Week 11 all but ruled Oklahoma out of the playoff. Inconsistencies all season at quarterback finally caught up with the Sooners and Baylor’s defense made them pay, handing them a devastating loss. In other news, Michigan survived at Penn State, answering the bell with a touchdown late and Michigan State and Ohio State rolled at home over lesser opponents. Georgia took care of business against Tennessee and Alabama rolled against New Mexico State. Aside from Oklahoma, the college football world was quiet in terms of upsets this past weekend. Based on this weekend’s schedule, don’t expect to see that two weeks in a row.
Oregon on Upset Alert
At first glance, the Ducks handled Washington State last week fairly easily winning 38-24. However, the game was tied at halftime and the Ducks didn’t do themselves any favors by losing two fumbles and starting slowly, gaining just 40 yards outside of their two touchdown drives in the first half. While Oregon’s defense held them in the game against a pedestrian Washington State offense ranking 63rd in EPA/play, they won’t have that luxury this week against Utah. Utah’s offense ranks second nationally in EPA/rush and averages 4.4 points per opportunity offensively, surpassing Washington State’s 4 points per opportunity relatively easily. Oregon’s defense ranks 37th in EPA/rush and just 0.108 predicted points added per rush and will be tasked with facing a high powered Utah running game that has 0.307 predicted points added per rush. If Oregon’s offense that has just 11 turnovers on the year, but 3 in just the last two weeks continues to start slow they will be in trouble against Utah.
Overreaction: Utah wins in front of its home crowd and thereby eliminates Oregon from playoff contention. Given last week’s performance by the Ducks, the Pac-12 will be out of the playoff conversation by this time next week.
Wake Forest with an Outside Shot
Call me crazy but this Wake Forest team which has no defense could somehow find its way into the playoff with some help. The team climbed back into the top ten of this week’s playoff ranking and there is belief in and outside the program that this is the best Wake Forest football team ever. The help Wake Forest needs would have to come in the form of Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State all splitting their games down the stretch, Oklahoma State losing a game, along with Oklahoma. What Wake has going for them right now is offense. The Demon Deacs get nearly 5 points per opportunity from their offense, 4.9 to be exact, and ranks 5th nationally in EPA/play. Another thing Wake has going for them is the lack of offense for the remaining teams on their schedule. Clemson’s offense only averages a mere 3.8 points per possession and ranks 121st in EPA/play. The Deacs play Clemson this week before playing Boston College in the season finale. The Eagles’ offense is actually comparable to Clemson’s, averaging 3.7 points per possession which is slightly worse than the Tigers but ranks 89th in EPA/play. Wake Forest will then face whoever awaits them in the ACC Championship only if they can slide by with their current method of winning games. Based on the fact that they don’t rely on stopping opponents to win games, their remaining opponents weaker offensive ratings, and the likelihood of help that they could get along the way, the Demon Deacons have an outside shot at making the playoffs.
Overreaction: Wake Forest will beat Clemson this week for the first time since 2008 and finish 11-1 in the regular season which is their best season since 2006 when they finished the regular season 10-2.
Nebraska Finally Finishes a Game
Given Scott Frost has been guaranteed through next year at the minimum it proves that there is belief throughout the program that there are many aside from Scott Frost that believe this team is close. With games remaining against ranked teams Wisconsin and archrival Nebraska, Scott Frost still has ample opportunity to prove this belief to be true and play spoiler to the rest of the Big Ten West. Nebraska has improved week to week, but just hasn’t been able to get over the hump against top tier teams such as Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio State. With Wisconsin and Iowa remaining on the schedule, at least one of them will fall to Nebraska, if not both. Wisconsin has an offense that averages just 3.2 points per opportunity, which for reference, is worse than Clemson, who has been largely disappointing offensively. What carries Wisconsin is their defense, giving up just 2.5 points per opportunity and ranking 1st in EPA/play and EPA/rush ranking 2nd in EPA/pass. Nebraska, if they can muster anything offensively, will have a real shot in this game, and with an offense that averages 3.9 points per opportunity, it isn’t too far-fetched. Iowa is the more likely of the two upsets. For one, they host the Hawkeyes and tensions will run high due to the rivalry. Nebraska’s offense is likely to get many opportunities in the game considering the lackluster Hawkeye offense that puts an Iowa defense, loaded with talent in the secondary, on the field way too often. Iowa’s defense began the season with two cornerbacks graded second and third in the nation by PFF and now has a defense that gives up 3.4 points per opportunity while gaining just 3.3 points per opportunity. Yes, you read that correctly, Iowa’s defense gives up more points than their offense gets and it is largely in part due to the amount of opportunities both units get. Iowa’s defense has had 46 opportunities while similar teams in the Big Ten such as Wisconsin and Minnesota have seen just 36 and 39 opportunities respectively.
Overreaction: Wisconsin or Iowa will fall at the hands of Nebraska, maybe even both of them will go down to the Cornhuskers. Nebraska can stay in the game with every team in the Big ten offensively, now that they face two teams with poor offenses, it is a quick recipe for monumental wins for Scott Frost & Co.