Welcome to the college football overreaction index, where we examine the most important storylines from the past weekend of games to determine what’s worth paying attention to and what’s getting a little too much attention.
Here are the biggest takeaways from Week 13.
Who gets the top seed in the College Football Playoff is more important than who gets the fourth spot.
Verdict: Not an overreaction.
Through 13 weeks, it’s clear who the three best teams are. With Clemson (11-0) enjoying a bye, LSU (11-0) dominating SEC bottom-feeder Arkansas and Ohio State (11-0) surviving its first test against Penn State this weekend, the top of the playoff bracket seems secure, with some questions remaining about seeding.
Who gets ranked No. 1 is chief among them, and it might decide who wins the national title.
Not only will the top-ranked team get a more favorable site for its fan base — either the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, or the Peach Bowl in Atlanta — but avoid a matchup with one of the two remaining powers.
Because Clemson won’t get enough of a boost from its mediocre ACC schedule (the Tigers entered Week 13 as the only ranked team in the conference) to be No. 1, that leaves Ohio State and LSU fighting for the top spot. LSU might end the season with more impressive wins (Florida, Auburn, Alabama, likely Georgia in the SEC title game), but Ohio State might be able to claim three top 10 victories to close the season (Penn State, Michigan, Minnesota/Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game) while boasting a more impressive nonconference win (OSU beat potential American Athletic Conference champ Cincinnati, 42-0, while LSU squeaked by what turned out to be a mediocre Texas team, 45-38, in Austin). If the Buckeyes get through that stretch undefeated after being historically dominant in their first 10 games, they’ll likely be the No. 1 seed.
If that happens, Ohio State would avoid facing Clemson in the semifinals. It might also mean taking on Alabama, but a matchup against the No. 4 seed — which is shaping up to come down to Alabama, Utah, Oklahoma and Baylor — is much more enticing than a date with the defending national champions.
The most heated debate over the next several weeks will likely be centered around who gets the fourth and final playoff spot, but the seeding — usually irrelevant — will matter more than ever.
The Pac-12’s playoff hopes died with Oregon’s upset loss.
One Pac-12 contender took care of business on the road in the desert, while the other wilted in the spotlight.
Oregon fell behind by 17 points in the fourth quarter, and a frantic comeback couldn’t save the Ducks in a 31-28 loss to Arizona State. Combined with a loss to Auburn in the season opener, the defeat effectively crushed Oregon’s playoff hopes, even if the Ducks rebound to win the Pac-12.
But all is not lost for the conference that has had just two entrants in the five-year history of the playoff, thanks to Utah.
The Utes dominated Arizona, 35-7, and with a likely win over Colorado, they’ll roll into the Pac-12 title game 11-1 and very much in the playoff discussion. Utah’s only loss this season came to Southern California, and while it looked bad when the Trojans turned around and lost their next two games, USC has rebounded to finish the regular season 8-4.
The case against Utah will be its soft schedule, with the Utes having lost to the only Top-25 caliber team it has played so far. But the way to overcome a weak schedule is to be dominant, and they have, with an average margin of victory of 25 points against FBS teams, including four wins of 28 points or more. They’ve also allowed seven points or less in five of their past six games.
Oregon’s loss might have robbed Utah of a chance for a statement win, with the Ducks likely falling out of the top 10 before the conference title showdown in Santa Clara, California. But the Utes still have a clear path to be a 12-1 Power 5 conference champion, and those aren’t easily left out of the playoff.
When Joe Burrow threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns in a 46-41 win over Alabama, it seemed all but certain that the Heisman Trophy was his to lose. How could it not be? He knocked out a dynastic program with his arm and his legs, and he’ll probably lead the Tigers to an SEC title while shattering school and conference passing records.
But this year’s Heisman race is so deep that it’s going to come down to the wire.
With three sacks in a 28-17 win over Penn State in his first game back from a two-game suspension, Ohio State defensive end Chase Young set the school single-season record with 16 ½ (in just nine games) and reminded everyone why he might be the most impactful player in the sport. And his quarterback, Justin Fields, had just another day at the office with two touchdown passes, 68 rushing yards and a handful of back-breaking third- and fourth-down conversions. He has 33 TD passes to just one interception, and is on pace to have one of the 10 most efficient passing seasons since 1956. You could even argue for running back J.K. Dobbins (36 carries, 157 yards, 2 TDs against Penn State), who is fourth in yards per carry (6.6) among 1,000-yard rushers this season.
Then there’s Jalen Hurts, who even after a recent stretch of turnovers (three fumbles and three interceptions in his past three games) is on pace to break Tua Tagovailoa’s single-season passing efficiency rating (206.9) and is one of just three players in FBS history with 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards through 11 games, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The trophy will be decided during rivalry week and championship weekend. It doesn’t get better than that.
Miami is this year’s biggest disappointment.
Verdict: Not an overreaction.
There are several candidates for most disappointing team of the year. Here they are, in order of where they were ranked in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll.
No. 10 Texas: 6-5, with losses to LSU, Oklahoma, TCU, Iowa State and Baylor.
No. 12 Texas A&M: 7-4, with losses to Clemson, Auburn, Alabama and Georgia.
Miami: 6-5, with losses to Florida, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Florida International.
Of those teams, Washington, with talented Georgia transfer Jacob Eason at quarterback and top-notch coach Chris Petersen, and Michigan State, with a veteran coach and quarterback tandem in Mark Dantonio and Brian Lewerke and a talented defense, stand out as the biggest failures. Texas never deserved the hype it received after beating Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, and the Longhorns were underdogs in every loss this season so far. Texas A&M had one of the toughest schedules in the country, and will end the season having played an unprecedented three teams (Clemson, Alabama, LSU) ranked No. 1 at the time. Nebraska was expected to make a jump under Scott Frost, but eight or more wins was unrealistic for the amount of rebuilding Frost had to do. Syracuse was unable to match an overachieving 2018 squad that was a historical outlier. Stanford lost its starting quarterback early in the season and was hampered by injuries and a talent-depleted roster.
But here’s where Miami stands apart. Yes, it’s the Hurricanes’ first year under a new coach in Manny Diaz, and the Canes had to adjust on the fly after Mark Richt’s sudden retirement. But their schedule was favorable. Consider this: According to ESPN’s Chris Fallica, with the loss to FIU, Miami became the only team in the past 40 years to lose three times as a 14-point favorite in a single season. As 14-point favorites against Virginia Tech, the Canes lost 42-35. As 18½-point favorites against Georgia Tech, they lost 28-21. As 21-point favorites against FIU, they lost 30-24. As 30½-point favorites against Central Michigan, they won by just five, 17-12.
Consider the indignities of Saturday’s loss to FIU, too. It came against former coach Butch Davis, who went 51-20 at Miami in one of the program’s most fruitful eras. It came at Marlins Park, the site of the old Orange Bowl, where Miami built itself into a five-time national champion. And it came against an in-state program that only started playing football in 2002 and reached the FBS level in 2004.
"The noise is deserved," Diaz said of the criticism, as many fans called it the worst loss in program history.
Disappointing seasons are relative, depending on each fan base. Alabama fans, for example, consider a season that doesn’t end with a national championship under Nick Saban a failure. Nobody believed Miami was going to compete for a playoff berth, but the Canes were picked to finish second in the ACC Coastal and were projected by Vegas to win eight to 10 games against a soft schedule. They’ve made a bowl game, sure, but after Saturday’s debacle, there will be more questions swirling around this once-proud program that has become irrelevant.