Clemson, Louisville both playoff-bound? ACC is in great position

SHARE Clemson, Louisville both playoff-bound? ACC is in great position

Reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville is back in New York as a repeat finalist. (AP/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Thank you, October, for ushering in the best weekend yet of the college football season. Takeaways from Week 5:

1. Saturday night was hugely successful for the ACC, which now looks like the league with the best chance to get two teams into the College Football Playoff. Clemson’s 42-36 victory over Louisville put the Tigers on an obvious win-and-get-in path, but it legitimized the Cardinals, too, as playoff contenders.

Clemson has only one remaining game — at staggering Florida State in four weeks — that stands out as troublesome. Louisville has clear sailing until a Nov. 17 date at Houston, a first-class opponent that could end up giving the Cardinals the late-season bump they need with the playoff committee.

And neither Atlantic division powerhouse has Miami, North Carolina or Virginia Tech on its Coastal schedule. It’s the dream scenario for a league whose football brand is on a dramatic rise.

2. There is zero doubt Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson only solidified his early lead in the Heisman Trophy race despite the defeat. Jackson threw for 295 yards and rushed for 162 in what would’ve been a performance for the ages had his team won. Think Mike Vick plus Vince Young plus Johnny Football, minus any apparent rough-around-the-edges.

3. What we learned about the Big Ten: Everybody — even Michigan — is chasing Ohio State. The Buckeyes may be the most complete team in the country. The Wolverines, who struggled to beat Wisconsin 14-7, remain far from a sure thing offensively.

4. Washington’s 44-6 decimation of Stanford in a high-profile Friday matchup stamped the Huskies as the clear favorites in the Pac-12 and the league’s only playoff shot. The team speed is Oregon-like. Speaking of the unrecognizably lame Ducks, they host Washington next in what could be another nail in coach Mark Helfrich’s coffin. Will Oregon’s money machine throw itself at UDub’s Chris Petersen?

5. Tennessee keeps falling behind by multiple scores and winning anyway. It has been a nutty high-wire act for the unbeaten Vols, who have the talent to beat anyone in the SEC — even Alabama, which they host in two weeks. But this still feels like a team that’s living on borrowed time. The Vols will win the SEC East, but they’ll lose a couple along the way.

6. We haven’t even mentioned No. 1 Alabama. Somehow, the Tide are living under the radar. Weird, right? Each of their next four games — at Arkansas, at Tennessee, vs. Texas A&M and at LSU — is losable.

7. Indiana 24, Michigan State 21 in overtime. A job-saver for Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson. And an unwelcome, unfamiliar positioning as spoilers for Mark Dantonio and the two-loss Spartans. Remember, they’ll host both Michigan and Ohio State down the line.

8. Isn’t it just like Northwestern to pull a big road upset just when it seemed like all hope was lost? The 38-31 victory at Iowa wasn’t a year-maker by a long shot, but it’ll refocus the 2-3 Wildcats on salvaging the season. Why do Pat Fitzgerald’s teams seem to come up so much bigger on the road than they do in Evanston?

9. If you watched Illinois’ 31-16 defeat at Nebraska, you saw an Illini team that — coming off a bye week — was well-prepared. That’s a win of sorts for Lovie Smith and his staff. On the other hand, Smith’s decision to punt on fourth-and-1 late, down eight, was ridiculous. This isn’t the NFL.

10. Notre Dame won 50-33 at Syracuse, a mixed bag of great offense, shoddy defense and no real signs of meaningful improvement. So what else is new?

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.


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