The last Saturday of October started with nine unbeaten teams.
Four went down and five remain, four of which -- Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington -- are the leaders in a Power 5 conference.
Sounds kind of perfect for a playoff ranking, right? It might start that way when the College Football Playoff selection committee unveils its initial poll on Tuesday night (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).
But we know the rankings probably won't end up that way, at least not when the four teams are selected for the playoff on Dec. 4. There's too much football left to play. What's going to be interesting to learn Tuesday night is how the one- and two-loss teams stack up behind the top four.
No. 3 Clemson saved the selection committee an early headache by coming from behind to beat No. 12 Florida State 37-34 on the road. But we start in the Big 12, where the biggest damage was done in Week 9.
Did Texas and Oklahoma State bury the Big 12's playoff hopes?
Every Big 12 team has at least one loss after the beleaguered league's last two undefeated teams fell on the road Saturday. Texas stunned No. 8 Baylor 35-34, and No. 10 West Virginia fell 37-20 at Oklahoma State.
"Tonight was our night," Longhorns coach Charlie Strong said.
It wasn't a great night for the Big 12, though. After embarrassing itself with its latest failed attempt at expansion, the Big 12 looks like the first Power 5 league to be play itself out of contention for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff.
The Bears and Mountaineers were probably fringe playoff contenders to begin with. The Bears started 6-0 under interim coach Jim Grobe, but they've defeated only one team with a winning record and three of the five FBS opponents they beat are 1-7. Because of its weak nonconference schedule, Baylor's playoff chances were probably remote at best.
Plus, whether the selection committee would admit it or not, Baylor's ongoing fallout from its ugly sexual assault scandal would have left the committee in an unenviable position. The Bears had absolutely no margin for error and had to finish unbeaten to have a chance to make the playoff. They still have road games left at West Virginia and No. 16 Oklahoma, so there's a good chance they'll lose again.
Like Baylor, West Virginia doesn't have a victory over a ranked opponent and its nonconference schedule (wins over Missouri, FCS foe Youngstown State and BYU) wasn't going to carry much weight with the selection committee.
Don't sleep on No. 16 Oklahoma, however. The Sooners might be the only glimmer of hope in the Big 12. After two early losses in nonconference play to Houston and Ohio State, they've won five league games in a row and will face Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma State in their final three regular-season games. Oklahoma was ranked No. 15 in the initial playoff rankings last season after an early loss to Texas, only to play its way into the top four by season's end.
Don't be surprised to see the Sooners check in higher than that on Tuesday night.
Can Strong save his job again?
When LSU transfer Trent Domingue made a 39-yard field goal in the final minute to upset the Bears, Texas avoided a 3-5 start for the third straight season under Strong.
If the Longhorns can win three out of their last four regular-season games to finish 7-5, would it be enough to save Strong's job? After the Longhorns dropped four of five games before beating Baylor, many Texas fans wondered when Strong was going to let Houston coach Tom Herman start redecorating his new office.
Only the next four weeks will tell us if Texas has finally turned a corner and whether Strong's work is paying off. If the Longhorns lose at Texas Tech next week, their upset of Baylor probably won't mean much of anything.
Texas fans want to see more consistency; this is the same team that lost 24-21 at Kansas State last week. UT still plays West Virginia at home, followed by a road game at Kansas and home finale against TCU. There's an opportunity for a strong finish.
Strong didn't hold much back Saturday night when he was asked about the speculation concerning his job. In fact, he called the rumors "an embarrassment to everyone."
"I know this: I have a really good team," Strong said. "I have a special team."
Will Western Michigan row its boat to a New Year's Six bowl game?
The No. 20 Broncos didn't even play this weekend, but they might have been one of Saturday's biggest winners.
After No. 13 Boise State lost at Wyoming 30-28 -- the Cowboys scored the winning points on a sack and fumble for a safety with only 1:25 left -- Western Michigan is the lone remaining unbeaten team from a Group of 5 conference. The Broncos will be heavy favorites in their next three games before closing the regular season against Toledo on Nov. 25.
The Broncos should be the highest-ranked Group of 5 team when the CFP selection committee releases its initial rankings Tuesday night. Houston, which was the Group of 5 representative last season, was No. 25 on the first ballot.
Speaking of the Cougars, they narrowly avoided a third loss to an unranked opponent, before rallying from a 21-point deficit to beat UCF 31-24 at home. Thanks to No. 22 Navy's 52-45 loss at USF on Friday night, the Cougars are right back in the race for the AAC West title.
Houston remains one game behind Navy and Tulsa in the loss column of the AAC West standings, so it will have to hope those teams lose again.
Should Georgia and Ole Miss be worried about making bowls?
Here's some ammunition for anyone who dislikes preseason polls: Ole Miss was ranked No. 11 in the preseason, Michigan State was No. 12 and Georgia was No. 18 (and then climbed to No. 9 after its opening win over North Carolina). All three teams might be in danger of missing a bowl game if they don't turn things around and finish strong.
The Spartans are 2-6 (0-5 Big Ten) after falling to Michigan at home, and they'll have to win their last four games to finish 6-6. That's probably not going to happen, as they finish the season with a home game against No. 6 Ohio State and a road game at No. 24 Penn State.
Ole Miss fell to 3-5 (1-4 SEC) after losing its third game in a row, 40-29 to red-hot Auburn. Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly passed for a school-record 465 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, but the Ole Miss defense surrendered 554 yards, including 236 rushing by Auburn's Kamryn Pettway.
Ole Miss hosts Georgia Southern next week, and then plays consecutive road games at No. 9 Texas A&M and Vanderbilt before hosting rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl -- the Rebels and Bulldogs each might need to win that rivalry game to make a bowl.
Georgia fell to 4-4 (2-4 SEC) after losing to Florida 24-10 in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs managed only eight first downs and 164 yards of offense, which were their lowest totals in a game in the past 20 years.
"It's just frustrating. We couldn't really get things going," Georgia tailback Nick Chubb said. "I felt like it was always three-and-out, and we weren't getting in a rhythm or anything, so it feels pretty bad."
The Bulldogs play at surprising Kentucky next week, before closing the regular season with three straight home games against No. 15 Auburn, Louisiana-Lafayette and rival Georgia Tech.
Playoff teams after Week 9
1. Alabama: The top-ranked Crimson Tide had the weekend off to prepare for next week's SEC West showdown at No. 19 LSU, which is 3-0 under interim coach Ed Orgeron. The Tide have defeated the Tigers five straight times and haven't lost in Baton Rouge since a 24-21 loss on Nov. 6, 2010.
2. Michigan: The Wolverines defeated rival Michigan State 32-23, their first win in the series since 2012 and their first win in East Lansing since 2007. It was the Spartans' sixth straight loss, their longest losing streak since they started 0-7 in 1982 (not counting forfeits from 1994). Michigan hosts Maryland at the Big House next week.
3. Clemson: The Tigers moved to 8-0 for the second straight season with a 37-34 win at No. 12 Florida State. It was Clemson's ninth consecutive road win, 22nd straight regular-season victory and 14th ACC win in a row. Clemson's defense battered FSU quarterback Deondre Francois, and eight different Tigers defenders had a tackle for loss.
4. Washington: The Huskies were tested in a 31-24 win at No. 17 Utah. Washington entered the weekend as the only FBS team that hadn't trailed in the second half this season, but that ended when the Utes took a 17-14 lead in the third quarter. Washington scored on its next possession and didn't trail again. The Huskies play at Cal next week.
Next four in contention
1. Louisville: The Cardinals needed a dramatic touchdown pass from Lamar Jackson with 13 seconds left to beat 34-point underdog Virginia on the road. It was the second time in three weeks that the Cardinals struggled to put away a heavy underdog; they beat 35-point underdog Duke 24-14 on Oct. 14. The good news: none of the other one-loss teams are playing exceptionally well.
2. Ohio State: The Buckeyes looked pretty mediocre for the second week in a row in a 24-20 win over Northwestern. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett failed to account for a touchdown (passing or rushing) for the first time in 25 career starts. The Buckeyes host No. 7 Nebraska next week.
3. Texas A&M: After playing consecutive games against Tennessee and Alabama, the Aggies got a breather in a 52-10 rout of New Mexico State. Texas A&M's Christian Kirk returned two punts (70 and 73 yards) for touchdowns against the Aggies, the first time in school history that a player returned two punts for scores in the same game.
4. Wisconsin: The Badgers knocked off No. 7 Nebraska 23-17 in overtime at Camp Randall Stadium, their third victory over a top-10 foe this season, a first in the program's history. Wisconsin's Dare Ogunbowale scored on an 11-yard run in overtime, and then Wisconsin's defense batted away a pass in the end zone to secure the win. The Badgers play at Northwestern next week.
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Jackson had four touchdown passes in Louisville's 32-25 win at Virginia, including the game winner to Jaylen Smith with 13 seconds left. It was the first time Jackson threw the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter or overtime in his career. He has accounted for 38 touchdowns in eight games, which is three more than Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan had through eight games in 2006, when he set a FBS single-season record with 63.
2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Watson wasn't perfect against Florida State, throwing two interceptions, but he made the big plays when it mattered. He threw a 34-yard touchdown to tight end Jordan Leggett with 2:06 left on a busted coverage, and then tossed a two-point pass to Mike Williams to give the Tigers a 37-34 win. Watson completed 27 of 43 passes for 378 yards with two touchdowns.
3. Jake Browning, QB, Washington: Browning completed 12 of 20 passes for 186 yards with two touchdowns and one interception against Utah, leading the Huskies to their 11th consecutive win. He has now had multiple touchdown passes in eight straight games, which is tied with Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield for the longest active streak in the FBS. Browning also had a pooch punt that was downed at Utah's 1-yard line, which set up the Huskies' winning punt return for a touchdown.
4. Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State: Pumphrey moved from eighth to fifth in career rushing yards in the FBS after gaining 223 yards in the Aztecs' 40-13 win over Utah State on Friday night. With 5,741 career rushing yards, he needs to average 164.3 yards in the final four regular-season games to break former Wisconsin star Ron Dayne's FBS career record of 6,397 yards. Pumphrey's yardage in the Mountain West Conference championship game and a bowl game would also count toward his total.
1. UCF's Shaquem Griffin, who was born with a rare birth defect and lost his left hand at age 4, had quite a performance against Houston, finishing with 14 tackles, 2 ½ sacks, three tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and one interception. After the game, Griffin met with 11-year Julianna Linton, who was fitted for a bionic arm back in March and who served as an honorary member of the Knights' cheerleading team.
3. Defending Division II national champion Northwest Missouri State used three laterals to turn a pick-six into a touchdown against Pittsburg State. It was glorious.
4. Only former Kentucky coach Hal Mumme would figure out a way for his offense to punt for a first down. That's exactly what Division III Belhaven University did in its 55-21 loss to Hardin-Simmons.
Tweets of the night
1. Indeed, RIP Big 12 playoff hopes.
Let us all bow our heads and mourn the Big 12's playoff hopes pic.twitter.com/twvtkqauKI— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) October 29, 2016
2. Brave man.
3. All right, all right, all right.
4. From one human highlight reel to another.
Man.. You are the reason I wear 5, I appreciate you man! 💯 https://t.co/peRHrD9PvM— JP5 (@JabrillPeppers) October 29, 2016
1. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson's 29-yard touchdown to Jaylen Smith with 13 seconds left in a 32-25 win at Virginia sure looked like a Heisman-like moment.
Lamar Jackson = CLUTCH.— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 29, 2016
You've got to see this game-winning TD! https://t.co/FOLcu8D3fm
2. Washington's Dante Pettis returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown to give the Huskies a 31-24 win at Utah.
Dante Pettis : 2 catches for 13 yards & the go-ahead 58-yard punt return for a TD with 3:25 left https://t.co/Ck7OQfgtzU— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) October 29, 2016
3. TCU's Desmon White literally used his head to make an incredible 25-yard touchdown catch in overtime against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders won 27-24 in two overtimes.
4. Jordan Leggett needed every inch of his 6-foot-5 frame as he dove into the end zone to finish a 34-yard touchdown catch that gave Clemson the go-ahead score in a 37-34 win over Florida State.
1. Cincinnati had all kinds of trouble trying to field a kickoff in its 34-13 loss at Temple.
Special teams https://t.co/eInpRZMXWy— Bearcats Blog (@BearcatsBlog) October 29, 2016
2. Boise State lost to Wyoming because, of all things, a safety in the final two minutes.
4. South Carolina's Chris Lammons was ejected for throwing a few punches in the end zone against Tennessee.
Extracurriculars at Tennessee/South Carolina pic.twitter.com/7tXEvJb1qt— srs_house (@srs_house) October 30, 2016
Quotes of the night
1. "Defensively, what do you say? We wanted to try to make them as one-dimensional as possible, and the dimension we wanted was to try to make them throw the ball. Our gap control in the run game was pretty spot on." -- Florida coach Jim McElwain, after the Gators held Georgia to 21 rushing yards on 19 carries in a 24-10 win.
2. "We do sack the quarterback at Notre Dame, for those of you who don't think that happens." -- Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly, after the Irish had five sacks in a 30-27 win over Miami.
3. "They've kind of created a monster here, and the only way to feed it is to win big games like we did today. And that's just the way it's going to be from this point on." -- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, after the Pokes knocked off unbeaten West Virginia, 37-20. It was the third time since 2013 that OSU had defeated a team with a 6-0 record or better; only Alabama (four) has more such victories in that span.
4. "I think it's one of the biggest, if not the biggest, wins in our program's history. We had our backs to wall." -- Houston coach Tom Herman, after the Cougars rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat UCF 31-24.
Stats that matter
1. 72: Michigan star Jabrill Peppers played 72 snaps on offense or defense and lined up at seven positions against Michigan State. Peppers was on the field for 64 of the Wolverines' 70 defensive plays and played eight snaps on offense, running or catching the ball six times.
2. 62: A week after stunning Ohio State, No. 24 Penn State crushed Purdue 62-24, the Nittany Lions' most points in a Big Ten game since scoring 63 against Illinois in 2005. Penn State tailback Saquon Barkley had 207 rushing yards, his second 200-yard game this season.
3. 12: Boston College ended a 12-game losing streak in ACC games by knocking off NC State 21-14 on the road. It was the Eagles' first ACC victory since beating Syracuse 28-7 on Nov. 29, 2014. BC went 0-8 in conference games last season and lost its first four games this year.
4. 2: Kentucky had two 180-yard rushers in the same game for the first time, and it was only the second occurrence by any team in the SEC in the last 20 years. Benny Snell Jr. ran for 192 yards with two touchdowns, and Stanley Williams had 182 yards with one score in the Wildcats' 35-21 win at Missouri.