The last word before the College Football Playoff selection committee starts ranking teams was elimination.
With most of the top contenders taking the weekend off, a bunch of second-tier playoff hopefuls were trying to stay in the race Saturday. No. 7 Oregon, No. 8 Georgia and No. 9 Utah can look forward to seeing where they are positioned Tuesday when the first CFP rankings are revealed.
No. 6 Florida, thanks for playing. The Gators took their second loss of the season, against Georgia this time, and are done. A two-loss team has yet to reach the playoff. It might happen eventually, but if it does it will be a conference champion. The Gators are likely locked out of the Southeastern Conference championship game after handing first place and the tiebreaker to Georgia.
The Bulldogs have been off the radar since being upset at home by South Carolina last month. Facing Florida was a chance for Georgia to re-establish itself as a team that many thought could break up the Alabama-Clemson national championship monopoly.
Jake Fromm had his best game in about a month as time and again Georgia turned to its junior quarterback to convert on third down against Florida. The Bulldogs converted 12 of 18 third downs and Fromm was 20 for 30 for 279 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bulldogs are still short on offensive explosiveness, which could make it tough to get through No. 1 LSU or No. 2 Alabama down the road. Then again, they also might have the best defense in the SEC.
Over in the Pac-12, it was a very good day for the conference’s playoffs hope, with Utah and Oregon both passing tricky road tests.
The Utes were 1-6 against Washington since moving to the Pac-12. They took an early shot from the Huskies but dominated the second half to win the first game of the high-stakes Pac-12 doubleheader and ensure the doomsday scenario for the conference would not be activated.
Underrated is a weird compliment. Who exactly is doing the rating? It seems, however, to fit Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley, who outplayed the highly touted Jacob Eason in Seattle.
“He’s one of the elite quarterbacks in the country and I stand by that,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
The Utes then became Oregon fans.
The Ducks fell behind 10-0 early and then buried USC, which beat Utah early this season and needed to be handed another loss to avoid tiebreaker complications for the Utes.
The victory put Oregon and Utah on a clear path to a Pac-12 championship game matching 11-1 teams, with the winner without question a serious playoff contender. The Ducks have the Arizona schools and the Civil War game against Oregon State, which looks like it might be tougher than it has been the last two years when Oregon won by a combined 124-25.
Utah’s remaining games are against suddenly revitalized UCLA, Arizona and Colorado.
When the first playoff rankings come out Tuesday, how will they look? A guess:
2, Ohio State
5, Penn State
What got Brian Kelly into trouble with Notre Dame fans through the first few years of his tenure as coach were the “bad losses.”
The Fighting Irish lost games to Tulsa, South Florida, Navy, Northwestern and Duke. Some at home.
It is one thing to get smoked by elite teams in bowl games but quite another to allow basketball schools and guarantee-game opponents to celebrate in front of Touchdown Jesus.
The Irish have cleaned that up the past 2½ seasons and deserve some credit for persevering against Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Hokies have a much better pedigree than that bunch mentioned above, but this is not exactly vintage Virginia Tech. The Hokies came in as a 17-point underdog and the Irish did all they could to hand them this game until the very end.
“That was difficult, but our guys responded,” Kelly said.
Ian Book put together a clutch, long touchdown drive that will probably put him back in the good graces of fickle Irish fans, who have been wondering why the quarterback that led Notre Dame to the playoff last year has seemingly regressed.
As for Kelly, he has a good team that probably came into the season with inflated expectations coming off the playoff appearance. The Irish will be favored in each of their final four games (Duke, Navy, Boston College and Stanford) and if they can take care of business, that will give Notre Dame a third consecutive 10-win season, something that hasn’t happened in South Bend since Lou Holtz was coach in the early 1990s.
AROUND THE COUNTRY: From ESPN’s “College GameDay” on Beale Street to dropping 50 on an unbeaten SMU team, Saturday might have been the best day in the history of Memphis football. ... Numerous reports have indicated that USC will be hiring an AD this week. Trojans coach Clay Helton will meet the new boss coming off a 56-24 loss. The next move for USC is now a forgone conclusion. ... All Willie Taggart needed to do was show a little improvement in his second season at Florida State and he would have had no problem keeping his job. The important people at Florida State want no part of another coaching change and paying a $17 million-plus buyout. After getting clobbered by Miami at home, the Seminoles stand at 4-5 with games remaining at Boston College and at home against Alabama State and Florida. A loss to BC would make a second straight 5-7 season likely and could lead to a lot of empty seats at Doak Campbell Stadium the last two weeks. At that point, Florida State might not be able to afford to keep Taggart for another year. ... Syracuse’s collapse this season has been stark. Even if you were skeptical about the Orange being able to follow-up last year’s 10-win season, who would have guessed they’d be this bad: Now 3-6 and 0-5 in the ACC after allowing 496 yards rushing in a loss to Boston College. ... Nebraska gave up a game-winning late fourth-quarter drive to a Purdue team playing a third-string quarterback who was a former walk-on with only Division III offers out of high school. The Cornhusker (4-5) now must win two of three against No. 18 Wisconsin, Maryland and No. 19 Iowa to get bowl eligible and try to avoid a third straight losing season. ... No. 23 Wake Forest (7-1) is in prime position for a trip to the Orange Bowl after it throttled North Carolina State. The Orange Bowl gets the ACC champion, unless that champ goes to the playoff. If that happens, the next best ACC team goes to South Florida, and the Demon Deacons, who are at No. 4 Clemson in two weeks, are well positioned to be that team.