Washington Huskies

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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Power Five conference races beginning to come into focus

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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.

Oregon State QB Darell Garretson out for the season, backup won’t play this week either

CORVALLIS, OR - OCTOBER 15:  Darell Garretson #10 of the Oregon State Beavers throws a pass against the Utah Utes at Reser Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Corvallis, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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Oregon State has not had the greatest of luck with injuries and that continued this week as the team suffered from a double-whammy at the most important position on the field.

The Beavers confirmed on Monday that starting quarterback Darell Garretson was lost for the rest of the year with an ankle injury that he suffered in the team’s narrow loss to Utah on Saturday. Backup Conor Blount, who was injured the drive after right after taking over for Garretson, will also be out against No. 5 Washington this week with a knee injury.

Sophomore Marcus McMaryion is now expected to start for Oregon State as a result of the injuries but at least he’s not lacking for experience as the signal-caller played in seven games last year, starting one. True freshman Mason Moran will be the backup but head coach Gary Andersen is no doubt hoping things don’t reach that point.

The injury situation is so bad in fact that The Oregonian reports former Utah State quarterback (and college football fan favorite) Chuckie Keeton will be pressed into action running the team’s scout team. He is currently a Beavers quality control coach.

It was going to be an uphill battle for OSU this week anyway to face a Washington team that has blown out just about every opponent this season but the news that their top two quarterbacks are out for the game certainly doesn’t help.

AP Top 25: Idle Michigan rises to No. 3, Clemson falls

FILE - In this June 8, 2016, file photo, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh encourages high school football players in their speed drill at a Michigan Satellite Camp at Pearl High School in Pearl, Miss. Plenty of coaches use Twitter, whether they’re capitalizing on the new rule or communicating indirectly with fellow coaches. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh called out Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, Georgia coach Kirby Smart and Tennessee coach Butch Jones on Twitter during the offseason for their comments about his decisions to hold spring practice sessions in Florida and conduct satellite camps. (Elijah Baylis/The Clarion-Ledger via AP, File)
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The Michigan Wolverines did not play a single down this weekend, but that did not stop the Wolverines from moving up one spot in the poll. Michigan moved up one spot in the AP poll this week after Clemson struggled at home against North Carolina State. Alabama remains the top-ranked team in the poll this week, followed by Ohio State.

Alabama received 60 first-place votes in this week’s AP poll. Michigan was the only other team to receive a first-place vote, as they have received each week of the season so far from Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News. Nebraska moved up two spots within the top 10 this week, and Baylor moved up two spots to crack the top 10. Despite its second loss, Wisconsin remained in the top 10 after falling two spots.

West Virginia is on the move once again, jumping up eight spots to No. 12 in this week’s AP poll. At No. 14, Boise State is the second-highest-ranked Group of Five program this week. No. 11 Houston remains at the top of the Group of Five pack, despite a loss to No. 24 Navy.

New teams in the poll this week include No. 22 North Carolina and No. 25 LSU. Big drops were experienced by No. 18 Tennessee (down nine spots) and No. 23 Ole Miss (down 11 spots).

Miami and Virginia Tech each dropped out of the poll this week following losses.

AP Top 25 By Conference:

  • ACC – 4
  • American – 2
  • Big 12 – 3
  • Big Ten – 4
  • MAC – 1
  • Mountain West – 1
  • Pac-12 – 2
  • SEC – 8

Here is this week’s updated AP Top 25, with first-place votes noted:

  1. Alabama (60)
  2. Ohio State
  3. Michigan (1)
  4. Clemson
  5. Washington
  6. Texas A&M
  7. Louisville
  8. Nebraska
  9. Baylor
  10. Wisconsin
  11. Houston
  12. West Virginia
  13. Florida State
  14. Boise State
  15. Florida
  16. Oklahoma
  17. Arkansas
  18. Tennessee
  19. Utah
  20. Western Michigan
  21. Auburn
  22. North Carolina
  23. Ole Miss
  24. Navy
  25. LSU

Coaches Poll: No changes in top 10, Auburn and Navy crack top 25

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) warms up before an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
AP Photo/Wade Payne

Though there was some tension in some games involving top-ranked teams, there were no change sin the top 10 of the Amway Coaches Poll this week. No. 1 Alabama remains on top, followed by No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Clemson after the Buckeyes and Tigers each survived overtime scares in conference play. Despite losing at home to the buckeyes, No. 10 Wisconsin remained ranked 10th in the coaches poll despite losing two games (to Ohio State and Michigan).

Alabama continues to have a firm grasp on first-place votes with 61 of the 64 available first-place votes this week. Ohio State received two and Clemson received one.

No. 19 Tennessee and No. 22 Ole Miss took big drops in the coaches poll this week after losing game sin SEC play. The Vols fell eight spots after being demolished at home by Alabama. The Rebels were dropped nine spots after falling against Arkansas to go to 3-3 on the season. Miami, Virginia Tech and Arizona State all fell out of the top 25 this week following losses.

Coaches Poll By Conference:

  • ACC – 4
  • American – 2
  • Big Ten – 4
  • Big 12 – 3
  • MAC – 1
  • Mountain West – 1
  • Pac-12 – 2
  • SEC – 8

Here is the full coaches poll, with first-place votes noted:

  1. Alabama (61)
  2. Ohio State (2)
  3. Clemson (1)
  4. Michigan
  5. Washington
  6. Texas A&M
  7. Louisville
  8. Baylor
  9. Nebraska
  10. Wisconsin
  11. Houston
  12. Florida
  13. West Virginia
  14. Boise State
  15. Florida State
  16. Oklahoma
  17. Arkansas
  18. Utah
  19. Tennessee
  20. Western Michigan
  21. North Carolina
  22. Ole Miss
  23. LSU
  24. Auburn
  25. Navy

Washington QB Jake Browning’s finger wag against Oregon costs him 500 pushups

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 08:  Quarterback Jake Browning #3 of the Washington Huskies rushes for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Oregon Ducks on October 8, 2016 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Washington’s 70-21 victory over Oregon last week was the program’s first over their Pacific Northwest rivals in a dozen years.

Naturally that kind of big win set off plenty of celebrations among the Huskies but none seems to have been as costly as the one quarterback Jake Browning suffered the following week in practice. The normally reserved signal-caller was the first Washington player to reach the end zone against the Ducks and broke out of his comfort zone a bit by channeling his inner Dikembe Mutombo and wagging his finger at a nearby linebacker to draw a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct foul.

While that was about the only negative for the offense on a day where they did just about everything they wanted to Oregon’s defense, it turns out that was a costly penalty for Browning personally. According to the Seattle Times, the quarterback was hit with a 500 push-up punishment from head coach Chris Petersen as a result of the 15 yard penalty.

While that is standard operating procedure for players who draw the foul under Petersen, it is a rare one for a quarterback to get hit with. Perhaps as a sign of respect for the sophomore who is entering the Heisman Trophy conversation, several of his UW teammates offered to serve some of the punishment in his place.

“Everybody raised their hand and told him we’d do something with him. So that’s how everyone felt about it,” cornerback Kevin King told the Times. “We stand behind Jake. When we have a quarterback like that, he’s just a fighter. Things like that, he’s not a cocky guy — we all know his character. He just got caught up in the moment. For us, that’s exciting to see.”

Probably not quite as exciting to see as the final scoreboard at Autzen Stadium was after a 49 point win but it was certainly a tone-setting type play for the Huskies that was probably still worth it despite all those pushups later on.