Colorado Buffaloes

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines leads the team onto the field prior to playing the Illinois Fighting Illini on October 22, 2016 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 41-8. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Coaches Poll: Michigan takes Ohio State’s spot behind Alabama as Buckeyes drop


After slipping on the road against Penn State, Ohio State took a slight fall in the coaches poll this week. The Buckeyes dropped from second in the poll behind top-ranked Alabama to eighth. Adding salt to the wound, Michigan took over the second spot in the poll previously occupied by Ohio State. Clemson remained at third in the poll and Washington moved into the top four.

Arkansas and Ole Miss dropped out of the rankings this week, making room for Colorado and Virginia Tech. Houston, despite a blowout loss at SMU, remained in the top 25 at No. 24.

Here is this week’s coaches poll, with first-place votes noted:

  1. Alabama (63)
  2. Michigan
  3. Clemson (1)
  4. Washington
  5. Louisville
  6. Nebraska
  7. Baylor
  8. Ohio State
  9. West Virginia
  10. Texas A&M
  11. Wisconsin
  12. Florida
  13. Boise State
  14. Florida State
  15. Oklahoma
  16. Utah
  17. Auburn
  18. Tennessee
  19. LSU
  20. North Carolina
  21. Western Michigan
  22. Navy
  23. Colorado
  24. Houston
  25. Virginia Tech

Colorado’s reward for huge win over Stanford? In-N-Out Burger

GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 07:  In this photo illustration a man eats a hamburger in a cafe on June 7, 2006 in Glasgow, Scotland. New figures are suggesting that a large proportion of the population is clinically obese.  (Photo Illustration by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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Somewhere Mike Riley is smiling and nodding knowingly.

The current Nebraska head coach had somewhat of a tradition while at Oregon State in which he would take his football team to In-N-Out Burger following a particularly big win.  Picking up that burger mantle is Mike MacIntyre, who rewarded his Colorado team with a trip to the famous fast-food joint following their physical, grinding road win over Stanford earlier in the day.

The 10-5 win was deserving of such a reward on a couple of levels.

First, it moved the Buffaloes to 6-2, pushing the football program to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007. Most importantly, however, it allowed CU to keep pace with Utah in the Pac-12 South, with both the Buffs and Utes sitting at 4-1 with four conference games remaining.

One-fourth of that remaining quartet? A clash between in the regular-season finale between those two squads — in Boulder — that’s looking more and more like it will determine the division’s representative in the conference championship game.

Recent retiree Joe Williams runs wild in Utah’s win over UCLA

Utah running back Joe Williams, center, runs for a touchdown as UCLA defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley, left, linebacker Jayon Brown, second from left, and defensive back Jaleel Wadood, right, give chase along with Utah offensive tackle Sam Tevi during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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Apparently the grass can indeed be greener on the other side of retirement.

Two games into the 2016 season, Joe Williams announced his retirement from the sport because of unspecified health issues.  Less than four weeks later, the senior running back returned to a Utah squad just last week because of a backfield decimated by injury.

In his first game post-retirement, Williams ran for 179 yards in a win over Oregon State last Saturday.  A week later, Williams trumped that effort.

In the Week 8 win over UCLA, Williams ran for a career-high 332 yards and four touchdowns as Utah kept pace with Colorado in the Pac-12 South.  Williams had entered his brief retirement with 549 career rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns; the past two games, the senior has totaled 511 yards and five touchdowns.

Not surprisingly, Williams’ Week 8 performance set a couple of school records.

The win allowed Utah to keep pace with Colorado, with both the Utes and Buffaloes, thanks to a 10-5 win over Stanford, sitting at 4-1 in Pac-12 South play. Those two teams will meet in the regular-season finale in a game that could very well determine which team represents the division in the conference championship game.

USC, which handed Colorado its lone league loss, could also be factor in the divisional race as they sit at 3-2 on a bye this weekend.

Report: Christian McCaffrey back for Stanford vs. Colorado

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 02:  Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal runs with the ball against the Kansas State Wildcats at Stanford Stadium on September 2, 2016 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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If Stanford wants to exit Week 8 still entertaining (slim) hopes of repeating as Pac-12 North and conference champs, they’re almost certainly in must-win territory against Colorado today.  Getting their star running back back would certainly help, and it appears that’s what’s exactly going to happen.

In a tweet a short time ago, Bruce Feldman of reported that “Christian McCaffrey is expected back today” for the Buffs game.  Earlier in the week, McCaffrey’s return had been uncertain as he was extremely limited in practice.

In the third quarter of Stanford’s Week 6 loss to Washington State, McCaffrey sustained an unspecified injury that knocked him out for the remainder of the game. He was also sidelined for last Saturday’s win over Notre Dame.

A finalist for the 2015 Heisman Trophy, McCaffrey led the Cardinal in rushing (520 yards), rushing touchdowns (three), yards per carry (5.3), receptions (18), punt returns (8.0 average) and kick returns (22.8 average) prior to the injury that cost him back-to-back games.

His 188.2 all-purpose yards per game was third nationally, but he has not scored a touchdown since Week 2 and had just 84 rushing yards total the last two weeks pre-injury.

Power Five conference races beginning to come into focus

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 17:  College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy presented by Dr Pepper is seen at Tiger Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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As we get set to embark on Week 8 of the 2016 college football season, we’re officially beyond the halfway point and closer to championship weekend than we are to opening weekend. And, with that, the Power Five conference races are starting to come into focus — but are far from finished.

This weekend, though, there are a handful of key matchups that could offer further clarity across the major conferences, although most, if not all, are still weeks away from being decided.

That said, here’s a look at where the Power Five conferences and, in four of the five cases, how their respective divisions stand before the eighth weekend of the regular season kicks off.

At 4-0, Clemson currently controls its own destiny in the division courtesy of the Oct. 1 win over 3-1 Louisville.  The U of L will be desperately rooting for Florida State, at 2-2 with one of those league losses coming at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in the middle of last month, to knock off Clemson next Saturday as well as the Tigers tripping up in one of their other three remaining conference games (Syracuse, Pitt, at Wake Forest) while also holding serve through the remainder of their slate.  FSU, with league losses to the U of L and North Carolina, will need a minor miracle to get back to the conference championship game.

Technically, 2-2 Wake Forest remains in contention, and still has games against Clemson and Louisville.  Then again, they’re Wake.

In all likelihood, the Coastal will come down to a three-team race: 3-1 North Carolina, 3-1 Virginia Tech and 2-1 Pittsburgh.  Tech has already beaten UNC, and will face Pitt next weekend.  The Tar Heels, meanwhile, own a win over the Panthers to go along with the loss to the Hokies.  Simply put, if Tech wins out (at Pitt, at Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia), they will claim the division and represent the Coastal against their Atlantic counterparts.

As you know, though, this division very rarely plays to the form it presents halfway through the conference season.

With all due respect to 2-1 Penn State, 3-0 Michigan and 3-0 Ohio State are on a collision course for an epic edition of the greatest rivalry in all of college football that will likely not only impact the division and the conference race but the College Football Playoff as well.  PSU could make me eat my words almost immediately as they play host to OSU in the always-dangerous white-out game later tonight; that said, if the Buckeyes can get past the Nittany Lions, they’ll have to traverse home games against Northwestern and Nebraska as well as road trips to Maryland and an abruptly vulnerable Michigan State before hosting UM.  The Wolverines get to host Illinois, Maryland and Indiana along with visits to rival Michigan State and Iowa before The Game.

Like the ACC Coastal, this division’s winner will very (?) likely come from a trio of teams: 3-0 Nebraska, 3-1 Iowa, 2-1 Northwestern.  The Cornhuskers already have a win over the Wildcats, while the Wildcats beat the Hawkeyes on the road the first weekend of this month.  Nebraska will close out the season against Iowa, while the latter has one sizable advantage over the other two as they avoid Ohio State completely while the others will face the Buckeyes in Weeks 9 (Wildcats) and 10 (Cornhuskers).  Both of those games, incidentally, are in Columbus.

There’s a potential wrench that could be tossed into the race, it should be noted, as 1-2 Wisconsin still has games remaining against all three of the West teams mentioned above.  Sweep those and get a little additional help, and the Badgers could be right back in the discussion by the end of the regular season.

BIG 12
Next season, this conference’s champion will be decided by a league title game.  This season, the standard round-robin format will determine the champion, and, because of that and the way the schedule is constructed, this league is as convoluted as any in the sport.

Three members are undefeated at the moment in Baylor and Oklahoma at 3-0, West Virginia at 2-0.  Two others are 2-1 — Oklahoma State and TCU.  How convoluted is the current state of the Big 12 race?  Just two games have been played between those five teams thus far: Baylor beating Oklahoma State and Oklahoma beating TCU.  A third will be played this weekend as the Horned Frogs will travel to Morgantown to face the Mountaineers in a contest that will allow a little — little — clarity when it comes to the conference race.

This could be the most simplistic of all the P5 divisions: barring something extraordinary taking place, the winner of this division will be decided in the Apple Cup between a 3-0 Washington and a 3-0 Washington State.  Or, at the very least, the winner will play in that rivalry game.  And, of all the developments thus far this season, that may be the most stunning.  To put a finer point on this divisional race, the team currently in third place at 2-2, 2015 Pac-12 champion Stanford, lost to both UW and Wazzu by a combined score of 86-22.

Utah and Colorado are tied atop this division at 3-1, with 3-2 USC still in the same neighborhood.  The Utes own a win over the Trojans, while the Trojans own one over the Buffs.  Utah and USC still have Washington on their schedule, while Colorado, which avoids UW, has to play a Washington State team that won’t face either of the other.  One date to circle on the calendar: Nov. 26, with the Utes traveling to Boulder to square off with the Buffs in the regular season finale.

A lot like the Big 12, this race likely won’t be decided until we get deep into November.

Despite its loss to 2-2 Tennessee, 3-1 Florida controls its own destiny in this division.  Win out, and the Gators will earn their second consecutive berth in the SEC championship game.  Their remaining league schedule?  The annual World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party grudge match with Georgia in Jacksonville, and road trips to No. 17 Arkansas and No. 25 LSU sandwiched around a home game against South Carolina.  UT, though, could easily win out as their lone remaining games consist of South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt.  While the Gators are currently in control, their path to Atlanta is much steeper than that of the Vols despite currently sitting in the driver’s seat — and knowing full well that that come-from-ahead loss to UT is riding shotgun.

This might be the most fun division in all of college football.  Again.  Alabama and Texas A&M both sit at 4-0, while Auburn and LSU are at 2-1.  The really, really fun part?  Only A&M and Auburn have met already this year, a Sept. 17 win for the Aggies on The Plains.  The Tide and Aggies meet in a critical matchup this afternoon, but several more critical contests await the division in the coming weeks.

In other words, grab your popcorn.  This thing is far from decided — a sentiment that’s far from the exclusive property of this division.