College football Week 6 roundup

Not a single team in the top 10 lost a game of football this week (and that should make for a short article). But the way that those games went down means this piece will be anything but! While there’s no movement in the bottom seven teams (the teams in the fourth through ninth spots all won comfortably except Oklahoma State, who played a close one through three quarters against Texas Tech, and #10 Penn State had a bye), a narrative is starting to come together around the top three teams -- and it’s not the one everyone had coming into the season.

Our Rankings
#1 Ohio State (6-0)
#2 Georgia (6-0)
#3 Alabama (6-0)
#4 Michigan (6-0)
#5 Clemson (6-0)
#6 USC (6-0)
#7 Oklahoma State (4-0)
#8 Tennessee (4-0)
#9 Ole Miss (5-0)
#10 Penn State (5-0)

During the offseason, everyone and their mother was of the opinion that the playoff would most likely consist of Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, and whichever team was lucky enough to tickle the selection committee’s fancy as a sacrifice to the Big Three. Georgia was just coming off a national championship run, with most of their core intact. Alabama, under Heisman quarterback Bryce Young, had a much-improved roster and a chance to go all the way to the championship again. Ohio State had CJ Stroud under center, and even though a substantial chunk of their 2021 roster went to the NFL, what remains is a dangerous team threatening for the title.

Yet here we are, six weeks into the season, and both of those SEC powerhouses have come dangerously close to losing at a point where both are usually undefeated and cruising. Last week, Georgia — who partially made up for it in a rout of Auburn on Saturday — nearly lost to Missouri. The Tigers dominated most of the game, but lost the lead with four minutes to play (and coming within one play of winning a comeback at the end of the fourth quarter). And this week, Alabama — who had an understandable dogfight with Arkansas last week, but won — played Texas A&M. Texas A&M beat Alabama last year, and nearly got away with it again — Alabama let the Aggies get within two yards of a game-winning touchdown when time expired — before Alabama pulled off the win.

We’re halfway through the season — the point around which our preseason assumptions mean next to nothing, and we take our cues almost entirely from what we’ve seen on the field these past six weeks. And here’s what we’ve seen:

Georgia had a tough schedule: Oregon in Week 1, South Carolina in Week 3, and Auburn in Week 6 are all respectable opponents, and they’ve blown out every one. Sanford, in Week 2, was not a respectable opponent, but they crushed them too. On the flip-side of the coin, though, they struggled against Kent State in Week 4 and almost lost to Missouri in Week 5. Georgia's inconsistent in a way that could cost them a game soon.

Yet Alabama, too, has struggled. Three times this year — against Texas, against Arkansas, and now, against Texas A&M — the Crimson Tide have struggled. These are all good teams; Texas is underrated, A&M has a history of causing them problems, and Arkansas was ranked #8 at the time. But the Tide are in a brutal division and their schedule doesn’t get easier. They don’t play a team with a losing record the rest of the season, and the way they’re playing now, they’ll drop a game or two. And the Tide drop a game or two and can’t win the SEC East — which also-undefeated Ole Miss, who they will play near the end of the season, would very much like to have happen — then the Crimson Tide are not making the playoff. We’re used to them in the postseason but, despite appearances, there’s a real chance that they will miss out this year.

This, of course, brings us to Ohio State. They’ve been at #3 all season, until being promoted to #2 last week after Georgia stumbled. They, of course, don’t have it any easier. Playing in the juggernaut Big Ten East — arguably the best division in college football — Ohio State is the only team left at the top of the table who has yet to stumble. Granted, their schedule has been lacking, and dates with Iowa in Week 8, Penn State in Week 9, and Michigan in Week 13 loom large on the calendar. But all of those games are winnable, and barring any surprises, they’ll be the favorites in every one. Because they’ve been so dominant and because of the sheer strength of their roster, it’s easy to see Ohio State winning out, claiming the Big Ten Championship and waltzing into the playoffs.

That’s why — for the first time this year or last — a non-SEC team is in the top spot. And given what we’ve seen from Alabama and Georgia so far, Ohio State should remain there until they’ve proved that they don’t deserve it. If they can survive their trip to Happy Valley in Week 9 in convincing fashion, barring a loss the rest of the way, their spot is probably secure until they play Michigan to end the season.

The rest of the standings were relatively uneventful. #4 Michigan beat Indiana, 31-10, after a scary first half which saw both a 10-10 game and Michigan coach Mike Hart collapse on the sideline with a stroke (thankfully, he is now in stable condition). #5 Clemson whipped Boston College, and #6 USC handled Washington State. #7 Oklahoma State edged Texas Tech, 41-31, in a game that was tight well into the fourth quarter. At #8, Tennessee demolished an LSU team that was, once upon a time, ranked. At #9, Ole Miss hung 50 on Vanderbilt and, at #10, Penn State had a bye week.

Next Week’s Schedule:

1 Ohio State - bye week

2 Georgia vs. Vanderbilt

3 Alabama at #8 Tennessee

4 Michigan vs. #10 Penn State

5 Clemson at Florida State

6 USC at Utah

7 Oklahoma State at TCU

8 Tennessee vs. #3 Alabama

9 Ole Miss vs. Auburn

10 Penn State at #4 Michigan

Next week will be, to date, the most exciting of the college football season. Two top 10 vs. top 10 matchups — Alabama and Tennessee in Knoxville, and Penn State and Michigan in Ann Arbor — are likely to see one team, if not two, out of the top 10. But beyond those games, USC plays Utah (ranked eleventh until Saturday’s loss to UCLA), Oklahoma State does battle with TCU (undefeated and in the top fifteen), and Ole Miss plays Auburn, who have underperformed this season but are always a threat. Watch this space because it’s entirely possible that come this time next week, three, four, or even five teams will have fallen out of the top ten.