College football Week 14 takeaways: DeVonta Smith dazzles, Ohio State proves playoff-worthy, Coastal Carolina-BYU lives up to hype

DeVonta Smith, Alabama Crimson Tide. (Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)
DeVonta Smith, Alabama Crimson Tide. (Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports) /
College football
College football /

College football Week 14 takeaways, including DeVonta Smith putting on a show for Alabama vs. LSU and Ohio State looking worthy of a playoff spot.

Alabama restores order in LSU rivalry

LSU sure does miss Joe Burrow. There was no Burrow on the field when LSU hosted Alabama and was thoroughly embarrassed as Nick Saban got revenge for what happened last year with a 55-17 win in Tiger Stadium. Consider 2019 a fluke as the Tide restored order in the SEC West to clinch another division title and will play Florida in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 19. Alabama wanted to win this game more than any other game — including Auburn which sounds sacrilegious — after what happened in last year’s game and even though they had to wait a few extra weeks after the original date was postponed due to COVID issues with the Tigers, Alabama and Saban made sure to make this one hurt.

Clemson does it again

For the sixth straight year, the Clemson Tigers are headed to the ACC Championship Game. And for the first time, they’ll play Notre Dame for the conference title. It still looks and feels so weird to type that and read that, but in 2020, it kinda makes perfect sense. Clemson is looking for their own revenge game like Alabam was with LSU after the Fighting Irish outlasted the Tigers in South Bend earlier this fall when they won a double-overtime instant-classic. There was no Trevor Lawrence in that game for Clemson when he missed his second game in a row due to the coronavirus. Lawrence has made the last two starts for the Tigers and while he showed some poor decision-making in the win vs. Virginia Tech is rounding into top form and should be the difference in Clemson winning the rematch vs. Notre Dame and punching their ticket to the College Football Playoff.

Ohio State proves they are playoff-worthy

Whether they only played five or six games, there’s no doubt that Ohio State was one of the four best teams in the nation. The Buckeyes proved that again with a 52-12 win over Michigan State on a day they were severely short-handed. Ohio State played without head coach Ryan Day who was in isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus last week but Larry Johnson handled the job just fine in his absence. Three offensive line starters and three-time team captain Tuf Borland were among the 23 players who were out. However, quarterback Justin Fields was active and threw for two scores and ran for another two in the rout. The Big Ten is expected to amend their rule about requiring six league games in order to play in the conference championship game so even if the game vs. Michigan is canceled next Saturday — which it may — they will still play Northwestern for the league title. A win vs. the Wildcats will cement their status in the playoff committee’s eyes. The SEC and ACC may not like it but they will have to accept it.

BYU-Coastal Carolina delivered on the hype

The game of the week came to fruition after it was scheduled on Thursday morning. After Liberty had COVID issues resulting in them backing out of the game with Coastal Carolina, BYU came to the rescue to give fans a matchup of two 9-0 teams. It proved to be the best game with the Chanticleers holding on for the come-from-behind win as the Cougars comeback attempt fell three feet shy on the one-yard line. Zach Wilson got BYU close to 10-0 but they should be commended for taking on the challenge, flying across the country from Provo to Conway, South Carolina on short notice and almost coming away with the win. It was a loss that cost them a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl but it doesn’t do much to change either team’s fortunes with regard to the playoff. Cincinnati is likely to secure the Group of Five bid as the highest-ranked team so Coastal Carolina will have to hope the Bearcats get upset by Tulsa in th AAC Championship Game to get it.

DeVonta Smith is unstoppable

LSU is known for being DBU but they had no answer for slowing DeVonta Smith who put on an absolute clinic vs. the Tigers. The Alabama receiver had seven receptions for 219 yards and three touchdowns — in the first half! He’s playing like the best player in college football and easily will win the Biletnikoff as the nation’s top receiver. He had a shot to break the single-game record for receiving yards at halftime but with Alabama beating LSU by so much, he only needed to make one catch in the second half as the Crimson Tide called off the dogs. Smith finished with eight grabs for 231 yards and the three scores. He’s already the record-holder for most receiving touchdowns in SEC history but needs one more to tie Amari Cooper‘s Alabama single-season record. He may get that by the second quarter in next week’s game vs. Arkansas.

Heisman watch

Lawrence is out of the Heisman conversation after failing to put up monster numbers in the Clemson win over Virginia Tech. Coupled with missing two games due to his COVID diagnosis and a third game when Florida State backed out of their game, and there weren’t enough opportunities for the preseason favorite to be the first Heisman winner in Clemson history. The Heisman race is down to a pair of SEC quarterbacks with the SEC Championship Game likely serving as the tie-breaker. If Alabama wins, expect Mac Jones to win the Heisman. If Florida pulls off the upset, expect Kyle Trask to win. Here’s how my Heisman ballot looks after Week 14.

  1. Mac Jones, Alabama, QB
  2. Kyle Trask, Florida, QB
  3. DeVonta Smith, Alabama, WR
  4. Najee Harris, Alabama, RB
  5. Justin Fields, Ohio State, QB/Trevor Lawrence, Clemson, QB.Kyle Pitts, Florida, TE

College Football Playoff picture

This is going to be a boring playoff race because for the third straight week, it’s going to be the same four teams in the same four spots. Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State will be the top four teams with Texas A&M and Florida the first two out. The only drama will come after the championship games if Alabama loses to Florida, which would see both teams get in. Then, if Clemson loses to Notre Dame, that opens the possibility for Texas A&M to sneak in or even undefeated Cincinnati to be the first Group of Five team to get in. I’m not even considering the possibility Northwestern upsets Ohio State, so the first foursome we had will be the foursome we eventually get, albeit in a different order.

  1. Alabama vs. 4. Notre Dame
  2. Clemson vs. Ohio State

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