Mark SchlabachESPN Senior WriterClose
- Senior college football writer
- Author of seven books on college football
- Graduate of the University of Georgia
Just like that, there is only one week left in the 2019 regular season, before we get to conference championship games, bowl contests and the College Football Playoff.
This weekend was supposed to be a precursor to Rivalry Week, and that’s pretty much what it was for most of the CFP contenders. Well, except for Oregon, which saw its playoff hopes dashed by a 31-28 upset loss at Arizona State on Saturday night.
Oregon’s loss might have been Utah’s gain, or Oklahoma’s or Alabama’s.
Here are the ESPN Power Rankings after Week 13:
1. Ohio State (11-0)
The unbeaten Buckeyes could breathe a sigh of relief when quarterback Justin Fields jogged off the field after suffering what looked like a high ankle sprain late in a 28-17 win over Penn State. Coach Ryan Day told reporters afterward he believed Fields would be fine. The victory clinched Ohio State a Big Ten East title and a spot in the Big Ten championship game. First, the Buckeyes will try to extend their seven-game winning streak over rival Michigan in The Game at the Big House next weekend. There’s plenty for OSU to clean up before then. The Buckeyes lost three fumbles in a game for the first time since beating Oregon 42-20 in the CFP National Championship on Jan. 12, 2015. Fields lost two (including one recovered by Penn State in its end zone) and running back J.K. Dobbins lost another. The Buckeyes also surrendered three sacks and 10 tackles for loss and had only 167 total yards in the second half. Fields threw for 188 yards with two touchdowns, and Dobbins ran for 157 yards with two scores. Star defensive end Chase Young, back from a two-game suspension, broke an OSU single-season record by reaching 14½ sacks.
Up next:at Michigan (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)
2. LSU (11-0)
Another week, another offensive explosion for the Tigers, who clinched at least a share of the SEC West and a spot in the SEC championship game for the first time since 2011 by blasting Arkansas 56-20 at home Saturday night. If there were any doubts about LSU quarterback Joe Burrow winning the Heisman Trophy, he probably put them to rest with his performance against the Hogs. He completed 23 of 28 passes for 327 yards with three touchdowns in 2½ quarters. Burrow became only the fourth SEC quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season and needs 262 more to break the conference’s single-season record. He also needs three more touchdown throws to tie the SEC record of 44 set by Missouri’s Drew Lock in 2017. Ja’Marr Chase caught six passes for 144 yards with two touchdowns. Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran six times for 188 yards — averaging 31.3 yards per carry! — with three scores. Each of LSU’s eight touchdown drives lasted less than 2½ minutes. In the third quarter, the Tigers needed only four plays to score three touchdowns in a five-minute span.
Up next:vs. Texas A&M (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
3. Clemson (10-0)
The Tigers have streamrollered their instate rivals, just as they’ve dominated their ACC opponents the previous few seasons. The bad news for South Carolina: Clemson is starting to look like the team that won a national championship last season. The Tigers have won five games in a row against South Carolina — each of the previous three by at least 21 points. The Gamecocks are headed to their second losing campaign under coach Will Muschamp, who was getting mixed signals from the administration about his job security. This past week, school officials told him he’d be back in 2020, regardless of next weekend’s outcome. The Tigers, who were off on Saturday, are aiming for their 27th consecutive victory and a second straight undefeated regular season.
Up next:at South Carolina (Saturday, noon ET, TV TBA)
There’s no question Georgia’s defense is good enough to put up a fight against LSU in the SEC championship game. The question, of course, is whether Georgia’s offense can score enough points, and the Bulldogs didn’t do anything to alleviate those concerns in a 19-13 win over Texas A&M on Saturday. UGA’s defense held the Aggies to minus-1 rushing yard in 20 attempts with two sacks. But the offense had to settle for four field goals, and quarterback Jake Fromm completed less than 50% of his passes for the third consecutive game. The wet conditions and absence of star receiver Lawrence Cager were contributing factors, but the offense has been an enigma for much of the season. When UGA’s defense finally broke and gave up a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Aggies were down only six points. The positive: Tailback D’Andre Swift ran for 103 yards in 19 carries and helped pick up three big first downs in the closing minutes. The Bulldogs will have to hope Cager returns, and their offense finds its rhythm between now and the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
Up next:at Georgia Tech (Saturday, noon ET, ABC)
5. Utah (10-1)
The Utes manhandled another Pac-12 opponent on Saturday night, winning 35-7 at Arizona, and moved a step closer to clinching the Pac-12 South and playing in the league’s championship game. Utah can win the division by beating Colorado at home next weekend. If the Utes lose to the Buffaloes, USC will play in the Pac-12 championship game. With Oregon and Penn State losing on Saturday, the Utes also got help in trying to reach the top four of the CFP standings. Utah’s defense didn’t have any problems slowing down Arizona’s woeful offense. The Wildcats punted on their only four possessions of the first half, and then turned it over on downs on each of the first two drives in the second half; Arizona finished with 196 yards of offense. Utah tailback Zack Moss ran 26 times for 203 yards with one score in three quarters. Moss is the Utah career record holder for rushing yards, rushing attempts, rushing touchdowns, 100-yard games and total touchdowns. Quarterback Tyler Huntley was equally efficient, completing 19 of 23 passes for 211 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Up next:vs. Colorado (Saturday, TBD)
6. Alabama (10-1)
With injured quarterback Tua Tagovailoa watching from the sideline, new starter Mac Jones passed his practice test — with a much more difficult one coming next weekend. Jones threw for 275 yards with three touchdowns in the Tide’s 66-3 rout of FCS program Western Carolina, Jones’ second start this season. He did what coach Nick Saban asked him to do — put the ball in the hands of Alabama’s playmakers. DeVonta Smith scored from 57 yards and Jaylen Waddle scored from 58 on tunnel-screen passes. Tagovailoa’s younger brother, freshman Taulia, also threw his first collegiate touchdown on his first attempt against the Catamounts. Jones was efficient against an overmatched opponent, but he figures to get much more resistance from Auburn’s defense in next weekend’s Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Tide defensive linemen DJ Dale, Phidarian Mathis, LaBryan Ray and receiver Henry Ruggs III didn’t play Saturday because of injuries.
Up next:at Auburn (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
7. Oklahoma (10-1)
It’s November, which means Oklahoma is winning, but it hasn’t exactly been convincing this season. A week after the Sooners had to rally from a 25-point deficit to win at Baylor, they nearly squandered a three-touchdown lead in a 28-24 victory over TCU. It was their third consecutive victory by four points or fewer. After Jalen Hurts’ 8-yard run gave OU a 28-17 lead with 7:11 left in the third quarter, the wheels started to come off for the Sooners. TCU’s Vernon Scott returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown, Hurts fumbled at the TCU 7 at the end of a 32-yard run, and the Sooners failed to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Horned Frogs’ 41. The Sooners needed Brendan Radley-Hiles’ interception at the OU 32 to put away TCU. Hurts had 145 passing yards with two touchdowns and 173 rushing yards with two scores. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Hurts is only the fifth player in the past 20 years with 30 passing TDs and 15 rushing TDs in the same season. The other four players — Florida’s Tim Tebow (2007), Auburn’s Cam Newton (2010), Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (2014) and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (2016) — won the Heisman Trophy.
Up next:at Oklahoma State (Saturday, TBD)
8. Florida (9-2)
The Gators, trying to remain in the hunt for a New Year’s Six bowl game, had a bye week before closing the regular season against rival Florida State at the Swamp next weekend. FSU has won seven of the previous nine meetings, although the Gators won 41-14 in Tallahassee last season. That victory snapped a five-game losing streak in the series and ended FSU’s NCAA-record, 36-year streak of bowl appearances. FSU has played better the previous two games under interim coach Odell Haggins. He is a popular choice among FSU players and some boosters to replace fired Willie Taggart beyond this season, and he can certainly boost his chances of landing the job by upsetting the Gators.
Up next:vs. Florida State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
9. Oregon (9-2)
The Ducks’ CFP hopes all but evaporated in a 31-28 loss at Arizona State on Saturday night, which ended their nine-game winning streak. After losing to the Sun Devils, who had dropped their previous four games, ESPN’s FPI gives Oregon only a 2% chance of making the playoff. Oregon’s defense, which had been vastly improved this season, surrendered 535 yards of offense. ASU freshman Jayden Daniels threw for a career-high 408 yards with three touchdowns. He completed seven passes of 20 yards or more, and the final one was the backbreaker — an 81-yard touchdown to Brandon Aiyuk on third-and-16 that gave the Sun Devils a 10-point lead with 3:54 to go. Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert saw consecutive passes picked off in Oregon territory early in the third quarter. The Ducks had already won the Pac-12 North and will play in the league’s championship game, but they’ll probably be fighting for a spot in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual.
Up next:vs. Oregon State (Saturday, TBD)
10. Baylor (10-1)
The Bears clinched a spot in the Big 12 championship game — and staked their claim as the best team in the Longhorn State — by knocking off Texas 24-10 at home Saturday. Baylor bounced back from its first loss of the season, and now it will have a chance in the Big 12 title game to avenge the 34-31 setback to Oklahoma, which rallied from 25 points behind for the biggest comeback in school history. Against the Longhorns, Charlie Brewer threw for 221 yards with one touchdown, while running 18 times for 75 yards with one score. He left the game after a helmet-to-helmet hit with about 11½ minutes left. Bears coach Matt Rhule said it was too soon to know whether Brewer would be available for next weekend’s regular-season finale at Kansas. Denzel Mims had seven catches for 125 yards with one score. The Bears won 10 games for the sixth time in school history — the fifth occurrence since 2011.
Up next:at Kansas (Saturday, TBD)
11. Minnesota (10-1)
Last weekend’s loss at Iowa spoiled the Golden Gophers’ perfect season, but they’re still only one victory away from clinching the Big Ten West and a spot in their first conference championship game. With Saturday’s 38-22 victory at Northwestern, Minnesota won 10 games in a season for only the sixth time in school history and only the second time since 1905. It’s also the first time the Gophers won 10 games in a regular season since 1905, and the first time they won seven games in Big Ten play. With four more touchdown passes, quarterback Tanner Morgan set a single-season school record with 26. Against the Wildcats, he threw three touchdowns to Rashod Bateman and one more to Tyler Johnson. The duo became the first in Big Ten history with 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.
Up next:vs. Wisconsin (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
12. Penn State (9-2)
After falling behind Ohio State 21-0, the Nittany Lions put up a good fight in the second half, even after losing quarterback Sean Clifford to a leg injury. Penn State coach James Franklin told reporters that Clifford could have returned but would have had decreased mobility. Backup Will Levis showed promise and was composed, leading three scoring drives in the third quarter, when the Nittany Lions scored 17 consecutive points. But Levis took a sack and made an ill-advised throw on an interception at the PSU 20. Levis, a redshirt freshman from Madison, Connecticut, completed 6 of 11 passes for 57 yards, while running 19 times for 34 yards with one touchdown. Penn State can clinch its third 10-win campaign in six seasons under Franklin by beating Rutgers at home next week.
Up next:vs. Rutgers (Saturday, TBD)
13. Wisconsin (9-2)
Like the Gophers, the Badgers took care of business Saturday in a 45-24 decision over Purdue, so the stage is set for next weekend’s showdown at Minnesota in a winner-take-all contest for the Big Ten West title and Paul Bunyan’s Axe. At least the Badgers know tailback Jonathan Taylor is firing on all cylinders. In last weekend’s victory at Nebraska, Taylor became the first FBS player in the past 25 years to run for 200 yards or more three times against the same opponent. On Saturday, he did it to Purdue, too, by running for 222 yards with one touchdown in 28 carries. Taylor had 219 yards against the Boilermakers as a freshman in 2017, and then 321 against them in 2018. Taylor also set an FBS record with the 12th 200-yard rushing performance of his career. Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne (1996-99), Texas’ Ricky Williams (1995-98) and USC’s Marcus Allen (1978-81) held the previous record of 11. Quarterback Jack Coan threw for 203 yards with two touchdowns. The only blemishes for the Badgers were four turnovers — three fumbles and one interception — and their defense giving up points on each of Purdue’s first three drives.
Up next:at Minnesota (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
14. Michigan (9-2)
After early doubts, Michigan’s new-look offense is probably right where coach Jim Harbaugh wanted it to be heading into next weekend’s showdown against Ohio State. The Wolverines won their fourth game in a row, 39-14 at Indiana, piling up 453 yards of offense in the process. Quarterback Shea Patterson had one of his best games at Michigan, completing 20 of 32 passes for 366 yards with five touchdowns. Three of them went to Nico Collins, who caught six balls for 165 yards and three scores. Patterson completed a career-high 10 passes of 10 yards or more in the air for 320 yards with four scores, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. To say Harbaugh needs to beat the Buckeyes is like saying UMass needs to learn to play defense. He is the first Michigan coach to go 0-4 against Ohio State, which won the past seven meetings and 14 of the previous 15 in the series.
Up next:vs. Ohio State (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)
15. Notre Dame (9-2)
If only the Fighting Irish had played Georgia or Michigan at home. The Irish wrapped up a second straight unbeaten season at Notre Dame Stadium by beating Boston College 40-7 on Saturday. Unless there’s chaos among the teams ranked ahead of Notre Dame in the CFP committee rankings, however, it probably won’t be going to a New Year’s Six bowl game. The Irish have been dominant in their past three victories. Ian Book threw for 239 yards with three touchdowns and ran for 66 against Boston College. His 29 touchdown passes this season is tied with Everett Golson for third-most in school history. Chase Claypool caught another on Saturday, and his 10 this season are the most by a Notre Dame player since Will Fuller had 14 in 2015. The Irish defense held BC to only 191 yards of offense — 63 passing and 128 rushing — and forced two turnovers. Eagles tailback AJ Dillon had 56 rushing yards in 14 attempts.
Up next:at Stanford (Saturday, TBD)
16. Memphis (10-1)
For only the fourth time in school history, the Tigers have won 10 games in a season after Saturday’s 49-10 rout at South Florida. With a victory over Cincinnati at home next week, they would win 11 games in a season for the first time, win their third straight American Athletic Conference West title and host the AAC championship game for the first time. After a slow start against the Bulls, the Tigers scored three touchdowns in the final eight minutes of the first half to blow it open and win their fifth straight. Brady White threw for 222 yards with two touchdowns. Kenneth Gainwell ran for 128 yards, and senior Patrick Taylor Jr. had 95 yards with three scores. Taylor, a senior from Humble, Texas, missed eight games because of a foot injury. His return takes a big share of the load off Gainwell. The Bulls had only five first downs, the fewest in a game in school history, and 170 yards of offense.
Up next:vs. Cincinnati (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
17. Boise State (10-1)
With the Broncos starting their third different quarterback in Saturday night’s game at Utah State, coach Bryan Harsin pulled out all stops in his team’s 56-21 victory, clinching the Mountain West Conference Mountain Division. The Broncos ran the Statue of Liberty play — first made famous in a 43-42 upset of Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl — on George Holani’s 5-yard scoring run in the first quarter. Jalen Walker had a 15-yard interception return for a touchdown, and Avery Williams returned a punt 74 yards for a score. Redshirt senior Jaylon Henderson, from Kingwood, Texas, made his second straight start with Hank Bachmeier and Chase Cord still nursing injuries. He completed 16 of 28 passes for 187 yards with three touchdowns. The Broncos remained in the hunt for the Group of 5 leagues’ automatic bid to the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, but they might need the two AAC teams ranked ahead of them in the CFP rankings — Memphis and Cincinnati — to fall.
Up next:at Colorado State (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN)
18. Iowa (8-3)
The Hawkeyes had a very Iowa-like performance in ending Illinois’ four-game winning streak with a 19-10 victory at home. Iowa’s defense forced three turnovers and had three sacks, Keith Duncan kicked four field goals, and the Hawkeyes did just enough on offense to win. Quarterback Nate Stanley threw for a season-high 308 yards with one interception on 18-for-35 passing, and the Hawkeyes managed only 79 rushing yards in 32 attempts. Duncan has made 27 field goals this season, a Big Ten single-season school record. He is 12-of-14 on field goal attempts of 40 yards or longer. Iowa has won four of its past five games, and with a road contest at Nebraska remaining on Friday, it remains in the hunt for one of the Big Ten’s upper-tier bowl games, potentially the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl or TaxSlayer Gator Bowl.
Up next:at Nebraska (Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
19. Auburn (8-3)
The Crimson Tide weren’t the only team from Alabama to feast on an FCS opponent on Saturday. The Tigers blasted Samford 52-0 in their final warm-up before the Iron Bowl. According to data from ESPN Stats & Information, it’s only the third time in the AP poll era (since 1936) that Alabama and Auburn both won by 50 points or more on the same day. It also happened on Sept. 8, 2018 (Alabama beat Arkansas State 57-7, Auburn defeated Alabama State 63-9), and Sept. 21, 1974 (Auburn shut out Chattanooga 52-0, and Alabama routed Southern Miss 52-0). Quarterback Bo Nix completed 15 of 23 passes for 150 yards with one touchdown, and the Tigers had 544 yards of offense. One concern: Safety Jamien Sherwood will miss the first half of the Iron Bowl after he was ejected for targeting in the third quarter.
Up next:vs. Alabama (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
20. Cincinnati (10-1)
Once again, it wasn’t pretty — unless you love defense — but the Bearcats held on for a 15-13 win over Temple in wet and windy weather to clinch the AAC East and earn a spot in the league’s championship game. The Bearcats won by three points or fewer for the fourth time this season and third time in their past four games. The difference ended up being Coby Bryant’s 98-yard return of a blocked extra-point attempt for two points with 11:19 left. Cincinnati’s Darrick Forrest picked off an Anthony Russo pass at the Cincinnati 32 to seal the victory. The Bearcats were outgained by 100 yards in total offense — 310 to 210. Quarterback Desmond Ridder, bothered by a sore throwing shoulder, completed only 9 of 25 passes for 62 yards with one interception. Michael Warren II ran for 106 yards and one score. With a victory at Memphis, the Bearcats will host the AAC championship game.
Up next:at Memphis (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
21. Virginia Tech (8-3)
This is how longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster was supposed to go into retirement. After an 0-2 start in ACC play, the Hokies have won six of their past seven games, with the lone loss coming at Notre Dame in a nonconference game. On Saturday, the Hokies posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2005 with a 28-0 decision over Pittsburgh. Virginia Tech beat Georgia Tech 45-0 on the road last weekend and hasn’t given up a point in its past nine quarters. The Panthers were limited to eight first downs, a season-low 177 yards of offense, and Virginia Tech’s defense scored on Norell Pollard’s 7-yard fumble return in the first quarter. The Hokies remained tied with rival Virginia for first place in the ACC’s Coastal Division. The winner of next weekend’s Commonwealth Cup in Charlottesville will take the division and play Clemson in the ACC championship game. The Hokies have won an unprecedented 15 consecutive games in the series.
Up next:at Virginia (Friday, 12 p.m. ET, ABC)
Oklahoma State (8-3)
With starting quarterback Spencer Sanders sidelined for the rest of the regular season after undergoing surgery on the thumb on his right hand last week, the Cowboys mustered just enough offense in a 20-13 road win at West Virginia. Hawai’i transfer Dru Brown made his first start and completed 22 of 29 passes for 196 yards with two touchdowns. The Pokes once again rode the back of star tailback Chuba Hubbard, who ran 26 times for 106 yards to go with a career-high seven catches for 88. OSU was outgained 333-285 in total yards. The Mountaineers failed to convert a fourth-and-12 at the OSU 19 with 1:43 left to seal the Cowboys’ fourth consecutive victory. They probably will need to generate more offense in next weekend’s Bedlam game against Oklahoma in Stillwater.
Up next:vs. Oklahoma (Saturday, TBD)
23. Appalachian State (10-1)
The Mountaineers recovered from a very slow start — they led Texas State, a 30½-point underdog, 14-13 midway through the third quarter — by scoring the final 21 points in a 35-13 victory. Quarterback Zac Thomas threw for 174 yards with two touchdowns, and Darrynton Evans ran for 154 yards with three scores — all in the second half. Junior Corey Xavier Sutton, who leads Appalachian State in receiving yards and touchdown catches, moved into fifth place in school history with the 17th scoring reception of his career in the first quarter. But he injured his knee later in the game and returned to the sideline using crutches. The Mountaineers have won at least 10 games in back-to-back seasons and for the fourth time in five years.
Up next:at Troy (Friday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
24. USC (8-4)
The Trojans closed their regular season by blasting rival UCLA 52-35 at the Coliseum on Saturday, their fifth victory in their past six games. Now, they’ll have to wait to learn the fate of embattled coach Clay Helton, who has a 40-21 record in four-plus seasons at the school. Certainly, the growth and improvement of USC’s offense under first-year coordinator/quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell is something that should weigh in Helton’s favor. Freshman Kedon Slovis threw for 515 yards with four touchdowns against UCLA, becoming the first player in USC’s storied history to throw for 500 yards in a game. He’s also the first Trojan to throw for more than 400 yards in three straight games. Against the Bruins, Slovis spread the wealth, as USC had four players –Drake London (142), Amon-Ra St. Brown (128), Tyler Vaughns (106) and Michael Pittman Jr. (104) — with 100 receiving yards or more. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, USC is only the fourth FBS team in the past 20 years with four 100-yard receivers in the same game. The Trojans will play in the Pac-12 championship game against Oregon if Utah loses to Colorado at home next weekend.
Up next:Regular season complete
25. Iowa State (7-4)
The Cyclones got a little more than they probably expected from Kansas at home on Saturday, before pulling away for a 41-31 victory. Iowa State trailed 31-27 with 10:42 left but then scored two touchdowns in the final 5:10, the second coming on fourth-and-goal from the 4. Quarterback Brock Purdy threw for 372 yards with four touchdowns and one interception on 29-for-42 passing. Breece Hall ran for 97 yards with two total touchdowns, and La’Michael Pettway caught six passes for 96 yards with two scores. On the flip side, it was a day for Iowa State’s defense to forget. The Cyclones surrendered 493 yards of offense, including 328 passing, and nine third-down conversions. Still, Iowa State clinched its third consecutive winning season under coach Matt Campbell. The only other time the Cyclones accomplished that feat in the modern era was under Earl Bruce in 1976-78.
Up next:at Kansas State (Saturday, TBD)