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Beyond the Empire Week 11: Can Oklahoma Rise Through The Chaos?

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Half the Top 10 lost this week. 2007 redux plus Bama.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Clemson
Clemson gonna Clemson
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

As we near the end of the 2016 college football season, it’s clear that nobody is invincible.

Except Alabama.

Anyway, the Michigan Wolverines had plenty of company, as five of the top 10 teams in last week’s College Football Playoff rankings lost, including three of the top four. The race for playoff spots 2-4 is now complete chaos. This would be much more exciting if a sure-to-be-undefeated Alabama weren’t looming in the #1 spot to steamroll whatever challenger should happen to emerge.

SEC: Alabama Clinches The West; Florida Almost Joins Them

TL;DR: Bama vs Florida is probably your title game matchup

Bowl-Eligible: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee

Five Wins: Ole Miss, Kentucky, South Carolina

Eliminated: Missouri

The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, whose focus wasn’t rattled by trivial matters such as the Presidential election, completely pounded the life out of the Mississippi State Bulldogs 51-3 to move to 10-0 and drop Clanga to 4-6. With one conference game left to play, they have a two game lead on the Auburn Tigers and have thus locked themselves into the SEC West championship for a third consecutive year. They’ve outscored opponents by an absurd 412-122 margin on the year. Both Bama and Auburn play FCS cupcakes in the coming week before the Iron Bowl, where an Auburn win, though amusing, would be inconsequential.

Despite their loss to Mississippi State and the loss of Trevor Knight for the season, the Texas A&M Aggies came into the weekend ranked #8. This was corrected by the Ole Miss Rebels, who defeated them 29-28 on a late field goal to move to 5-5 on the year. The LSU Tigers rolled Arkansas 38-10 to become bowl-eligible and will host the Florida Gators in a makeup of the game that got hurricane’d out earlier in the year.

Speaking of Florida, they are on the verge of locking themselves into the SEC Championship Game by clinching the East division crown with a 20-7 win over former Gator coach Will Muschamp’s South Carolina Gamecocks. While Georgia can’t catch them, a Florida loss to LSU combined with Tennessee winning out would leave the Vols tied with the Gators atop the East with 5-3 conference records. Tennessee would then advance to the title game due to their head-to-head victory over Florida. The Volunteers kept their hopes alive by outpacing the Kentucky Wildcats 49-36 behind five combined touchdowns from Joshua Dobbs. The Missouri Tigers picked up their first conference win in a 26-17 defeat of Vanderbilt to become the last SEC team to win a conference game.

The Auburn Tigers committed the SEC Dicktrip of the Week, getting completely shut down by the Georgia Bulldogs en route to a 13-7 loss. The 7 points and 164 yards of offense were both lows in the Gus Malzahn era. Tiger quarterback Sean White put up an unbelievable line of 6 for 20 for 27 yards and a pick. With this calamity, the Tigers blew their shot at winning the SEC West by falling two games behind Week 13 opponent Alabama. “The Field” was counting on you, Auburn, and you blew it!

ACC: When A Leader Speaks That Leader Dies

TL;DR: Clemson and Virginia Tech still have the inside track to the title game

Bowl Eligible: Louisville, Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Miami, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech

Five Wins: NC State

Eliminated: Virginia

With eleven minutes left in the ballgame, the visiting Wake Forest Demon Deacons, fresh off their sixth win of the year, had played terrific defense all game and led the Louisville Cardinals 12-10. The final score was 44-12 Louisville, because Lamar Jackson is so ridiculous that nobody paid attention to runningback Brandon Radcliff as he scored three touchdowns. The Cardinals are now back on top of the Atlantic division by half a game, but have the head-to-head loss against Clemson and a tough game against the Houston Cougars this week. The Florida State Seminoles stayed ranked by obliterating the woeful Boston College Eagles, and NC State moved to 5-5 by defeating Syracuse 35-20.

Meanwhile, in the Coastal division, things got weird. Virginia Tech and North Carolina entered the week tied atop the division and both lost as favorites. The Hokies were swarmed by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in a 30-20 game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels lost 28-27 to the Duke Blue Devils, who were previously winless in conference. This opens up some championship game scenarios for three teams that trail by one game, including Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and the Miami Hurricanes, who dispatched Virginia 34-14.

ACC friend with benefits Notre Dame defeated Army 44-6 to stave off bowl elimination for one more week in an enormous tragedy for the United States of America. (Army is now 5-5 and needs one more win to make all three service academies bowl eligible for the first time since 2010)

Who else could claim the ACC Dicktrip of the Week but the Clemson Tigers, who lost to the Pittsburgh Panthers 43-42 on a last-second field goal by Chris Blewitt to end their hopes of a perfect season? Deshaun Watson completed 52 of 70 passes for 580 yards, but crucially was picked off three times. Meanwhile, the Tigers never got the running game going, with Wayne Gallman, despite three touchdowns, being held to 36 yards on 18 carries. As a result of winning the turnover battle 3-1 and moving the ball enough to keep pace with Clemson, the Panthers were able to come away with the win. Running back James Conner ground out 132 yards on 22 carries while Nathan Peterman tossed five scores. Clemson still has the inside track to the ACC title game by virtue of their head-to-head tiebreaker over Louisville. An underrated Wake Forest team awaits them.

PAC-12: Washington State Takes Control

TL;DR: Washington State and Colorado lead the divisions

Bowl-Eligible: Washington State, Washington, Stanford, Colorado, USC, Utah

Five Wins: Arizona State

Eliminated: Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona

The Colorado Buffaloes still control their own destiny in the PAC-12 South, maintaining control by soundly defeating a very bad Arizona Wildcats team. The Buffs move to 8-2 overall (!!!!!!) while Rich Rodriguez’ Wildcats drop to 2-8 with an 0-7 conference record. They join Kansas and Rutgers as the only P5 teams without a conference win. The Utah Utes stayed in the race by lighting up the Arizona State Sun Devils 49-26 behind 181 yards from un-retired runningback Joe Williams. UCLA continued to mourn the loss of Josh Rosen “The Chosen” but still managed to fend off the Oregon State Beavers 38-24.

The Stanford Cardinal were the latest in a long line of teams burnt by the Oregon Ducks recently to exact horrific revenge, and they did so to the tune of a 38-13 halftime lead. Christian McCaffrey was breaking ankles as he ran for 3 touchdowns in the first half. The loss officially took Oregon out of bowl contention; my how the mighty have fallen. The Washington State Cougars continued to prove that Mike Leach with offensive balance is a terrifying thing, as they took control of the PAC-12 North with a 56-21 blowout of the California Golden Bears. Cougar quarterback Luke Falk only threw 50 passes, assisted by 254 yards rushing.

The PAC-12 Dicktrip of the Week was enacted by the Washington Huskies, who finally rose to the top 4 in the playoff rankings only to have their prolific offense silenced by the USC Trojans. The Trojan defensive line was a force of nature in this contest, harassing Husky quarterback Jake Browning and allowing USC to drop 7 into coverage. As a result, Browning, who is still third in the nation in ESPN’s Total QBR metric, completed only 17 of his 36 attempts and was picked off twice by Adoree Jackson, who added 59 return yards on 3 kickoffs. Freshman quarterback Sam Darnold did just enough for the Trojans to win the game, tossing two touchdowns to make up for two picks. The Huskies still have a path to the conference championship game if they can beat Washington State in what is now a monumental Apple Cup game.

Big 12: Chaos Benefits Oklahoma

TL;DR: Oklahoma still in the driver’s seat

Bowl-Eligible: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Baylor

Five Wins: Kansas State, TCU, Texas

Eliminated: Iowa State, Kansas

Left for dead after a 1-2 start with convincing losses to Houston and Ohio State, the Oklahoma Sooners have hacked and slashed their way through the Big 12 and have started 7-0 in conference play. They added to it by thrashing the Baylor Bears 45-24, opening up a 21-0 lead to start. Quarterback Baker Mayfield leads the country in that Total QBR statistic, and with Samaje Perine healthy and receiver Dede Westbrook doing a great Sterling Shepard impression, the Sooners have a good chance to run the table if Joe Mixon isn’t a dick to any more parking attendants.

Their next opponent will be the West Virginia Mountaineers, who continue to be the only team in the conference to play defense. They survived a 24-20 struggle with the Texas Longhorns to stay one game behind the Sooners and thus keep their conference title hopes alive. The final opponent for the Sooners will be the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Like WVU, they own a 6-1 conference record; they reached this point by virtue of a missed extra point by the Texas Tech Red Raiders, who lost 44-45. Patrick Mahomes has put up 4,230 yards passing for the Red Raiders, yet they are one loss from bowl elimination.

If you watched the Iowa State at Kansas game, YOU committed the Big 12 Dicktrip of the Week. A fairly evenly-matched game, with around 400 yards of offense per side, but nevertheless a game that featured two teams searching for their second win nearly halfway through November. How desperate did things get? Behold:

Iowa State won 31-24, sending 1-9 Kansas to the absolute cellar of P5 football. Maybe some day they’ll climb up to where Rutgers and Arizona are.

Elsewhere

The Western Michigan Broncos overcame a slow start in the rain and a 1 point halftime deficit to bury the Kent State Golden Flashes 37-21. One of the best MAC teams I’ve ever seen moves to 10-0 and garnered a ranking of 14th in the AP poll. Only the Toledo Rockets could catch them in the West division; they sit at 8-2 (5-1) after a narrow defeat of Northern Illinois. The Eastern Michigan Eagles are bowl-eligible after a thrilling 48-41 Tuesday Night MACtion defeat of the Ball State Cardinals. They haven’t played in a bowl game since 1987, which was also their only bowl game appearance. The idle Ohio Bobcats continue to lead the surprising Miami Redhawks by half a game in the East division. Incredibly, Miami, despite a 5-2 conference record, still needs a win over Ball State to get to 6 total.

The Boise State Broncos are ranked #22 in the AP Poll this week after steamrolling Hawaii. Bronco runningback Jeremy McNichols continues to be one of the best backs in the country, as he now has 1389 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground to go with 428 yards and 4 scores through the air. A shocking 69-66 triple-overtime defeat of the Wyoming Cowboys by the UNLV Rebels creates a 3-way tie atop the Mountain West Mountain (yes, really) between Boise State, Wyoming and......THE NEW MEXICO LOBOS?!?!?! Yes, New Mexico is 7-3 (5-1) and could actually play in the Mountain West Championship Game.

The San Diego State Aztecs, currently #24 in the AP poll, cruised to their 9th win of the year and are the only particularly good team in the Mountain West West. Donnell Pumphrey is now fourth all time in career FBS rushing yards with 6,051. His 1,779 rush yards lead the nation by 166, and his 270 carries lead the nation by 20. That any projection has Jabrill Peppers over Pumphrey in the Heisman race is absurd; few teams have asked a player to do more than Pumphrey has been charged with. The top three backs in the nation in carries are all in the Mountain West, which appears to be the conference of the feature back.

The Troy Trojans of the Sun Belt are ranked #25 after defeating Appalachian State 28-24 for their 8th win of the year with their only blemish being a 6-point loss to Clemson. The Idaho Vandals are also bowl-eligible (!!!!!!!!!!!) after thrashing Texas State for their sixth win of the year.

Some teams in the American lurk just outside the top 25, with usual suspects Houston and Navy at 8-2 and 7-2 respectively. The South Florida Bulls are also 8-2 after winning a 49-42 thriller against Memphis, and coach Willie Taggart would be skyrocketing up my power rankings if I were still doing that feature.