Six top-15 teams were upset this week.
USA TODAY Sports
Corrections and Clarifications: An earlier version of this report misstated the number of Big 12 losses for West Virginia. The Mountaineers have one Big 12 loss.
After a number of close calls this season, it seemed almost inevitable that Clemson’s luck would run out. It did, to Pittsburgh, to hand the Tigers their first loss of the year and muddy the once-clear race for the College Football Playoff.
Pittsburgh’s offense had been terrific nearly all season, and the Panthers’ defense a shocking disappointment. The 43-42 win against Clemson fit the team’s normal style of play in Pat Narduzzi’s second season.
What was surprising was how inept Clemson’s defense looked. Until Saturday, the Tigers’ defense was an island of consistency during an occasionally frustrating season.
But here’s the good thing: Clemson is still making the Playoff by running the table through the ACC title game. At 12-1 and champs of a Power Five league, the Tigers are a far stronger contender for a national semifinal than the winner of the Big 12 or a one-loss challenger from a major conference.
In other words, Saturday’s loss isn’t the biggest concern. The big issue is how the Tigers lost, not that they did.
Here are the rest of Saturday’s winners and losers:
West Virginia. The Mountaineers moved to 8-1 with a 24-20 win against Texas, staying one game behind Oklahoma in the Big 12. Better yet, West Virginia is the conference’s only team holding fewer than two losses. So is WVU in the race for the College Football Playoff? At the very least, the Mountaineers are the Big 12’s best hope for a spot in the four-team field, alongside the Sooners. West Virginia hosts Oklahoma next week.
Georgia. Kirby Smart landed the first marquee win of his young tenure at Georgia, leading the Bulldogs to a 13-7 win against one of the nation’s hottest teams in Auburn. The Tigers had been chewing up defenses in and out of league play for nearly two months, moving into the top 10 in each major poll and creating a potential winner-take-all scenario with rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl. That scenario is now dead.
Florida. A 20-7 win against South Carolina gets Florida one step closer to the Southeastern Conference East Division title. The Gators will need to win at LSU next week to get to Atlanta in early December where, bad news, Alabama will be waiting. Good luck with that.
Navy. The Midshipmen put a stranglehold on the American Athletic Conference West Division with a 42-40 win against Tulsa. Navy now stands a full game ahead of Tulsa and Houston, and has the head-to-head tiebreaker against both divisional rivals. It’s time to consider Navy as a strong contender for a New Year’s Six bowl.
Michigan State. The Spartans snapped a six-game losing streak in Big Ten Conference play with a 49-0 win against Rutgers. It’s better late than never for the defending conference champions.
USC: The Trojans (7-3, 6-2) took down No. 4 Washington 26-13 and have won six in a row. Clay Helton steadied the team after a 1-3 start, and QB Sam Darnold has been an impressive leader. The Huskies, despite the loss, are still in the Pac-12 race (they face Pac-12 North leader Washington State on Nov. 25 in the Apple Cup) and the Playoff, assuming they win out.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes — 21 point underdogs — squeaked past Michigan 14-13 on a last-second field goal. It’s a huge win for Kirk Ferentz and Iowa (6-4, 4-3) after back-to-back Big Ten losses, including a 41-14 beatdown last week at Penn State.
Charlie Strong. The Longhorns’ third-year coach needed to maintain his team’s strong stretch of play to ensure a return in 2017. Losing to West Virginia isn’t the end for Strong by any stretch; he can still get Texas to 7-5 in the regular season and to eight wins during bowl play. Clearly, how Texas fares during the rest of November will determine Strong’s future.
Cincinnati. The 2016 season is officially a complete and utter disaster for Cincinnati, now 4-6 after showing no competitiveness in a 24-3 loss to UCF. The writing is on the wall for Tommy Tuberville.
Baylor. Three losses in a row have followed Baylor’s 6-0 start. Remember when the Bears were a Playoff dark horse? With such a sour environment surrounding the program, athletic department and university, Baylor should consider shutting things down at the end of November and not accepting a bowl bid.
Indiana. The Hoosiers led Penn State by a field goal with about 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter but allowed 21 unanswered points in a 45-31 loss. That’s the fifth defeat in seven games for Indiana, which seemed a lock for the postseason in August and September but now sits at 5-5 with two games left. The first is Michigan, a loss, but the Hoosiers should beat rival Purdue to get to bowl eligibility.
Texas A&M: The Aggies coughed up a 21-6 halftime lead against Ole Miss and its backup quarterback (in fairness, Texas A&M also was without its starting QB) to lose 29-28. Kevin Sumlin’s team has dropped three of four since starting 6-0.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM WEEK 11