That team is Georgia, which fended off the Gators, 24-17, behind Jake Fromm’s two touchdown passes and a defense that held Florida to just 21 yards rushing.
The Bulldogs (7-1, 4-1 SEC) can claim their third SEC East title in a row with a victory next week over Missouri and then a split with Auburn and Texas A&M. But Georgia still has a lot more in mind as it preserved its hopes of earning a playoff berth by earning what now stands as its best victory of the season.
The Oct. 12 overtime loss to South Carolina is still a strong factor working against Kirby Smart’s team, but a run through the next month — with three conference games, rival Georgia Tech and potentially the SEC title game — could provide enough oomph to land a semifinal spot.
That hope is basically gone for the Gators (7-2, 4-2), who already had to answer for facing two FCS schools and could only improve their profile so much facing Vanderbilt, Missouri and Florida State to close out the regular season. Florida has two understandable losses — at undefeated Louisiana State and now against Georgia. But a New Year’s Six berth is about as well as the Gators can do at this stage.
Utah. The Utes (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) took a major step toward maintaining playoff hopes into the final weeks of the season, scoring three consecutive times they got the ball in the second half in a 33-28 victory at Washington.
Jaylon Johnson brought Utah within 21-19 thanks to a 39-yard interception return for a score. Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss capped drives that both covered more than 80 yards and soaked up more than five minutes apiece with short touchdown runs to vault the Utes ahead for good.
Utah’s problem entering the day was that it would lose a tiebreak to Pac-12 South rival Southern California if both got to 8-1 in league play. The Utes don’t have to worry about that exact scenario after the Trojans were drubbed at home by Oregon. Utah closes the regular season with three sub-.500 teams (UCLA, Arizona and Colorado), a manageable path to a division title.
Oregon. After spotting Southern California 10 points, the Ducks’ trip to Los Angeles couldn’t have gone much better. Oregon (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) handled a potentially difficult obstacle with ease as quarterback Justin Herbert was 21 of 26 for 225 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Coupled with Utah’s victory, it was also a fine day for the Pac-12. In a perfect world for the Conference of Champions, the Ducks and Utes would both be 11-1 entering a league title showdown, with the survivor harboring some playoff hopes on Selection Sunday.
Memphis. The Tigers scored on 10 of their first 12 possessions as Brady White threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns and Antonio Gibson scored via a rush, a reception and a kickoff return in a 54-48 defeat of previously undefeated Southern Methodist.
Memphis (8-1, 4-1 American) couldn’t have put on a more entertaining display against the Mustangs (8-1, 4-1). Credit Gibson. His 50-yard touchdown catch gave Memphis the lead for good in the second quarter; he opened the second half with a 97-yard kickoff return for a score; and his 78-yard touchdown run made it 54-32 with 9:31 to play.
Damonte Coxie caught seven passes for 143 yards and two scores for Memphis, which has victories over both SMU and Navy (7-1, 5-1). If the Tigers win out against Houston, South Florida and Cincinnati, they’ll claim the AAC West.
Cincinnati. The Bearcats trailed by 12 entering the fourth quarter at East Carolina but rallied to earn a 46-43 victory thanks in large part to Ahmad Gardner’s interception return for a touchdown with 4:38 to go and Sam Crosa’s 32-yard field goal to win it as time expired.
Was it unnecessarily ugly? Yes. Was it another illustration of the American’s wackiness? Absolutely. But Cincinnati (7-1, 4-0) remained one of four AAC teams with one loss after surviving its trip to Greenville, N.C.
Oregon State. It’s too early to describe the Beavers as “good.” But interesting? There’s no doubt about that, and it’s a vast improvement on recent seasons. Jake Luton threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns, and Jermar Jefferson rushed for three scores as Oregon State (4-4, 3-2 Pac-12) drubbed Arizona, 56-38, for its second victory in a row.
Do the Beavers face a reality check Friday at Washington? Possibly, but they have a credible chance to finish in the top half of the Pac-12 North for the first time since 2012.
Indiana. The Hoosiers became the latest team to smother Northwestern, rolling to a 34-3 victory over the Wildcats. Indiana (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) clinched its first winning season since 2007 and only its second since 1994.
Boston College. The Eagles inched closer to the Addazio Line (a seven-win season, which Boston College has hit in five of its first six seasons under Steve Addazio) with a record-breaking day against hapless Syracuse. Boston College earned a 58-27 rout in the Carrier Dome to improve to 5-4 with games against Florida State, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh remaining.
The Eagles established new program marks in total yards (666), points in a conference game and rushing yards in a conference game (496). A.J. Dillon piled up 242 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, while David Bailey cruised to 172 yards and two scores on just 16 carries.
Hubbard popped touchdown runs of 92 and 62 yards for the Cowboys (6-3, 3-3 Big 12), who became bowl eligible for the 14th consecutive season under Coach Mike Gundy.
Group of Five. With Southern Methodist’s loss, there are no undefeated Group of Five teams left. The best league champ from outside the Power Five structure will end up in the Cotton Bowl, but no one will effectively plead for whoever that team is to be anywhere close to a playoff berth.
Southern California. A 56-24 loss at home to anyone, even a team as capable as Oregon, has to be sobering for the Trojans (5-4, 4-2 Pac-12). Clay Helton’s team no longer is in control of the Pac-12 South, and plays Arizona State and California on the road in its next two games.
Nebraska. Not everyone was on board the “Nebraska is Back” bus at the start of the season, but there was enough going for the Cornhuskers to think a reversal of the 4-8 record posted in Scott Frost’s debut season was possible.
Well, it’s not happening. A 31-27 loss at Purdue dropped Nebraska to 4-5, and with both Wisconsin and Iowa still to come, the Cornhuskers could be looking at a third consecutive losing season. To put that in perspective, Nebraska had three sub-. 500 seasons between 1962 and 2016 (2004, 2007 and 2015).
Washington. It’s been a tough luck year in Seattle, where the Huskies fell to 5-4 with their 33-28 loss to Utah.
Take that five-point setback and combine it with a one-point loss to California, a 10-point decision at Stanford and a four-point defeat against Oregon, and it’s not hard to imagine Washington in the Pac-12 North race rather than nursing a 2-4 conference record if a couple bounces had gone its way.
Army. The Black Knights’ losing streak reached five with a 17-13 stumble at Air Force. Army (3-6) must now win out (against Massachusetts, VMI, Hawaii and Navy) to finish with a winning record.
Saturday’s outcome, combined with Navy’s defeat of Air Force last month, means the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy will be settled on Dec. 14 when Army and Navy meet. Only Navy can outright win the trophy; Army would retain it if it upends Navy and creates a three-way tie in the annual service academy competition.
Baylor made it to November without a loss. The Bears fended off West Virginia, 17-14, in a game that probably shouldn’t have been decided by a field goal. The Mountaineers got nearly 38 percent of their yardage on an 83-yard touchdown pass and also returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Baylor was stuffed at the goal line once in the first half and lost three fumbles.
Artful, it wasn’t. Nonetheless, Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) remains well-positioned to reach the conference title game, and its playoff hopes cannot be dismissed as long as it remains undefeated.
The top Group of Five champion probably isn’t going to be Appalachian State. The Mountaineers tumbled for the first time this season, 24-21 at home to Georgia Southern on Thursday. That leaves Southern Methodist as the only undefeated Group of Five school.
While Appalachian State (7-1, 4-1) remains a Sun Belt contender, its chances of taking the Group of Five’s spot in the Cotton Bowl took a serious hit. In all likelihood, that place in the New Year’s Six structure will go to either the eventual American Athletic Conference champion or a one-loss Mountain West champion (with Boise State and San Diego State the remaining options).
Updating last week’s rankings, which factor in Heisman voting trends (in favor of quarterbacks, players on top-five teams, against receivers and defensive players) as much as on-field performance.
1. QB Joe Burrow, Louisiana State (2,805 yards, 30 TD, 4 INT passing; 125 yards, 2 TD rushing). Held to just one touchdown pass for the first time all season against Auburn, but rushed for another and still posted his sixth 300-yard passing day. Burrow’s completion percentage for the season now stands at 78.8 percent. (Last week: 2)
2. QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (2,469 yards, 21 TD, 3 INT passing; 801 yards, 13 TD rushing). Heisman voters are known to forgive one loss. Just ask recent Sooner quarterbacks Baker Mayfield (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018), who claimed the award while playing for 12-1 Oklahoma teams bound for the playoff. (LW: 1)
3. QB Justin Fields, Ohio State (1,659 yards, 24 TD, 1 INT passing; 319 yards, 9 TD rushing). The Georgia transfer seems like the clear-cut No. 3 at this stage. He continues to play exceptionally, but the Buckeyes only need so much from him and have two other guys (J.K. Dobbins and Chase Young) who could eat into his support. (LW: 4)
4. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (2,166 yards, 27 TD, 2 INT passing; 30 yards, 2 TD rushing). The Crimson Tide didn’t need Tagovailoa to crush Arkansas last week, as Mac Jones completed 18 of 22 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-7 rout. But the countdown is on: Can Tagovailoa return a little less than three weeks after ankle surgery to face LSU on Nov. 9. (LW: 3)
5. DE Chase Young, Ohio State (29 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles. Every so often, there is a defensive player who captures the imagination of Heisman voters, and Young could be that guy. He leads the country in sacks, is tied for second in tackles for loss, is second in forced fumbles and is the centerpiece of the undefeated Buckeyes’ ferocious defense. (LW: Not ranked)
6. QB Justin Herbert, Oregon (2,104 yards, 21 TD, 1 INT passing). Was perfectly solid in the Ducks’ squeaker against Washington State, but running back C.J. Verdell (257 yards, three TDs) was the star of Oregon’s offense last Saturday. (LW: 5)
7. RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State (1,381 yards, 16 TD rushing; 8 receptions for 35 yards). Still has a 271-yard lead on Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins as the nation’s rushing leader. He needs to average 154.8 yards over the Cowboys’ last four games to hit 2,000 for the season. (LW: 6)