Ohio State climbed from No. 5 to No. 2, while Michigan stayed put at No. 3 after losing to unranked Iowa. Of course, those two play on Nov. 26, with the stakes being both huge and curious.?
Along with No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 8 Penn State, the Big Ten leads all conferences with four teams in the top eight. It also leads all conferences with intrigue.
If Ohio State beats Michigan State and Michigan, and Penn State also wins out, the Nittany Lions capture the Big Ten East crown by virtue of handing the Buckeyes their only loss, and they would play for the Big Ten title, most likely against Wisconsin. That either sets the stage for two Big Ten teams in the playoff, or the committee leaving out Ohio State because it didn't win its conference title. Or the committee could dump Penn State, which lost by 39 at Michigan, or Wisconsin, and go with the Buckeyes.
Yeah, it's complicated. But what could anyone expect after three of the top four and six of the top 14 teams lost in a single weekend?
There obviously are a lot of critical games ahead, and the only seemingly safe team is No. 1 Alabama, the only remaining unbeaten Power 5 squad, which has almost certainly earned a mulligan after dominating a tough schedule.
Two weekends remain in the regular season, including many rivalry showdowns, and then conference championship games. No. 9 Oklahoma plays two ranked teams -- No. 14 West Virginia and No. 11 Oklahoma State -- to conclude its season,?while No. 6 Washington can reverse its downward course against Arizona State, No. 22 Washington State and against a highly ranked team in the Pac-12 title game (No. 13 USC, No. 10 Colorado or No. 12 Utah).
More good news for Washington, which owns the weakest schedule among the contenders: Stanford re-entered the rankings at No. 24, meaning the Huskies now have two wins over ranked teams.
Ohio State is back at No. 2 due to a strong overall r?sum?, with three top-20 wins (Wisconsin, Oklahoma and No. 18 Nebraska). The Buckeyes could add Michigan to that list, but they also could end up sitting out the Big Ten title game.
While No. 4 Clemson is no longer unbeaten, it also has quality wins over No. 15 Auburn, No. 5 Louisville and No. 17 Florida State.
Louisville owns a five-game winning streak, and its lone loss was a nail-biter at Clemson. On the other hand, its only quality win came against three-loss Florida State. The Cardinals play unranked Houston on Thursday and conclude their regular season against Kentucky.
Wisconsin's only losses came in consecutive games with Michigan and Ohio State, while it owns quality wins over No. 16 LSU and Nebraska. The Badgers are at Purdue this weekend and conclude their season at home against Minnesota.
In other words, there are a lot of present and future data points that the committee will be considering over the final three weekends. In fact, myriad seemingly off-the-radar games could play roles in how things play out, such as Florida State-Florida and Nebraska-Iowa.
Or what about more upsets? Is South Carolina a potentially tricky matchup for Clemson? Or might Michigan State catch the Buckeyes looking ahead?
There's a lot of football left, and last weekend taught us that believing that clarity might be on hand was a foolish conclusion.