Baylor, Stanford Losses Shake Up Playoff Landscape in College Football Week 11
Big losses by Baylor and Stanford shake up the standings, while the road to the playoff runs through the Sooner State. Here are the big stories from this week in college football.
Oklahoma State Exorcised Some Demons. Barely.
Four years ago, then-No. 2 Oklahoma State’s national title hopes were crushed in a Friday night upset at Iowa State. This year, the Cowboys’ script looked eerily familiar for much of the game.
No. 8 Oklahoma State spotted the Cyclones a 17-point lead early and Iowa State led late into the fourth quarter. But OSU backup quarterback J.W. Walsh sparked the Cowboy comeback with two rushing scores and a passing touchdown with 3:06 left that finally put Oklahoma State on top.
They don’t call Oklahoma State “the Cardiac Cowboys” for nothing: this game marked the fifth time this year that the 10-0 Cowboys trailed at halftime before coming back to win. They are the only team in college football with multiple 17-point comebacks this season. Will the playoff committee reward Oklahoma State’s fighting spirit and ability to come back? Or will they question the Cowboys for not putting lesser teams away early? With Stanford and Baylor falling by the wayside, we should find out very soon.
The Road to the Playoffs Could Run Through Oklahoma
While much of the attention has deservedly been on undefeated Oklahoma State, the Cowboys’ in-state rivals are quietly working themselves into the playoff mix as well. No. 12 Oklahoma went on the road and knocked off No. 6 Baylor, 44-34, to keep their Big 12 and national title hopes alive.
Baker Mayfield continued his strong play, passing for 270 yards and three touchdowns. Since Oklahoma’s shocking upset loss to Texas in early October, Mayfield has been on fire, throwing for 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His numbers this year certainly compare favorably with previous Sooner Heisman winners.
The Sooners control their own destiny in the Big 12 and the annual Bedlam rivalry game against Oklahoma State at the end of the season could be the biggest in history, with not just the Big 12 but a possible playoff spot on the line.
The Pac-12 is the First to Leave the Party
That loud noise you heard coming from the west was the Pac-12’s national title hopes crashing to earth. No. 7 Stanford and No. 10 Utah both fell Saturday night, giving everybody in the conference at least two losses. Even with as crazy as this season has been, with five undefeated teams and one-loss powerhouses like Alabama, Notre Dame and Oklahoma still out there, a scenario in which a two-loss Pac-12 team backs into the playoffs is virtually inconceivable.
Really the biggest question mark remaining for Stanford (at least from a national perspective) is what Saturday’s upsets could mean for Notre Dame’s playoff hopes. The Irish were sitting at No. 4 in last week’s playoff poll, but have to be looking over their shoulders as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are coming up fast. A season-ending win over Stanford won’t hurt Notre Dame’s strength of schedule, but it won’t help as much as if it was essentially a play-in game between two one-loss teams. With the two Oklahoma schools boosting their strength of schedules against ranked opponents the next two weeks, the Fighting Irish’s margin for error just got a whole lot thinner.
Derrick Henry is Peaking at the Right Time
Fair or not, how you play late in the season has a disproportionate impact in awards voting at the end of the year. With LSU’s Leonard Fournette fading (just 122 yards and two scores in back-to-back losses), the Heisman race is suddenly wide open and another SEC running back is making a strong case.
Alabama’s Derrick Henry has rushed for 200+ yards in three of his last four games and scored a nation’s-best 19 touchdowns this season, making SEC defenses look silly in the process.
With Alabama controlling its own destiny for an SEC title and a playoff spot, Henry will be in the national spotlight the rest of the way and, barring injury, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be making his way to New York.
Some Things Never Change . . . Even When They Should.
During his time at Nebraska, coach Bo Pelini was well-known for his questionable sideline antics and profane tirades against officials and fans alike. His rants sparked numerous Internet memes and the best fake account on Twitter. Although Pelini has moved down a notch to FCS Youngstown State, his “working the officials” game is still at an All-American level. After blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead to North Dakota State, the Penguins’ coach blew a gasket over a pass interference call and earned two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the game’s final minute.
While this year’s 5-6 mark is certainly not what Cornhusker fans envisioned, it’s doubtful that many in Nebraska miss this kind of behavior coming from their sidelines.
Inside the Numbers
- Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds scored four touchdowns in the No. 20 Midshipmen’s win over SMU, giving him an NCAA-record 81 (and counting) for his career.
- In the second quarter Notre Dame’s 28-7 win over Wake Forest, Fighting Irish running back Josh Adams broke off a 98-yard touchdown run. It was the longest play from scrimmage in Notre Dame’s storied football history.
- Oklahoma State has rallied from 14-point deficits three times this season and ten times in 11 years under Mike Gundy.
- Alabama’s defense recorded nine sacks of Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott. It was the Crimson Tide’s most sacks since a 1998 victory over Vanderbilt.
- Florida State running back Dalvin Cook has already rushed for a school-record 1,369 yards this year, passing Warrick Dunn’s previous single-season record of 1,242 set in 1995.
- In games following a loss, LSU is 27-3 under Les Miles. But all three of those losses have come to Arkansas.