Nebraska is much improved, still not elite
Washington is starting to look like a very good, but not elite team
The Big 12 doesn’t have a great team either
The SEC West still has the best teams
Clemson has the easiest path to the playoffs
The Jerry Sandusky Scandal might finally be closed
We can now strike Nebraska from the ranks of the unbeaten following their loss to Wisconsin. The Huskers still look like a lock to win 10 games and play in a premium bowl, which is good for Mike Riley because it probably isn’t his ceiling - like it was for Bo Pelini. Pelini will need to add some recruits over an entire cycle before Nebraska can begin to compete with Ohio State and Michigan, but it looks like they are headed in that direction.
Washington finally got their signature win against Utah. The Huskies have not looked as good as the other unbeaten teams but they are undefeated in a deep Pac-12 and appear poised to make the playoffs if they can get past Utah again. Time will tell how Oregon and Stanford will rebound from this season but Washington appears ready to compete with them in the long run for Pac-12 dominance. Like Nebraska they still need some stronger recruiting if they want to compete nationally against the elite SEC, ACC, and Big Ten teams.
Every year September and October bring a couple of Big 12 teams to the forefront of college football, and every November sees the conference dreams shattered. At this point the Big 12 is going to need a miracle to place a team in the playoffs and with no conference expansion on the horizon and the uncertainty surrounding some of their stronger programs it looks as if the Big 12 is in danger of falling further behind the other Power 5 Conferences. At some point Texas is going to have to share their revenue with the rest of the Conference or else the SEC and Big Ten will start picking it apart.
The SEC West has 4 of the top 15 teams in the country. Alabama is by far the most impressive so far but a road game against LSU this week and Auburn at home later in November means that the Tide cannot get complacent. All 4 teams still have a shot at making the playoffs, although only 1 will, but the end of season rankings will most likely be SEC top heavy again. The SEC East, meanwhile, has only Florida.
Clemson survived against FSU this past week, amid some controversy, which was their last real test before the ACC Championship game. Clemson has the easiest path of the 4 undefeated teams and look like the safest bet to make the playoffs.
And Another Thing
Now that former assistant coach Mike McQueary's lawsuit against the University is over, Penn State can finally start to move forward from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. As despicable as Sandusky’s crimes were the University and former Head Coach Joe Paterno’s reactions to them were unjustifiable. Certainly McQueary should have been taken care of by the University after the allegations became known, and certainly Paterno could have done more to expose and remove Sandusky from the program years before he did. But, Penn State’s current players, coaches, students, and fans had nothing to do with any of that and should have the opportunity to move forward without the penalties that the NCAA has already handed down. Hopefully, Penn State will serve as a cautionary tale moving forward, and University administrators will begin to understand the relative importance of their sports programs.