Week 10 has come and gone. The playoff rankings are due for another shakeup and Alabama, again, proved why it is the best team in the nation. Below are the takeaways from Week 10 in the world of college football.
Alabama will wear you into the ground
Alabama QB Jalen Hurts looked like he was headed for his worst game of the season in the first quarter against LSU on Saturday night. He threw an interception on the first drive of the game. He couldn’t find the running room that he often does in Alabama’s new-look offense. And he certainly wasn’t sharp throwing the ball at any point against the Tigers.
Then, Hurts found a seam in the LSU defense to rush 21 yards for the game’s only touchdown. Minutes later, he found another to convert the key play of a 15-play, 50-yard drive that ate up 9:51 of the fourth quarter. Hurts’s 11-yard run on third-and-nine was the backbreaking moment that assured Alabama would escape Baton Rouge with its sixth straight win over the Tigers and 21st consecutive victory overall.
It was the defense that anchored the Crimson Tide’s win, but Hurts again showed that he’s a capable leader of the offense even as a true freshman. For more on Alabama’s win, check Chris Johnson’s recap.
Ohio State or Washington?
The College Football Playoff committee surprised many by placing one-loss Texas A&M ahead of undefeated Washington at No. 4, much to the predictable rancor of Huskies fans. The Aggies won’t be anywhere near the top four after losing to Mississippi State, but a new controversy is on its way between Washington and Ohio State.
The Huskies coasted to an easy 66–27 win over Cal, but the Buckeyes steamrolled Nebraska, which entered the game at No. 10 in the playoff rankings, 62–3. Playoff committee chairman Kirby Hocutt cited Texas A&M’s strength of schedule as the reason it got the nod over Washington in the first rankings. Now, the committee will evaluate Ohio State, whose only loss is to a resurgent Penn State team and which has three notable wins (Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Nebraska), and Washington, whose only notable win remains over Utah. The Huskies’ non-conference schedule is arguably the worst of any playoff contender (Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State), and the committee has stressed that teams that don’t challenge themselves will be punished.
The committee insisted last week that it does not evaluate margin of victory when ranking teams, but it’s hard to imagine the Buckeyes’ merciless throttling of the Huskers won’t resonate when it concludes its rankings on Tuesday night.
For more on Ohio State’s spectacular Saturday performance, read Pete Thamel on how Ohio State’s win sets up a potential game of the decade against Michigan.
Goodnight, Texas A&M
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin entered the season on the hot seat but quickly cooled that seat by winning his first six games, and suddenly his team was in playoff contention. Barring a meltdown to end the season, Texas A&M’s campaign will be considered a success in 2016. But there will be one stain on that record, and it will be Saturday’s 35–28 loss at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs weren’t supposed to present any challenge for the Aggies; Dan Mullen’s team entered the game 3–5 with a loss to South Alabama and narrow wins over both UMass and Samford. But the Aggies struggled to limit Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald, who put up 391 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, and lost quarterback Trevor Knight to injury midway through the game. Despite a valiant effort from backup Jake Hubenak, Texas A&M couldn’t hold on and, in turn, was eliminated from playoff contention. The Aggies’ loss and Auburn’s win over Vanderbilt now make the Tigers the most viable threat to Alabama’s supremacy in the SEC West.
For more on the Aggies’ shocking loss, read Colin Becht on the game and the ensuing fallout.
Pity the dreadful SEC East
There’s plenty of divisional imbalance across several conferences this season. The Pac-12 North is decidedly better than the Pac-12 South. The ACC Atlantic is superior to the ACC Coastal. The Big Ten East is significantly better than the Big Ten West.
Despite those examples, there is no gulf nearly as wide as the one that exists between the SEC West and SEC East. After looking like it had remedied the offensive woes that had plagued the program for the last several years, Florida turned in an abysmal performance in a 31–10 loss to Arkansas, which entered the game as the fifth-place team in the SEC West. Kentucky, riding a three-game winning streak, had an opportunity to surpass the Gators by a half-game for first place in the division … and then lost 27–24 to Georgia at home. Add in a hobbled Tennessee and a disappointing Bulldogs team, and there’s a convincing argument that there are five SEC West teams (Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas) better than every team in the SEC East. Whoever wins the East will likely be at least a 25-point underdog in the SEC Championship Game in early December. Until then, somebody has to win the division.
For more on Florida’s woeful performance, see my recap of the affair in Arkansas.
D’Onta Foreman should get a Heisman invitation
The Texas running back is playing for a team that’s generally considered a disappointment this season, but after a 341-yard performance on Saturday against Texas Tech, the bruising runner should receive Heisman consideration. Foreman has run for at least 124 yards in every game this season and has been the engine behind a resurgent Texas offense. The 341-yard total is impressive enough on its face, but consider that he averaged 10.3 yards per carry on 33 carries. Foreman is a bull with breakaway speed. If he maintains his current pace, he should earn a trip to New York City at season’s end.
Thankfully, Tommy Armstrong is O.K.
The Nebraska quarterback went down in a scary moment in the second quarter against Ohio State after slamming his head to the turf on a tackle. Armstrong was stretchered out of the game, but returned to the sideline before the conclusion. What looked like a potentially catastrophic injury turned out to be manageable, which was a great relief.