Mandel’s final thoughts: The P5’s best teams remain perfect, but they will pay a price

Mandel's final thoughts: The P5's best teams remain perfect, but they will pay a price

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And now, 20 final thoughts from Week 12, homecoming week in the SEC, when most of the league’s teams get an off week by playing a Conference USA or FCS foe. Or, in Auburn’s case, Dear L.

1. If you were hoping this week would be the week we finally get some earth-shattering upsets to upset the College Football Playoff, I have some bad news. For the third straight week, the top eight teams from the committee’s Oct. 31 rankings — Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, Florida State, Washington, Oregon, Texas and Alabama — all won. And their chances of losing are quickly running out, though at least one will be next week when No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan meet as 11-0 teams for the second straight year.

Unfortunately, Saturday’s all-important CFP development was disastrous.

2. Star Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis, injured in his sixth year and three consecutive losing seasons trying to return the program to prominence, left his final career home game in an ambulance. During his first scrimmage in Saturday’s 58-13 win over North Alabama, Travis’ foot twisted in an unexpected direction. An upset Mike Norvell did not reveal his injuries. “It doesn’t look good,” he said. But we can safely assume Travis won’t be on the field when the fourth-ranked Seminoles (11-0, 8-0 ACC) face rival Florida in the ACC Championship Game next week or the week after.

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FSU QB Travis has been ruled out with an apparent foot injury

It will fall to fourth-year junior Tate Rodemaker, who came off the bench to save FSU in last season’s 35-31 loss to Louisville to end the streak. And the Noles, whose only win against a current Top 25 team came in the season opener against LSU, have no margin for error.

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Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis was injured in the first quarter of Saturday’s game. (Morgan Tencha/USA Today)

3. FSU’s opponent in Charlotte will be No. 10 Louisville (10-1, 7-1 ACC), which won its first ACC title game invitation at Miami 38-31 on Saturday. It was a classic Jeff Brohm offensive clinic, with the Cardinals rushing 34 times for 162 yards and quarterback Jack Plummer (24 of 37, 308 yards, three TDs, one INT) hitting Kevin Coleman for a 58-yard catch and run for the game-winning score.

Perhaps because Louisville, which went 8-5 last season, was so accomplished, the Cardinals didn’t expect to beat rival Kentucky 6-5 the following week, then knock off Florida State to finish as 12-1 ACC champions. Travis’ injury seems to open the door to that possibility. Unfortunately, Louisville would be easy to pull off as the committee lost 38-21 to the 3-8 Pitt. But don’t let that dampen the impressive work done by Brohm, who now leads Purdue and the freshman to the programs’ first conference championship games in back-to-back seasons.

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Louisville shut out Miami to punch its ticket to its first ACC Championship.

4. There was a brief moment Saturday night when one of the five undefeated Power 5 teams could bite. Leading 22-10 at halftime against No. 5 Washington (11-0, 8-0 Pac-12) at rain-soaked Reeser Stadium, No. 12 Oregon State (8-3, 5-3) snapped a 16-game streak. A touchdown drive lasted 9:56 and was followed by a field goal to cut the Huskies’ lead to 22-20. But even though the Huskies went scoreless in the second half and gained just 272 total yards, they held on for the win, first stopping the Beavers on fourth-and-5, then calling Michael Penix Jr.’s proprietary completion to Rome Odunze for a game-sealing first down. Callen DeBoer’s team has won 18 straight games to clinch the Pac-12 title game.

I’m done hitting Washington. It is the only team with wins against four of last week’s top 25 teams: No. 6 Oregon, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 17 Arizona and No. 22 Utah. Not necessarily, but the Huskies will have to swap spots with No. 4 Florida State.

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Washington remains undefeated with a win over Oregon State

5. After a sluggish first half of the season, two-time defending national champion Georgia (11-0, 8-0 SE) is now fully fired up. The Bulldogs’ 28th straight victory came in a 38-10 rout of No. 18 Tennessee (7-4, 3-4). It was their third top 25 win in as many weeks. Quarterback Carson Beck (24 of 30 for 298 yards, three TDs, no INTs) seems to find a new favorite receiver every week. On this day, it was Dillon Bell (five catches, 90 yards and a TD). Meanwhile, the Georgia defense allowed a 75-yard Jaylen Wright touchdown run on the first play of the game, then held the Vols to three points and the remaining 202 yards.

Georgia is constantly being measured against the 2021 and 2022 editions, an understandable but unfair comparison. The Dawgs just need better from the 2023 field. They weren’t looking this way a month ago. They are now.

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Georgia rolled over Tennessee and won its third straight opponent.

6. Last week, No. 3 Michigan (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) showed it can beat a top-10 team without throwing a pass after halftime. The passing game was quiet this week against Maryland (6-5, 3-5) for other reasons. After a big success in the first quarter with wideout Roman Wilson playing most of the game, Wolverines quarterback JJ McCarthy was a modest 12 of 23 for 141 yards and a pick in the end zone, and the Terps got within 29. -24 in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, Michigan’s defense did what it does, with a Derrick Moore scoop and score, two Mike Sinristiel interceptions and a safety on an intentional penalty in the end zone to make the final score 31-24.

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Michigan is the first college football program to reach 1,000 wins.

McCarthy was getting a Heisman shout during Michigan’s quiet 9-0 start, but not for the last two weeks. According to The Athletic’s Austin Meek, his worst performances this season have all come in games where Jim Harbaugh has been suspended. As you may have heard, the coach will not be at the game next week.

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Gentle: Michigan catches Maryland, but will Jim Harbaugh miss more than Ohio State?

7. On Oct. 22, I asked the Buckeyes (11-0, 8-0) if they could beat the Vols with a more limited offense this season. Today I consider the game a real gamble. Ohio State is a more complete team after Treveon Henderson returned from injury in the week’s win against Penn State. In Saturday’s 37-3 rout of Minnesota (5-6, 3-5), the junior broke a 75-yard touchdown pass and finished with 146 yards on 15 carries, his third 100-yard day in four weeks. Receiver Emeka Egbuka missed his biggest game (five catches for 83 yards) since September.

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Ohio State will enjoy an easy lead into the Michigan showdown: Buckeyes takeaways

8. The biggest question heading into Ann Arbor is whether the Buckeyes’ offensive line, which has been a sore spot for most of the season, can handle the Wolverines’ impressive defensive line. He wasn’t great against Penn State, but he got out of it because of a hapless offense by the Nittany Lions. Michigan’s offense will present a much tougher challenge.

The second biggest question is whether Michigan’s coaches will be suspended or fired the day before the game. Because these things always seem to be on Fridays.

9. Any trip to Ames earns an official “trap game” designation, but especially visiting Texas, which has lost three of its previous four trips to Iowa State. And it got off to a spectacular start with a pair of Longhorns’ touchdowns called for penalties in the first half. No. 7 Texas (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) led 6-3 at the half, but eventually rallied for a 26-16 win over the Cyclones (6-5, 5-3) for the program’s first. 10-win season since 2009. Last week, senior running back Jonathon Brooks was lost for the season, while freshman CJ Baxter posted his first career 100-yard game (20 carries, 117 yards).

Texas, which faces 6-5 Texas Tech on Friday, is one of four teams in the Big 12 title game, along with No. 14 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2), No. 21 Kansas State (8-3, 6-2) and No. 23 Oklahoma State ( 8-3, 6-2). Texas, which hosts 5-6 BYU, and Oklahoma State are both a win and in. You need a Ph.D. To solve the other links.

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Texas’ win over Iowa State brings Bo Davis’ memorable tirade full circle

10. UCLA’s Chip Kelly went from hot seat to hero in one week. Bruins fans undoubtedly took great satisfaction in their team’s 38-20 victory over rival USC, capping the Trojans’ turnaround from a 6-0 start on Oct. 7 to a 7-5 regular season finish on Nov. 18. In Caleb Williams’ final collegiate game, UCLA’s defense forced three turnovers, racked up four sacks and held the Trojans to 3 rushing yards as the Bruins (7-4, 4-4) ran for 199. USC’s slump from preseason No. 6 was eerily reminiscent of Lincoln Riley’s sophomore season in 2012, when Lane Kiffen’s Trojans started at No. 1 in the AP Poll and finished 7-6. Kiffin at least had a built-in excuse for a big scholarship cut due to NCAA penalties. There is no such thing for the Riley minority.

Kelly, whose team finished at 5-6 Cal, isn’t necessarily out of the woods, though the Bruins would at least have a fresh start heading into the Big Ten if they finished 8-4.

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Morales: Caleb Williams’ USC job could be done, and the road ahead looks tough for the Trojans.

11. No. 19 Arizona’s fifth straight win was the most impressive yet. Behind a string of big days from quarterback Noah Fifita (23 of 30, 253 yards, 2 TDs, no INTs) and receiver Tetaroa McMillan (eight catches, 116 yards, 1 TD), the Wildcats (8-3, 6-2 Pac). -12) en route to a 42-18 outburst against No. 22 Utah (7-4, 4-4) that jumped out to a 28-0 first-half lead. It’s the first time since 1998 that Arizona has won five straight conferences. Hello Hello, Jade Fish.

However, that result did not favor No. 6 Oregon. As the Ducks (10-1, 7-1) threw six first-half touchdowns in a 49-13 rout of Arizona State, the Utes may have lost their only top 25 win. Levels. But it might not matter if Nix and company end the year with rematch wins over No. 12 Oregon State and No. 5 Washington.

If the Ducks lose on Friday and Arizona beats Arizona State on Saturday, it will be over, in which case the Wildcats will head to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 title game.

12. Florida led 9 Missouri 31-30 in the final minute and needed only a fourth-and-17 stop to clinch a major upset and a bowl game. Instead, Brady Cook hit a wide open Luther Barden for 27 yards, followed by two more completions to set up Harrison Mevis for a game-winning 30-yard field goal. While Mizzou (9-2, 5-2 SEC) is one win away from its first New Year’s Six bowl game, the Gators (5-6, 3-5) moved within one loss of a five-game skid that ends the season. . And Florida, like Florida State, figures to be out at QB1 for next week’s scrimmage after Graham Mertz suffered a broken collarbone in the second half.

None of this bodes well for second-year coach Billy Napier. I wouldn’t say he’s training for the job at FSU, but I strongly advise the Gats not to embarrass themselves against their rivals because the $31.6 million buyout isn’t as strong a defense as it used to be in the SEC.

13. On Thursday, a spokesman for North Carolina coach Mack Brown released a statement saying he is “full steam ahead” and will not retire “after the season.” Two days later, his 20th-ranked Tar Heels (8-3, 4-3 ACC) went to Clemson (7-4, 4-4) and lost 31-20. The Tigers were admittedly much better last month, but it’s still not vintage Clemson, and UNC trailed by double digits for most of the second half. Brown can retire whenever he wants, but he seems to have missed the window in Chapel Hill. He had a future NFL quarterback (Sam Howell) or a recent top-five draft pick (Drake Maye) for five straight seasons, yet failed to break 9-3. But if UNC wins at NC State (8-3, 5-2) next week and wins the bowl game, it can still reach 10 wins.

14. We started the season on Iowa’s “Drive to 325,” but it quickly became apparent that the Hawkeyes were not going to score 25 points in a game. Offensive coordinator Brian Ferrante, who was fired a few weeks ago, scored 25 points just twice in 11 games. But on Saturday, No. 16 Iowa (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) won its second Big Ten West title in three seasons, beating Illinois 15-13. The difference in the game? Yes, first quarter security.

Iowa will face either Ohio State or Michigan in Indianapolis. It won’t be pretty. But a 10-win season with a bowl trip to the hot spot is exactly what Kirk Ferentz is paying big for.

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How a clutch TD helped Iowa up its latest Big Ten West title drama.

15. Auburn paid New Mexico State $1.85 million to play at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Jerry Kill’s Aggies returned the favor with a 31-10 demolition of their SEC hosts, the winningest season to date in Kill’s impressive turnaround history. The former Minnesota coach’s battle with seizures began in 2011. He cut his tenure short in 2015 and worked mostly behind the scenes until serving as TCU’s interim coach in 2021. But in the Conference USA championship game, the Aggies beat an SEC team 9-3 for the first time in program history and now have their most wins since 1960.

Coincidentally, Auburn coach Hugh Freeze was also upset with the Aggies last season, where both programs were at liberty. Auburn (6-5, 3-4 SEC) had won three straight SEC games prior to this game. Next week brings Alabama.

16. OK, I’ll admit it: we got ahead of ourselves with Dion Sanders.

Entering the season for Colorado, the bar was so low that a 3-0 start felt miraculous, no matter the competition. It was no surprise when the schedule got tough that they pulled back. But Friday night’s 56-14 loss to Washington State was just as embarrassing for Sanders as the Buffs, who were riding a six-game losing streak. “That’s not who we are,” he seemed to say in his news conference for seven games in a row.

In hindsight, Colorado would have been better off starting 2-2 and then getting two more wins on the road. A 4-8 season (considering a loss to Utah next week) didn’t seem out of the ordinary for a 1-11 program. But this is so vulnerable that it cannot be wholeheartedly swayed.

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Washington State eliminates Colorado from bowl contention

17. It seems like every time Appalachian State (7-4, 5-2 Sun Belt) floats into the majors, it’s because of some crazy upset or upset. On Saturday, the Mountaineers capped off an undefeated James Madison moment in the “College Game Day” sun with a 26-23 overtime victory. Because the Dukes did not qualify for the Sun Belt Championship, Upstate is tied for first in the division with Coastal Carolina (7-4, 5-2). Boone last month, but the Chanticleers, who lost to Army 28-21 on Saturday, will now face 10-1 James Madison themselves next week. App State, winner of four in a row, gets to 6-5 Georgia Southern.

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App State spoils JMU’s perfect season with OT victory

18. If you thought harvesting Big 12 fortunes was complicated, let me introduce you to the Mountain West. UNLV (9-2, 6-1MWC) took first sole possession in a comeback victory over Air Force (8-3, 5-2). After a 24.5-point underdog New Mexico shutout Fresno State (8-3, 4-3), the Rebels, Falcons, Boise State (6-5, 5-2) and San Jose State ( .A.) 6-5, 5-2) Play for two places. It’s when UNLV hosts San Jose State and Boise hosts Air Force next week, but depending on how things break, the PCs could be involved.

All I know is that Boise State has a chance to win a championship a few weeks after firing coach Andy Avalos.

19. With the championship game just one week away, the AAC still has three teams undefeated in conference play: No. 24 Tulane (10-1, 7-0), SMU (9-2, 7-0) and UTSA (8-3, 7). -0). Fortunately for the league, the Roadrunners visit the Green Wave next week, while SMU hosts Navy, so the contest will be settled cleanly. But as leagues increasingly eliminate divisions, it seems inevitable that at some point someone will win all of their conference games and not make the conference title game.

20. Finally, the Bay Area may be indifferent to college football — but not when it comes to the big game.

Despite both teams being under .500, the 52,000-seat Stanford Stadium was sold out for Saturday’s 126th game for the Axes. With the 27-15 victory, Cal (5-6, 3-5 Pac-12) flipped the script on Stanford (3-8, 2-7), winning four of the last five meetings after losing the previous nine. In another disappointing season, Justin Wilcox finished 24 of 36 for 294 yards, three TDs and one INT, with redshirt freshman Fernando Mendoza at quarterback. And Jaydn Ott (36 carries, 166 yards, 1 TD) established himself as the Pac-12’s leading rusher with 1,182 yards.

It blows my mind to think this will be an ACC game in Berkeley next year. I look forward to Florida State and Clemson fans getting their first taste of The Staredown.

(Top photo by Vandrevious Jacobs: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)