How will a wild Week 11 — losses by No. 1 Georgia, No. 3 Notre Dame and a close call for No. 2 Alabama — change the College Football Playoff rankings?
Mel Kiper and Todd McShay weigh in with how they see the top four spots.
Mel Kiper’s CFP top four:
The Crimson Tide struggled at a solid Mississippi State team on Saturday, but a win’s a win, and Alabama is 10-0. It has one of the nation’s top defenses (giving up only 4.0 yards per play) and rushing offenses (270.8 yards per game). Could Alabama make the College Football Playoff even with a loss at Auburn in two weeks? It’s possible.
The defending national champs just keep getting the job done following that loss at Syracuse last month, even if they haven’t always looked impressive. Clemson has clinched a berth in the ACC title game against Miami. Its defense isn’t that far behind Alabama in yards per play allowed (4.5), and the Tigers have NFL prospects all along the defensive line. They have a good shot at another playoff berth if they can beat the Hurricanes on Dec. 2.
Is there any doubt the OU offense is the best in the country? Baker Mayfield & Co. are putting up 601 yards per game and averaging 8.5 yards per play, which both rank No. 1 in the nation. But is the defense good enough to make the Sooners title contenders? It’s allowing 6.0 yards per play, which ranks 97th. Still, I suspect no defensive coordinator wants to play Oklahoma — and TCU or Oklahoma State will likely have to do it again. The Sooners will play the Horned Frogs in the Big 12 title game if both teams win out, setting up a rematch of Saturday’s game.
The Hurricanes’ impressive rout of Notre Dame on Saturday knocked out the Fighting Irish from the College Football Playoff race and put Miami squarely in the driver’s seat. But it still has to play Clemson in the ACC title game. Do you realize Miami has never won the ACC’s Coastal Division? That means it has never even played in the ACC title game. Mark Richt has done a great job, and the Turnover Chain has done wonders — the Hurricanes are tied for No. 2 in the country in turnover margin (+15).
The class of college football. The Crimson Tide did struggle on Saturday against Mississippi State, but a win is a win. A tough slate remains with games against Auburn and then the SEC title game (likely against Georgia).
As Mel noted, this Sooners offense is tops in the nation in yards per game and yards per play. The issue is a porous defense, which has kept opponents in games. Baker Mayfield has been extremely impressive all season, especially this week (333 yards, three TDs) against a stout TCU defense.
The U put on an impressive display on Saturday night, romping Notre Dame 41-8 and putting the Hurricanes squarely in the College Football Playoff top four. However you feel about the Turnover Chain, the swagger is back in Miami.
The defending national champions are right in the thick of things as well, and their strong defensive line is leading the way. I hate agreeing with Mel this much, but I think they’re in if they beat Miami on Dec. 2.
Prospect on the rise
Kiper: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Crimson Tide average only 203.3 passing yards per game, but the 2018 draft’s No. 1 receiver plays in Tuscaloosa. Ridley has separated himself from the pack of other draft-eligible receivers, and he had his first 100-yard receiving game on Saturday in more than a year, catching five balls for 171 yards. Alabama’s offense is geared around the run, so don’t be put off by Ridley’s numbers this season — he had 161 catches and 14 touchdown receptions in his first two collegiate seasons. At 6-foot-1, 188 pounds, he’s a tremendous weapon. Ridley is explosive in and out of cuts, has good hands and is excellent after the catch. And he’s not afraid to go across the middle and make a play. Ridley ranked No. 15 on my most recent Big Board, and I think he’ll be a mid-first-round pick in April.
McShay: There were several great individual performances this week (Mayfield, Jaquan Johnson, Bradley Chubb), but I’ll go with Kerryon Johnson. He had 167 rushing yards against a typically stout Georgia defense on 32 carries, and added 66 yards and a TD as a receiver. He’s proving to be a real bell-cow back. He’s a junior, so I’ll be interested to see if he enters the draft.
Kiper: Jeremy Reaves, S, South Alabama
The Jaguars hung on to beat Arkansas State on Saturday, and Reaves played a huge part with 11 tackles and an interception. He has been a tackling machine in his career. In fact, he leads South Alabama this season in total tackles (83), tackles for loss (5.5), interceptions (three) and forced fumbles (three). He has eight interceptions and eight forced fumbles in his career. The cornerback-turned-safety helps from the slot and is disruptive when he blitzes. Reaves is an all-around player. Now, at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, he’s undersized, but he could get a chance to impress scouts if he gets invited to the Senior Bowl in January. Right now, he could be a Day 2 pick, depending on how he runs at the combine.
McShay: Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
Gallup caught 11 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown in Colorado State’s 59-52 overtime loss to Boise State. He had an early drop in the end zone, but he also shows the ability to catch it away from his frame and the body control to adjust. An above-average route runner, he sets up his breaks, sinks his hips and tempos his stems effectively.
He has 87 catches for 1,298 yards (14.9 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns this season.