Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Entering last Saturday’s slate of games, Georgia was undefeated at 9-0, while Notre Dame and TCU were both 8-1 squads. The trio ranked second, third, and eighth in the Associated Press (AP) Top-25 rankings, and the first College Football Playoff (CFP) ranking even had Georgia in the top spot.
But all three saw their postseason hopes take a major hit, suffering blowout losses at the hands of fellow AP Top-10 contenders. Georgia (9-1) lost 40-17 to then 10th-ranked Auburn (8-2), Notre Dame was demolished in a 41-8 rout by then seventh-ranked Miami (9-0), and TCU fell 38-20 to then fifth-ranked Oklahoma (9-1).
As a result, the Tigers, Hurricanes, and Sooners all solidified their own standing in the playoff chase. But before moving on to those teams, the top-ranked team in the land deserves its due.
No. 1 Alabama (9-0) nearly suffered the same sort of stinging upset, after falling behind 24-17 early in the fourth quarter against then 18th-ranked Mississippi State (7-3). But the Crimson Tide put up a touchdown to tie it shortly thereafter, and won on a last-minute TD toss to keep their perfect season intact.
Alabama won’t be sweating this Saturday, however, with FCS lightweights Mercer (5-5) heading to Tuscaloosa for a glorified scrimmage. The disparity is so great between these teams that online sportsbook Bovada doesn’t even have a spread posted yet, but look for a huge number to hit the board ahead of kickoff.
As for the nation’s new number two, second-ranked Miami has coped with Hurricane Irma-related postponements, and the Hurricanes bring a spotless record into their home date with Virginia (6-4).
The Cavaliers have lost three of their last four contests, and each defeat involved a margin of 17 points or more. Conversely, the Hurricanes have run up leads of 18 points or more in two straight – with both blowouts against ranked teams to boot.
The oddsmakers at Bovada like those trends to continue, with Miami installed as an 18.5-point home favorite.
Third-ranked Oklahoma is rolling, as the Sooners have dusted a pair of ranked teams in back to back weeks. They’ll be looking to avoid a letdown after last week’s rousing win over TCU, but with a woeful Kansas (1-9) team playing host, that shouldn’t be a chore.
The Jayhawks are riding a nine-game losing streak, and if it wasn’t for a season-opening win over FCS doormat Southeast Missouri State (2-8), Kansas would be staring down the barrel of a winless season.
Oklahoma, meanwhile, was ranked fifth in the first CFP rankings – but the untimely demise of both Georgia and Notre Dame should put the Sooners squarely in the postseason discussion. They can’t afford to take their eye off the ball here, even with a massive 38-point edge as road favorites.
Fourth-ranked Clemson hosts Citadel (5-5) of the FCS, and as is usually the case with FBS vs FCS matchups, the line should be released early Saturday morning.
Fifth-ranked Wisconsin (10-0) has the same pristine record as Alabama, but a lack of signature wins against strong opponents puts the Badgers behind the eight-ball. Their first win over a ranked team occurred just last week, in a 38-14 rout of then 20th-ranked Iowa (6-4) – but Wisconsin gets a chance to change the narrative this week.
They’ll host 24th-ranked Michigan (8-2), and even in a down year for Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines, a Wisconsin win over their Big 10 rival would go a long way in convincing the CFP committee.
Since suffering a drubbing at the hands of then second-ranked Penn State (8-2) a month ago, Michigan has put up three straight blowouts over outmatched opponents. Despite a lack of CFP potential in their own right, the Wolverines would love nothing more than to play spoiler for a conference rival, so this one should be heated from kickoff to the final whistle.
Accordingly, Wisconsin is only laying 7.5 points as home favorites.