The road to Tampa keeps taking unexpected turns.
Just when it seemed the college football landscape had reached some level of stability with a handful of teams separating themselves at the top of the heap, Saturday’s Week 11 came along.
The top four teams in the College Football Playoff standings at the end of the season will reach the semifinals of the national playoff, with the title game set for Jan. 9 at Raymond James Stadium.
First, No. 2 Clemson was blanked in the fourth quarter of a shootout against unranked Pittsburgh and lost at home 43-42, for its first loss of the season.
Then, fourth-ranked Washington, considered by many a threat to make it through the regular season unscathed, was dominated, also at home, by No. 20 USC, 26-13.
And the biggest surprise was still to come. No. 3 Michigan, seemingly on the way to a showdown with traditional powerhouse rival Ohio State in their regular-season finale, stumbled late Saturday night at Iowa, losing 14-13 on a last-second field goal.
Meanwhile, No. 1 and defending champion Alabama rolled right along, blowing out Mississippi State, 51-3, and clinching another SEC West title when Auburn lost later at Georgia.
So what do the day’s results mean for the next College Football Playoff standings, to be released on Tuesday? The big winners of all the upheaval appear to be No. 6 Louisville, which cruised past Wake Forest and benefited from the Clemson loss since it lost to the Tigers earlier this season, and No. 7 Wisconsin, which has two losses (to Michigan and Ohio State) but stands to get a chance for redemption against one of the two in the Big 12 Championship Game in three weeks.
And even though Michigan took its first loss in Iowa City Saturday, the winner of the Wolverines’ visit to Ohio State on Nov. 26 will head into that title game likely a win away from the playoff semifinals.
Then again, with any more weeks like this one, assuming anything is a risky proposition at best.