Cincinnati moves to no. 2 in Jack's Week 11 Top 25 College Football Rankings
The tenth week of the 2021 college football season saw yet another unbeaten, top four team fall. Last week, I pinned the Michigan State Spartans the no. 2 team in the country coming off their big win at home over "big brother" Michigan. The Spartans made their trip home from Lafayette Saturday unbeaten no more, with Purdue handing them their first loss of the season. As a result, the Spartans dropped in my rankings, and will likely drop in this week's College Football Playoff rankings.
The committee made its presence known with its first rankings release of the 2021 season. The Cincinnati Bearcats were the committee's no. 6 team. Even with Michigan State dropping, Cincinnati might not move upwards this week in the committee's eyes. The Bearcats struggled at home against a 3-5 Tulsa team, and allowing an inferior opponent to get too close for the third straight week. Meanwhile, one of the American Athletic Conference's top three teams, SMU, suffered its second-straight loss, falling to the lowly Memphis Tigers. The loss was a bad look for the AAC and will devalue a future Cincinnati victory, if the Bearcats beat the Mustangs two weeks from now. It's going to be an uphill climb for Cincinnati.
Yet, I have Cincinnati as my no. 2 ranked team in the nation. As I mentioned last week, my rankings are based on resume, not potential. I don't believe the top four should be constructed based on what we think might happen if the teams theoretically played each other, as that ideology devalues regular season performance and wins. If Major League Baseball had a four-team playoff where a committee selected the "four best teams" come October, this year's World Series champion Atlanta Braves wouldn't have made the playoffs and been given the chance to compete for a championship. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but my eyes look at Cincinnati and see the second-best resume in the country.
After ten weeks of college football action, there are just four undefeated FBS teams remaining. The other 126 teams in FBS football all have at least one loss on their resumes. Two of the four undefeated teams play in "power five" conferences. Pencil those two into the top four. Georgia is the clear no. 1 team in the country. Oklahoma is a 9-0 Big 12 team that has only played one ranked opponent. That one ranked opponent (Texas) is now 4-5. The other two unbeaten teams are group of five teams. As we covered on this week's episode of the Jack Vita Show, the UTSA Roadrunners are the best team in the country that nobody is talking about (so we did). I hope UTSA gets a chance to play in a New Years 6 bowl game (although I'm not expecting the committee to give them that opportunity), but unfortunately for UTSA, it doesn't have the type of resume to be considered a College Football Playoff team. I wish we had a playoff system (like college basketball - and really every other collegiate sport) where each conference champion received a playoff berth and a shot for their season to end on the field (instead of in the eyes of the committee). Nevertheless, UTSA doesn't have the resume for the top four. Cincinnati does.
Cincinnati is the only unbeaten that has beaten a presently ranked top 10 team. I've got Notre Dame (8-1) weighing in at no. 7 in this week's rankings. The CFP committee had the Fighting Irish ranked no. 10 last week. None of the other three unbeatens have beaten a team that's ranked in week 11's AP top 15. The only 1-loss teams with victories over the AP's top 10 are Oregon and Michigan State.
The College Football Playoff committee is going to rank Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon all ahead of Cincinnati for the second week in a row. All three of those teams struggled against sub.-500 opponents this past week. Cincinnati isn't the only team that's slowed up over the past few weeks. Alabama has edged out LSU (4-5) and Florida (4-5) by just one score. Ohio State has been pushed by Minnesota (6-3), Tulsa (3-6), Penn State (6-3) and Nebraska (3-7). Four of Oregon's eight wins have been decided by one score, including games vs. Cal (3-6) and @ UCLA (5-4). Nonetheless, the teams competing with Cincinnati for a playoff spot haven't been near-flawless, either.
Oregon's victory at Ohio State, without Kayvon Thibodeaux, still remains the strongest victory from a top 10 team in the running for a playoff berth, but I regard Cincinnati's 24-13 win @ Notre Dame as the next-best. The American Athletic Conference (22-19) has a better cumulate non-conference record this season than the Pac-12 (16-18) does.
Needless to say, Cincinnati bumps up to no. 2 this week, with Oklahoma jumping to 3 after its bye week, and Alabama reentering my top four for the first time since it lost to Texas A&M a month ago.
In other news, SMU greatly disappointed me this past week, falling @ Memphis, 28-25. SMU's 7-0 start was a great look for the American and a chance for Cincinnati to solidify its resume with a victory over the Mustangs. They've free fallen out of every top 25 list on the internet. Fresno State was another group of five team I had ranked last week, but their third loss this past weekend dropped them out of my rankings. After dropping its Auburn is out of my top 25, for now. Replacing the three teams that fell out are Utah (6-3), Wisconsin (6-3) and Purdue (6-3). Purdue has now taken down two unbeaten, top three teams this year. Iowa and Auburn were the two teams I had the toughest time omitting from my top 25. Since Iowa lost to both Purdue and Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes should be behind both. Lost in the shuffle is Utah. Utah has looked like an entirely different team since making Cam Rising the team's starting quarterback in place of Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer. The Utes are 5-1, averaging over 40 points per game and outscoring their opponents by 98 since making the switch after their 1-2 start. With three weeks left, Utah is in the driver's seat to win the Pac-12 South and has a legitimate shot at beating Oregon in the Pac-12 title game for its first ever Pac-12 championship.
Before getting to Jack's Top 25 Rankings for week 11, here's a look at how the Associated Press and the Coaches voted this week, courtesy of ESPN:
Jack's Top 25 Rankings for Week 11
#1 Georgia (9-0) — Week 10: W, 43-6 vs. Missouri. Week 11: @ Tennessee (5-4)
#2 Cincinnati (9-0) — Week 10: W, 28-20 vs. Tulsa. Week 11: @ South Florida (1-4)
#3 Oklahoma (9-0) — Week 10 Bye. Week 11: @ #18 Baylor (7-2)
#4 Alabama (8-1) — Week 10: W, 20-14 vs. LSU. Week 11: vs. New Mexico State (1-8)
#5 Oregon (8-1) — Week 10: W, 26-16 @ Washington. Week 11: vs. Washington State (5-4)
#6 Ohio State (8-1) — Week 10: W, 26-17 @ Nebraska. Week 11: vs. #25 Purdue (6-3)
#7 Notre Dame (8-1) — Week 10: W, 34-6 vs. Navy. Week 11: vs. Virginia (6-3)
#8 Michigan State (8-1) — Week 10: L, 40-29 @ Purdue. Week 11: vs. Maryland (5-4)
#9 Michigan (8-1) — Week 10: W, 29-7 vs. Indiana. Week 11: @ Penn State (6-3)
#10 Oklahoma State (8-1) — Week 10: W, 24-3 @ West Virginia. Week 11: vs. TCU (4-5)
#11 Texas A&M (7-2) — Week 10: W, 20-3 vs. Auburn. Week 11: @ #14 Ole Miss (7-2)
#12 UTSA (9-0) — Week 10: W, 44-23 @ UTEP. Week 11: vs. Southern Mississippi (1-8)
#13 BYU (8-2) — Week 10: W, 59-14 vs. Idaho State. Week 11: Bye
#14 Ole Miss (7-2) — Week 10: W, 27-14 vs. Liberty. Week 11: vs. #11 Texas A&M (7-2)
#15 San Diego State (8-1) — Week 10: W, 17-10 @ Hawaii. Week 11: vs. #21 Nevada (7-2)
#16 Houston (8-1) — Week 10: W, 54-42 @ South Florida. Week 11: @ Temple (3-6)
#17 Louisiana (8-1) — Week 10: W, 21-17 vs. Georgia State. Week 11: @ Troy (5-4)
#18 Baylor (7-2) — Week 10: L, 30-28 @ TCU. Week 11: vs. #3 Oklahoma (7-2)
#19 Wake Forest (8-1) — Week 10: L, 58-55 @ North Carolina. Week 11: vs. North Carolina State (7-2)
#20 Coastal Carolina (8-1) — Week 10: W, 28-8 vs. Georgia Southern. Week 11: vs. Georgia State (4-5)
#21 Nevada (7-2) — Week 10: W, 27-24 vs. San Jose State. Week 11: @ #15 San Diego State (7-2)
#22 Appalachian State (7-2) — Week 10: W, 48-14 @ Arkansas State. Week 11: vs. South Alabama (5-4)
#23 Utah (6-3) — Week 10: W, 52-7 @ Stanford. Week 11: @ Arizona (1-8)
#24 Wisconsin (6-3) — Week 10: W, 52-3 @ Rutgers. Week 11: vs. Northwestern (3-6)
#25 Purdue (6-3) — Week 10: W, 40-29 vs. Michigan State. Week 11: @ #6 Ohio State (8-1)
Dropped from last week's rankings: #14 Auburn, #18 Fresno State, #20 SMU
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(Photo via Associated Press)