibly afford a loss and still make the playoff, but that’s not worth the risk.
No. 8 USC at No. 12 UCLA
The Battle of Los Angeles lost some of its muster with UCLA's stunning loss to Arizona. This game still factors heavily in the Pac-12 title game picture, but only USC is still fighting for a potential playoff spot. The Trojans are set to get a massive late-season strength of schedule boost and will be a shoo-in for the playoff if they can win the conference and finish 12-1.
No. 1 Georgia at No. 24 Kentucky
Georgia was set to be a huge favorite and is now going to be an even bigger favorite after Kentucky somehow lost to Vanderbilt at home on Saturday. But this game makes the list because it’s the last SEC game of the year for the Bulldogs and they’re playing for the No. 1 seed. And it’s the last chance for Kentucky QB Will Levis to wow NFL scouts and finally turn in a big performance against a top team.
Miami at No. 10 Clemson
The Tigers beat Louisville on Saturday as they attempt to climb back up the CFP rankings after a loss to Notre Dame. Miami, meanwhile, enters at 5-5 after a 35-14 win at Georgia Tech as QB Jacurri Brown threw for three touchdowns and rushed for 87 yards. The Hurricanes can play competent football when they’re not turning it over, and Clemson’s offense has been sluggish the last few weeks. The Hurricanes’ upset chances would also be boosted if coach Mario Cristobal would depart from his conservative game-managing ways.
The Illini have lost control of the Big Ten West over the past two weeks with losses to Michigan State and Purdue. And a late game ankle injury to Chase Brown against the Boilermakers on Saturday could be absolutely massive. If the nation’s leading rusher is out against Michigan, Illinois has an even bigger hill to climb. But the Illini play a similar style to the Wolverines and are well-equipped to slow it down even more against Michigan.
No. 16 NC State at No. 15 North Carolina
The Tar Heels really needed their in-state rivals to win on Saturday. A win over a top-20 NC State team in the final week of the season ahead of an ACC title game matchup with Clemson could have put UNC on the periphery of the playoff discussion. UNC could still end up near the top four with a 12-1 season and an ACC title, but a lot of chaos will probably have to happen for the Tar Heels to get in.
No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State
One of the biggest games of the season in 2021 is set for a blockbuster sequel in 2022. Both teams are likely to be 11-0 entering their annual rivalry game and the winner will probably head to the Big Ten title game in the top two of the College Football Playoff rankings. The loser will likely be at 11-1 and hoping that sitting out conference championship weekend isn’t too much of a playoff hindrance, especially with the possibility of an 11-1 Tennessee team also on the sidelines in December.
No. 20 Notre Dame at No. 8 USC
This isn’t much of a breather for USC ahead of a potential Pac-12 title game. It is, however, a spot where Caleb Williams can do what Bryce Young did a season ago and mount a late-season Heisman charge. USC will draw a ton of attention over the final three weeks of the season if it makes the Pac-12 title game at 11-1 and strong performances by Williams in a year with no outright Heisman favorite could vault him to the front of the field with a Pac-12 title and a playoff berth for the Trojans.
Here are this week's winners and losers.
LSU: LSU is the SEC West champion. After last week’s thrilling win over Alabama, a letdown was very predictable for the Tigers on a cold morning in Fayetteville. But Arkansas was without starting QB K.J. Jefferson, and LSU’s defense feasted — especially freshman Harold Perkins — in a 13-10 win. Perkins finished the day with eight tackles, four tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles, making big play after big play in pivotal moments. When Arkansas had a chance to tie the score or even take the lead, Perkins sealed the win with a strip sack with 1:19 remaining. With the win in the books, LSU got to sit back and watch Alabama beat Ole Miss. That win for the Crimson Tide sealed the SEC West title for LSU.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 12, 2022
TCU: TCU just keeps on winning. The undefeated Horned Frogs were touchdown underdogs on the road against No. 18 Texas on Saturday but were able to prove the oddsmakers wrong. It wasn’t pretty, but TCU got out of Austin with a 17-10 win to improve to 10-0 and clinch a spot in the Big 12 title game. TCU had just a 3-0 lead deep into the third quarter before Kendre Miller reeled off a 75-yard touchdown run. In the fourth, TCU put the game away with a Max Duggan touchdown pass to Quentin Johnston. Meanwhile, the defense limited Texas running back Bijan Robinson to just 29 yards while Quinn Ewers was held to 171 yards on 17-of-39 throwing. It was an impressive effort from the TCU defense.
Tennessee: Tennessee went for style points on Saturday. The Vols fell from No. 1 to No. 5 in the CFP rankings after losing to Georgia last week, so they made sure to put up a big number at home against Missouri. Tennessee scored 38 points in the final 23:30 of regulation, turning what was a 28-24 game into a 66-24 beatdown. In all, Tennessee put up a whopping 724 yards of offense. Tennessee won’t be in the SEC title game, but it is going to make sure it has a heavy presence in the CFP conversation all the way to the end.
North Carolina: Is Drake Maye the best quarterback in college football? The UNC freshman had another outstanding performance, throwing for 448 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-34 road win over Wake Forest. Maye also posted 71 yards and a touchdown rushing in the win. Maye outdueled Wake Forest senior Sam Hartman, who threw for 320 yards and four scores but also had a costly fourth-quarter interception that led to the winning field goal for the Tar Heels. UNC clinched the ACC Coastal Division with the win and is now 9-1 overall. Is a substantial rise in the CFP rankings coming next? The Tar Heels were No. 15 last week.
— Carolina Football (@UNCFootball) November 13, 2022
Kansas State: K-State needed a win to stay in the thick of the Big 12 title race, and the Wildcats posted a dominant one on Saturday night in Waco. K-State trounced Baylor 31-3 to improve to 7-3 overall and 5-2 in Big 12 play. To get the win, K-State got three touchdown passes from Will Howard, 106 yards rushing from Deuce Vaughn and stopped Baylor on three fourth-down tries. Following TCU’s win over Texas, Kansas State now has sole possession of second place in the Big 12 standings. Will the Wildcats get another chance to knock off TCU with the conference title on the line?
Troy LB Carlton Martial: There’s a new all-time leader in tackles in FBS history. Troy’s Carlton Martial posted a whopping 22 tackles in the Trojans’ 10-9 win over Army on Saturday, giving him 548 tackles in his storied career. With his 20th tackle, Martial moved past Northwestern's Tim McGarigle (2002-05) to move atop the all-time list. The 5-foot-9, 210-pound Martial arrived at Troy as a walk-on. He didn’t play in his first year on campus, but soon emerged as one of Troy’s best players. He topped 100 tackles in each of the last three seasons and is now up to 106 this season. Troy improved to 8-2 with Saturday’s win.
UCF: UCF is now in the driver’s seat in the American Athletic Conference. The Knights went on the road to New Orleans and knocked off Tulane, which was previously unbeaten in AAC play. In the 38-31 win, John Rhys Plumlee returned from a concussion and posted 176 rushing yards, 132 passing yards and three total touchdowns. UCF, Cincinnati and Tulane are all 5-1 in AAC play, but UCF has head-to-head wins over both the Bearcats and Green Wave. With Navy and USF remaining on the schedule, UCF has a clear path to the AAC regular season title, hosting the conference title game and a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Clemson: After such an ugly performance last week vs. Notre Dame, Clemson bounced back in convincing fashion with a 31-16 win over Louisville. The Tigers, now 9-1 overall and 7-0 in ACC play, came out of the gates with a 75-yard scoring drive and never looked back. DJ Uiagalelei was much better this week, but the Clemson offense was led by the running game with Phil Mafah and Will Shipley. While Mafah rushed for a career high 106 yards, Shipley made one of the top highlight reel plays of the day with a tremendous hurdle on a 25-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
put this on repeat. then put it on repeat again.
Will Shipley is 𝐝𝐢𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭. pic.twitter.com/SVJW15eDW8
Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt’s 26-game SEC losing streak has come to an end. Before Saturday’s 24-21 road win over Kentucky, Vanderbilt hadn’t won a conference game since beating Missouri at home on Oct. 19, 2019. Additionally, Vandy hadn't had an SEC road win since Nov. 10, 2018, also over Missouri. To get this win, Vanderbilt needed some late-game heroics from Mike Wright. Vandy trailed 21-17 with 4:58 to play and Wright drove his team 80 yards for the win. A 40-yard completion to Quincy Skinner Jr. on a fourth-and-11 set up the winning score, an eight-yard strike from Wright to Will Sheppard on third-and-goal. Vandy is now 4-6 on the year after winning five games combined in its three previous seasons.
— Vanderbilt Football (@VandyFootball) November 12, 2022
UConn: Jim Mora’s UConn Huskies are bowl eligible. After a 1-4 start, UConn has now won five of its last six games to improve to 6-5 and clinch bowl eligibility. The latest win came Saturday at home against Liberty, a team coming off a road upset over Arkansas. But on this day, it was the Flames getting upset. UConn jumped out to a 21-10 lead but Liberty came back and led 33-28 early in the fourth quarter. UConn responded with a TD with 5:43 to play and got the defensive stops it needed to get the win. UConn combined for seven wins in its previous four seasons. The Huskies can match that and clinch a winning season next weekend with a win over Army.
— UConn Football (@UConnFootball) November 12, 2022
Boston College: BC has been decimated by injuries, particularly on the offensive line. Entering Saturday’s road game vs. No. 16 NC State, the Eagles were 2-7 and had lost four straight. But they kept fighting and they managed to pull off a 21-20 upset over the Wolfpack. BC trailed 20-7 early in the third quarter, but the Eagles came all the way back and scored the game-winning touchdown with just 14 seconds to play. Freshman quarterback Emmett Morehead threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns in the win, including the game-winner.
Ohio State WR Kamryn Babb: Kamryn Babb’s career hasn’t gone as he envisioned. A four-star recruit back in 2018, Babb’s career has been derailed by knee injuries, including four ACL surgeries. He didn’t play at all in 2018, 2019 or 2021. He saw action in 2020 but never caught a pass. But with OSU up big late on Saturday against Indiana, Ohio State found a way to get Babb the ball. Babb, a team captain, made his first career catch and it went for an 8-yard touchdown. Babb was overwhelmed and his teammates were elated. What a great moment.
Kamryn Babb (@kamm_o) has bounced back from four torn ACLs.
Today, the @OhioStateFB captain scored his first career TD. 🙌
You don't have to be an @OhioStAthletics fan to enjoy the raw emotion that followed. pic.twitter.com/vz4E7Brqwr
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 12, 2022
Oregon: Oregon’s College Football Playoff hopes went up in flames in a 37-34 loss to Washington. The Ducks had a costly turnover on downs in their own territory in the final minutes, allowing Washington to kick the game-winning field goal. Oregon opened the year with a blowout loss to Georgia before reeling off eight consecutive victories. The Ducks were No. 6 in the CFP rankings and were going to stay in the national championship conversation if they continued winning. That came to an end on Saturday.
Illinois: Illinois is letting the Big Ten West slip away. Two weeks ago, the Illini were big favorites to win the division and get to the conference title game. Since then, they have lost back-to-back home games — last week to Michigan State and this week to Purdue. Saturday’s game was tied 14-14 at halftime, but Purdue dominated the second half. Purdue took a 28-21 lead early in the fourth quarter before putting the game away with a field goal with 1:05 to play. And because Iowa and Minnesota also won — there’s a four-way log jam atop the division. Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota and Iowa all have 4-3 Big Ten records.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma has to win one of its last two games just to reach a bowl game. That’s the case after OU went on the road and lost 23-20 to West Virginia, a team that had lost its previous three games by a combined margin of 120-65. Oklahoma had a 20-13 lead entering the fourth quarter but quickly allowed WVU to tie the score at 20-20 before kicking a game-winning field goal as time expired. Oklahoma is now 5-5 on the year, the most regular season losses the Sooners have had since 2009. Now, to avoid missing a bowl for the first time since 1998, the Sooners need to beat either Oklahoma State or Texas Tech.
South Carolina: Remember when South Carolina was ranked? That looks foolish now after watching the recent performances from the Gamecocks, especially Saturday’s 38-6 loss to Florida. South Carolina was thoroughly outplayed, allowing Florida to accumulate a whopping 374 rushing yards. By comparison, South Carolina had just 237 yards of offense and its only touchdown came via a 48-yard fake punt pass. That play accounted for 20% of South Carolina’s offensive production. Spencer Rattler threw for just 145 yards in the loss, meaning he has thrown for 200 yards or fewer in seven of South Carolina’s last eight games.
Virginia: Virginia has played in some close games lately, losing by three points or fewer on three separate occasions. Saturday’s game against Pitt did not fall into that category as the Cavaliers were destroyed 37-7 at home. The game got off to a terrible start as senior quarterback Brennan Armstrong threw an interception on Virginia’s first two plays from scrimmage. Both of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns. By the time the dust settled, Virginia had amassed only 144 yards as it dropped to 3-7 in Tony Elliott’s first season in Charlottesville.
Virginia Tech: Elsewhere in the state of Virginia, Virginia Tech is also struggling mightily under a first-year head coach. Brent Pry’s Hokies fell to 2-8 after losing 24-7 to Duke. It was Duke’s first home win over Virginia Tech since 1981. Virginia Tech has lost seven consecutive games for the first time since 1951. The Hokies go to Liberty next week before hosting Virginia in the season finale. Do they have any fight left?
It’s a final: Duke beats Virginia Tech 24-7, the Blue Devils’ first home win against the #Hokies since 1981.
Tech (2-8, 1-6 ACC) has lost seven straight games for the first time since 1951, the same year “I Love Lucy” premiered.
— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) November 12, 2022
Maryland: Maryland has been outscored 53-10 in two losses after its bye week. Before the bye, Maryland was 6-2 and looked like a program on an upward trajectory even if it wasn’t on the same tier as others in the Big Ten East. In the last two games vs. Wisconsin and Penn State, the Terps have been out-classed. You could chalk up last week’s 23-10 loss to Wisconsin to miserable weather conditions, but the 30-0 loss at Penn State was much worse. The Terps were shut out for the first time since a 59-0 loss to PSU in 2019. The Terps had only 134 yards of offense on Saturday, an ugly performance from a unit that has plenty of talent.
Syracuse: Could Syracuse go from 6-0 to 6-6? The Orange opened the year with six consecutive wins but is now 6-4 after getting blown out at home by Florida State, 38-3. Garrett Shrader returned to the lineup at quarterback for Syracuse, but it wouldn't matter as the Orange gained just 160 yards in the loss. Syracuse has scored just 12 points combined in its last two games.
Northwestern: Pat Fitzgerald is an institution at Northwestern, but at some point he needs to face some sort of consequences for how poorly his program is performing, right? Northwestern lost 31-3 to Minnesota to fall to 1-9 on the year. The Wildcats opened the year by beating Nebraska in Dublin and have lost all nine games since. The losing streak includes losses to Southern Illinois and Miami Ohio. Northwestern has scored 14 points or fewer in six of its last seven games. The Wildcats have a combined 14-31 record over the last four seasons, and seven of those wins came in 2020. In 2019, 2021 and 2022, the Wildcats are 7-27 with a 3-20 record in Big Ten play. With Purdue and Illinois remaining on the schedule, Northwestern is staring a 1-11 record in the face.