The College Football Playoff No. 1, Alabama (9-0), showed it’s their championship to lose.
We traveled to Death Valley and witnessed the Crimson Tide dominate No. 3 LSU (7-2) from start to finish, 29-0 — not exactly the performance by the Tigers I expected. Alabama's Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, completed 29 of his 42 passes, ran for a score, passed for two others and had an interception. His elusiveness in the pocket was too much for LSU to overcome.
The other glaring statistic — LSU rushed for 12 total yards against an attacking Tide defense! The crowd was worked up into a frenzy at kickoff, but by the fourth quarter, you heard crickets. The only way Alabama is not in the CFP is if it loses the SEC Championship Game to Georgia, and if Clemson, Notre Dame and Michigan all win out.
No. 2 Clemson (9-0) is rounding into form, pummeling Louisville (2-7) by a score of 77-16. No. 3 Notre Dame (9-0) defeated Northwestern (5-4), 31-21. The Wildcats had their chances but the Irish remain undefeated by making fourth-quarter plays. I have them at No. 7 in my poll but the CFP loves them at No. 3.
No. 4 Michigan (8-1) is improving every week and manhandled Penn State, 42-7. The Wolverines are making explosive plays on both sides of the football and physically dominating opponents. I like them at No. 3 and acknowledge their close loss to Notre Dame opening night, but I evaluate teams on their entire body of work during the season, and also believe it's better to have a good loss than a bad win. The Irish, riding high all year on the Michigan victory, have had several unimpressive close calls against weak opponents. Michigan is the superior team, but the reality is, if either runs the table, they’re in the CFP.
The first four out of the CFP are No. 5 Georgia (8-1), No. 6 Oklahoma (8-1), No. 7 LSU (7-2) and No. 8 Washington State (8-1). Only Georgia controls its own destiny by winning out.
What we learned
Louisville’s players quit on their coaches, fans and school in their embarrassing loss to Clemson. We said weeks ago that coach Bobby Petrino was in trouble and now he’s lost the locker room and needs to be shown the door.
We learned Kentucky (7-2) was a tease, as the team was thoroughly outplayed by Georgia, losing 34-17. The Wildcats had a chance to make a dramatic statement by winning and qualifying for their first SEC title game. Instead, this unit was exposed as an impostor and Wildcat fans can now officially turn the page to Kentucky basketball.
We learned No. 12 West Virginia (7-1) has the biggest riverboat gambler in college football. The Mountaineers scored on a 33-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds left at Texas and were an extra point away from tying the game at 41 and heading to overtime. Instead, coach Dana Holgorson elected to go for two and the win. Quarterback Will Grier ran into the end zone and the Mountaineers had their biggest win since joining the Big 12.
Florida State (4-5), which lost to N.C. State, 47-28, is reeling. The calls to fire coach Willie Taggart keep getting louder. And it's not just the losses; it's how they lose. They aren’t competing and look unprepared and uninspired. With all the talent on that roster, it’s baffling how that team is 4-5. Miami (5-4), another highly ranked team in the preseason, also has lost its swagger. Have you seen the turnover chain? It’s in the Hurricanes' backfield, which committed two costly turnovers, allowing Duke to win, 20-12. It was their third straight loss.
No. 10 Ohio State was fortunate to defeat Nebraska, 36-31, but something is missing in Columbus. Defensively, the Buckeyes haven't been able to stop anyone since lineman Nick Bosa was injured in Week 3 and elected not to return to the team and to focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.
Florida State (4-5) at No. 3 Notre Dame (9-0). The Irish will not have starting quarterback Ian Book, who is out with a rib injury. The Seminoles have talent but have underperformed. They can make their season with a victory. Forgetaboutit. Irish roll.
No. 10 Ohio State (8-1) at No. 18 Michigan State (6-3). Last chance for the Buckeyes, who need an impressive victory for CFP consideration. Who knows which Spartan team will show up? The most disappointing team in the Big Ten with so many starters returning, their championship expectations are history. Coach Mark Dantonio seems to have lost his magic touch in close games and this will be one of them.
No. 16 Mississippi State (6-3) at No. 1 Alabama (9-0). Bama just has too much talent on both sides of the ball. No letdown here. Roll Tide!
No. 2 Clemson (9-0) at No. 17 Boston College (7-2). The biggest game at the Heights in a decade. Coach Steve Addazio has built a respectable and competitive team. The Eagles can finally arrive on the national scene with a victory. I would love to see it but it’ll never happen against the talented Tigers.