The Miami Hurricanes kicked off Saturday’s college football action by putting everyone on upset alert in their matchup with the Virginia Cavaliers.
Virginia jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and Hurricane fans were sweating in South Florida after they dominated previously third-ranked Notre Dame just a week earlier.
But Miami turned its defense up in the second half, forcing three Virginia turnovers during its comeback home victory against the Cavaliers.
Meanwhile, Alabama and Clemson rolled against FCS opponents and everything seems to be riding in the balance heading into a colossal Rivalry Week.
Here are five observations from a relatively chaos-free weekend in college football.
1) Baker Mayfield Went Too Far
The outcome of Oklahoma’s November tune-up against Kansas was never in doubt before or after the opening kickoff.
The most intriguing part of the game was always going to be Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield’s impressive decision making with his arm and his hilarious trash talking with his mouth.
But we found out during the coin toss this had the potential to be a special type of beat down.
Mayfield stretched his hand out for a pregame handshake with Kansas captain Joe Dineen and was denied amazingly.
Oh man, Baker might drop 100 on ‘em now. pic.twitter.com/Dj4Br4Ushk
— Max Olson (@max_olson) November 18, 2017
We all collectively knew Mayfield might come out and drop some video game numbers against a 1-10 Kansas team that had no business denying any form of sportsmanship.
Mayfield promptly put a spanking on the Jayhawks, throwing for 257 yards and three touchdowns.
But the Heisman favorite also promptly embarrassed himself late in the third quarter after another Sooners touchdown. He stared right at the Kansas sideline and grabbed his crotch for the world to see.
— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) November 18, 2017
Mayfield issued an apology on his Twitter account after the game, but the gesture already made its impact.
The senior quarterback will not start Oklahoma’s final home game against West Virginia and he was stripped of his captain title for the upcoming matchup.
— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) November 20, 2017
The biggest impact could be a plummet in draft stock after NFL GMs see his crude behavior on the sidelines.
2) Miami Hurricanes’ Magic Could be Running Out
Miami’s turnover chain made three more appearances in its 44-28 victory against Virginia, but the Hurricanes’ continued flirtation with defeat could catch up to them before the end of the season.
The Hurricanes have won four games by eight points or less and they lived on the edge against a six-win Virginia team that carved up Miami’s secondary early in the first half Saturday.
Miami’s inexplosive offense could make it difficult for them to come back against reigning national champion Clemson in the ACC title game.
The Tigers have been on a roll since quarterback Kelly Bryant returned from injury and the Clemson defensive front is stockpiled with NFL talent.
Surely Miami has to get off to a faster start against the defending champions in two weeks if it wants to bring the turnover chain to the College Football Playoff.
3) SEC Scheduling is Terrible
While the majority of teams were finishing up a grueling conference schedule this past weekend, top-ranked Alabama and rival Auburn were cruising to double-digit victories against lesser competition.
Alabama dismantled FCS Mercer, 56-0, and Auburn rolled to a 42-14 victory against Louisiana Monroe out of the Sun Belt.
This is the SEC’s dirty little secret. Every November these money games are tossed into the SEC schedule, essentially giving national title contenders a free pass late in the season.
Somehow no one in the national media has put enough pressure on these schools to stop scheduling these teams they should never be on the field with.
And there is very little consequence in the playoff rankings.
The Big Ten stopped scheduling FCS opponents in 2016 after strict guidelines were placed on strength of schedule in the College Football Playoff, but it appears the SEC doesn’t believe it could ever get penalized due to its past success.
It continues to be mind-boggling that Alabama and Auburn can run glorified scrimmages in November while the remainder of the country struggles towards the end of conference play.
4) Ohio State’s Path to the Playoff
Ohio State destroyed Illinois, 52-14, Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, and the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff dreams are still alive.
But then Notre Dame came tumbling down against Miami and a path opened up for Ohio State to once again claim the final playoff spot much like it did in 2014.
If Alabama wins out, it would presumably knock out two-loss Auburn and one-loss Georgia from the playoff race, placing one team from the SEC in the field.
And if Miami can close out its season undefeated, it would knock out Clemson from having any hopes of repeating as national champion.
The Buckeyes currently sit at No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings, but they could easily move up in the coming weeks if they take care of business and win the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis.
It will be hard to keep the Big Ten champion out of the playoff this season, and Ohio State could become the first two-loss team to enter the College Football Playoff since its inception.
5) The Real Top 4
This has been one of the wildest seasons of college football since the College Football Playoff came onto the scene in 2014.
There are still three teams alive for the SEC Championship heading into the final week of the regular season and nine teams have a legitimate shot at cracking the top four by season’s end.
Here is my current top four according to the strength of schedule and the way each team has progressed throughout the season.
1) Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama’s resiliency under Nick Saban has been unmatched by any program in the country. The Crimson Tide should roll against Auburn and bring home another SEC crown against Georgia in the newly built Mercedes Benz Stadium.
2) Miami Hurricanes
Miami is the true ACC leader as we speak, holding an undefeated record and a better win (against Notre Dame) than Clemson has all season. Expect fireworks when Miami and Clemson face off with a College Football Playoff berth on the line.
3) Oklahoma Sooners
Despite Mayfield’s antics, the Sooners’ offense is entirely too powerful for anyone in the Big 12 to handle. Oklahoma should glide easily to the College Football Playoff, but that’s where the road will become increasingly tough.
4) Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin picked up its best win Saturday against a putrid Michigan offense that’s struggled to move the ball all season. I understand why the committee is so low on the Badgers, but ultimately their powerful offensive line could lead them victory against any team in the country.