Any weekend morning, afternoon, or evening in Pittsburgh, there are small groups of college students that gather to worship their respective faiths. Each one of these centers of faith worship differently, but all of them are accompanying the small number of young adults that still practice their religion.
These worship centers want to change that culture.
A small building sits near the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill where one can find a community of young people giving back to their community during a youth service to educate and promote the Islamic religion.
The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh (ICP) and other worship centers like it have not just been places for members of certain religions, but home to the closing gap of religion among young adults.
In an era where attendance to organized religious gatherings is shrinking, more young adults are continuing to find a way to practice religion, whether it is by attending services from their childhood religions, seeking spirituality in a different kind of practice to express their faith, or to find religion for the first time.
According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, people have slowly stopped attending religious services because they haven’t found a church they enjoy going to or they don’t like the sermons. The study also found that the most common answer for not attending religious services is “I practice my faith in other ways.”
Koshin Yusuf, one of the young adults involved in the youth program at the ICP, is trying to change that.
“One of the programs that we have that is consistent is our Sunday school,” said Koshin Yusuf, one of the young adults involved at the Islamic Center. “We also have the youth leadership program that happens on Saturdays.”
The youth group at the ICP seeks to not only help young adults get more involved, but also to educate outsiders on the religion of Islam through events and tours of the center.
“We held an event called the Stop Bullying event, which was basically an event where a youth coordinator from another organization stopped by to talk to kids about how they could counter bullying in school,” Yusuf said regarding one of their most attended youth events.
“Sometimes we have groups coming in from school who are currently studying something on Islam and they want to come in and actually talk to people who come to a mosque,” said Yusuf.
For him, this place means more than just showcasing the Islamic religion to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in a Christian city.
“It’s first and foremost a place of prayer, but it’s also a community center. It’s a safe space for (people) to come and have a conversation and get together with friends.”
According to the United Jewish Federation, around 40% of Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood is Jewish. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has been one of the city’s most involved religious sects, with programs for adults and families.
A map of Jewish Centers around Downtown Pittsburgh in relation to the ICP.
Pittsburgh native Miracle Brocco, a student at Millersville University, says that the Jewish faith isn’t as prominent in reaching out to college students.
“A lot of that is because it’s an inclusive and close-knit community,” she says.
The community was brought together in the past couple months after the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue that left 11 dead and seven injured. After the shooting, worship centers and churches of all faiths came together to support the local synagogue.
The community was brought together in the past couple months after the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue that left 11 dead and seven injured. After the shooting, worship centers and churches of all faiths came together to support the local synagogue.
However, the showcasing of the Jewish faith on college campuses around the country is not as popular as Christian faiths.
“At college we have a campus Hillel (a group of practicing and non-practicing Jewish people), but the only thing it’s ever offered is a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony.”
Brocco says that when she returns home, she celebrates on her own, within her family, or even over FaceTime.
“My Jewish friends and I celebrate holidays together and my goyim (non-Jewish) friends are always super supportive,” she says.
In the Strip District of Pittsburgh, a small building was converted into a Christian Church – one of the largest college congregations in the city.
Amplify Church is usually filled with young people on a Sunday evening. It is there where a rock band can be heard playing worship music and young people can openly express themselves.
Joshua Clear, one of the youth pastors at Amplify Church, said he got involved in his faith by attending a youth retreat.
“I went, begrudgingly, and I was angry and upset” said Clear.
He said he was the kid who sat in the back and didn’t connect before the retreat.
“I just met Jesus that weekend. And I wanted nothing to do with that before then.”
After his experience, Clear knew he wanted to give back by being involved in ministry, particularly for the youth. He worked at a church in Atlanta, a Presbyterian church, a couple non-denominational churches, and finally landed at Amplify.
He can usually be seen at any given service giving a sermon on stage. If he’s not speaking in front of a crowd, there is usually a crowd gathering around him. Clear makes it a point to know everyone who walks in the door at Amplify.
He wants them to continue to come back.
Around 37% of people surveyed by the Pew Research Center say they dislike religious services, such as church, and cite that for why they are not in attendance.
“The biggest thing I’ve always done is say ‘how can I create church for people that don’t want anything to do with church,” said Clear.
Others like Andy Brunette, a 22 year old living in Pittsburgh, said that the services at Amplify have changed him.
From the sermons that go into the Old and New Testaments, Brunette believes that the church does a great job at promoting the Bible and making it a fun learning environment for people wanting to stay close to God.
“I don’t think it’s specifically the church itself that changed me, but it’s the people in the church,” said Brunette.
Amplify has a younger demographic that they reach out to, with additional services at Duquesne and Point Park University to reach out to the college-aged adults.
“There are two types of churches – church lowercase ‘c’ and Church capital ‘c’,” Brunette explains, “church lowercase ‘c’ being Amplify and Church capital ‘c’ being the people.”
He also says that Amplify does a good job of ‘plugging’ people in to the church once they start attending. They do this by making it a community and keeping a constant conversation among members before and after services.
Before any given service, members can be seen setting up chairs and asking others how they could help. After the services, students may spend up to an extra hour talking to other students from universities around Pittsburgh while encouraging new members to keep returning.
Other Christian churches in the area have struggled to retain the college student crowd.
“The interesting thing is that while we started as a church focused on young adults and college kids, we have hardly had any college kids (recently),” said Jeff Eddings, Pastor of Hot Metal Bridge Congregation.
The South Side church is connected to both the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Methodist Church, making it a place of worship for multiple religious sects. However, the community has struggled to retain new members.
“We still have young adults participating in our community, but we are not intentionally doing anything programmatically for them or to intentionally reach them,” Eddings said.
For other churches, programming is one of the biggest things to get students involved.
Like the ICP, Amplify tries to get the word out to their community by visiting college campuses weekly during the fall and spring semesters.
“Instead of making students come to us, we try and come to them,” said Sarah Pais, director of the U at Point Park – a branch of Amplify Church’s youth outreach.
By traveling to different campuses and holding ‘RIOT’ events in which the church’s band plays for a crowd of college students, the church has been able to grow.
“It’s been successful so far. We just want to create an environment where everyone feels welcome no matter what (they) believe.”
The church also has the U at Duquesne, IUP, Pittsburgh East, and at City, which is their Strip District location.
These locations serve young adults, specifically college-aged students, and basically bring church to a different location. At the services, there is a sermon and prayer sessions as well as an intertwining of college campuses.
“We don’t really want to shove Jesus down their throats, we kind of just want to present the ideas.”
Pais says this concept has proven successful because people don’t feel pressure to commit to a religion. By coming to the students, the church has acclaimed their audience.
According to the Pew Research Center study, one in four Americans have not found a house of religion they enjoy, and 14% say they do not feel welcome at particular religious services, which is why Amplify goes to these campuses and travels to different locations to talk about Christianity and the Bible.
“Growing up we never really talked about religion in the house, we never really talked about God,” said Ryan Perumal, a student at Robert Morris University.
“I believe a lot of young adults now, when they were kids when they went to other churches and it was so strict,” said Perumal, who grew up in a Christian-Hindu household.
“People treated churches like a country club. Everyone is all high and mighty like ‘hey, I go to church, respect me,’” he added.
Perumal explains that churches today should be more welcoming rather than excluding, citing that a communal environment has helped him more than it being an individualistic environment.
Being in an environment where young people are encouraged to attend events, like at Amplify and the ICP, is crucial to keeping the churches open to everyone.
“(Churches) should be more of a hospital, where people go for healing and support.”
He added that he is not talking down to other churches, but they do not touch on the subject of people being forgiven for their sins.
The Pew Research Center cites that 66% of those who attend church at least once a month go to find comfort in time of trouble, so when they are not feeling they are going to a place of healing, it can be disheartening.
“We raise up people within our church to start serving, start loving on people, and start showing that grace that has been given to them,” said Clear.
We’re down to only 7 teams left in the chase for the College Football Playoff. Here is the rundown on how every team can (and can’t) make the final four.
1. Alabama (SEC, 12-0)
Alabama enters conference championship week with the best possible chance to make the playoff. Their offense is the best that Nick Saban has ever coached with QB Tua Tagovailoa accounting for most of the damage.
CHANCES: Locked in. Win or keep it close against Georgia. Even in a blowout loss scenario, the Tide still have a strong case for a playoff spot.
SEC Championship vs #4 Georgia (Saturday, December 1 @ 4:00 PM on CBS)
2. Clemson (ACC, 12-0)
The Tigers have been demolishing teams in the ACC all season. Their opponent in the conference championship is Pitt, who is coming off a blowout loss to Miami. Clemson should take care of business, but it will be an interesting battle between Pitt’s run game and Clemson’s defense line.
CHANCES: Practically a lock. A win obviously keeps them in, but a close loss could also keep them in for what they’ve accomplished all season long. The Committee has continually said the disparity between Alabama and Clemson is not as big as some might have come to think. However, a blowout loss to Pitt could propel someone else into the top four.
ACC Championship vs (unranked) Pitt (Saturday, December 1 @ 8:00 PM on ABC)
3. Notre Dame (Independent, 12-0)
The Irish have done everything they needed to do this season. They don’t play in a conference, but they went undefeated and beat a few quality opponents. Now, some of the teams on their schedule are simply having down seasons, but the Irish can sit back and relax this week.
CHANCES: Locked in. An undefeated Notre Dame will not be denied a spot in the final four. Whether they can compete with teams in the playoff is yet to be determined.
4. Georgia (SEC, 11-1)
Georgia knew their fate in the conference for weeks now, but Alabama is still a formidable opponent on film and on paper.
CHANCES: Need to win. The Bulldogs need to win to get into the CFP. A loss would surely eliminate them from contention, unless it is awfully close and Oklahoma or Ohio State don’t look as dominant this weekend.
SEC Championship vs #1 Alabama (Saturday, December 1 @ 4:00 PM on CBS)
5. Oklahoma (Big XII, 11-1)
The Sooners and QB Kyler Murray are about as good as it can get on offense for a collegiate football team. Their defense is abysmal but they continue to win games, and that’s all that matters.
CHANCES: High chance. An Alabama victory would most likely put Oklahoma in the playoff at the 4-spot. If Oklahoma can avenge their early season loss to Texas, they would have a nice resume. What can’t happen is a close win against Texas in which the defense looks helpless as Ohio State crushes Northwestern and shows their defense can stop opponents. But even so, Oklahoma has a great chance at making the final four.
Big XII Championship vs #14 Texas (Saturday, December 1 @ 12:00 PM on ABC)
6. Ohio State (Big Ten, 11-1)
The Buckeyes always find themselves in the mix for the playoff year in and year out. They usually are a controversial topic amongst college football fans, and this season is no different. QB Dwayne Haskins is playing really smart football and his play makes the offense and defense look a lot better.
CHANCES: Low chance. First things first, Ohio State needs to look good against Northwestern – both offensively and defensively. Secondly, Alabama needs to beat Georgia or Clemson needs a big time loss to Pitt (as is the case for every team outside the top four). Thirdly, Oklahoma probably needs to lose to Texas. If all that happens, the Buckeyes are probably good to go.
Big Ten Championship vs #21 Northwestern (Saturday, December 1 @ 8:00 PM on Fox)
7. Michigan (Big Ten, 10-2)
8. UCF (American, 11-0)
The Knights are still undefeated and looking strong to close out the season. The bad news? QB McKenzie Milton is done for the season after an awful leg injury.
CHANCES: Slim. The Knights need everything that Ohio State needs plus Ohio State to lose to Northwestern. If all of that happens, they can make the playoff. It’s an unlikely chance, but it would be interesting to see if they still claim a national championship if Alabama or Clemson win the title as an undefeated team.
American Conference Championship vs (unranked) Memphis (Saturday, December 1 @ 3:30 PM on ABC)
The top 5 Heisman candidates this season are all quarterbacks and all share different traits. This week, we rank every major stat category to see who really has the edge heading into conference championship week. The rankings next to each stat is where they stand relative to the other finalist candidates.
Murray gets the nod at the top spot heading into the Big XII Championship game. He controls Oklahoma’s entire game plan and performs great on a consistent basis. Whether he beats Texas or not, he’ll see his name on the list of finalists. His QBR is at a historic 96.1, which is 1st all-time in a college football regular season. He is easily the best running quarterback of the bunch and can literally run away with the Heisman this weekend.
Haskins is very underrated as an overall player and the numbers show it. He just took down the #1 ranked defense in the country (Michigan) and will be playing for a Big Ten title against a resurging Northwestern team. Haskins is extremely accurate with the football and continues to show why he deserves to be in the conversation. He leads the nation in TD passes and he’s kept Ohio State in many games this year that they couldn’t get their running game going. He’s also started to become more of a runner himself.
Tagovailoa is the best player on the best team and will have the most difficult conference championship game opponent in Georgia on Saturday. He’s careful with the football and rarely turns the ball over against SEC defenses. His QBR is right up there with Murray’s, which is also atop college football’s all-time history. If he can beat Georgia and pad some more stats, he will have a stronger case.
Minshew leads the nation in passing yards and it’s not even close. Unfortunately, he didn’t look good against the best defense Wazzu played this season in a loss to Washington. He won’t be playing in a conference championship and his chances at the Heisman are all but diminished.
The Heisman has become a stat-based award and Grier’s stats just aren’t there. Granted, he did play in one less game than other players and still remains in the top-5 in yards (FBS 4th) and TD passes (FBS T-2nd), but he also has 8 INT in one less game and lost the most meaningful game of the season to Oklahoma. Because of the most recent loss, he won’t be playing for the Big XII crown.
Nothing changed within the top ten in this week’s CFP rankings, but some interesting scenarios lay ahead for teams still in contention. This week, we go deeper into the playoff hopes for every team still with a chance.
1. Alabama (SEC, 10-0)
Last game: W vs #21 Mississippi State 24-0
Here we are with Alabama yet again at the top, but more and more analysts are saying the gap between them and #2 Clemson is slimmer than what was previously thought. After this week’s FCS matchup against The Citadel, a rivalry game with Auburn and a SEC Championship game against #5 Georgia remain on the schedule. Alabama can afford a loss to either of those teams as long as they still look like a top four team. The winner of that SEC title game will surely get a bid to the CFP.
Next game: vs The Citadel
2. Clemson (ACC, 10-0)
Last game: W vs #20 Boston College 27-7
The Tiger’s defense continues to be one of the best in the country and offensive standout Trevor Lawrence is poised to win out. Rivalry games against Duke and South Carolina remain on the schedule before the ACC Championship, which looks to be against Pittsburgh (6-4, 5-1 ACC) and their prolific run game. Clemson is the only team in the ACC with a shot at making the CFP (sorry, Syracuse) and they can still afford a loss if there is chaos elsewhere.
Next game: vs Duke
3. Notre Dame (Independent, 10-0)
Last game: W vs Florida State 42-13
The Irish remain a lock to make the semifinal if they win out. Their upcoming games against #12 Syracuse and USC are reasonable challenges down the stretch. They can’t afford a loss this late in the season against these opponents, but their fate will be determined by QB Ian Book and the offense staying healthy.
Next game: vs #12 Syracuse
4. Michigan (Big Ten, 9-1)
Last game: W vs Rutgers 42-7
Michigan is in control of their own destiny as long as #1 Alabama doesn’t lose to #5 Georgia in the SEC title game. They have the top defense in the country and will face #22 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship, that’s if they get through #10 Ohio State in the season finale.
Next game: vs Indiana
5. Georgia (SEC, 9-1)
Last game: W vs Auburn 27-10
The Bulldogs control their own fate. A good QB in Jake Fromm have allowed the offense to be at least reasonably dominant. UMass and WR Andy Isabella will need to pull out all the stops to beat Georgia this weekend, as will Georgia Tech the following week. Georgia could struggle against #1 Alabama in the SEC Championship (#7 LSU beat Georgia by 20, Alabama beat LSU by 29), so they will need a unique game plan against the Tide in order to win. It’s pretty simple though: win and you’re in.
Next game: vs UMass
6. Oklahoma (Big XII, 9-1)
Last game: W vs Oklahoma State 48-47
The Oklahoma Sooners keep scraping by, with their last two wins being by a total of 6 points. Their defense is awful, but their offense is on record-breaking pace with QB Kyler Murray emerging as the Heisman favorite. Kansas and #9 West Virginia are still on the schedule to close out Big XII play before the conference championship against . . . West Virginia? A rematch is certainly possible still. The Sooners being ranked at the six spot is curious, as Committee Chairman Rob Mullens has explained throughout the season that everyone is ranked based on what they have done so far this year, rather than what is yet to come. The Big XII is in decent position to be the first conference in if anyone outside the SEC is to stumble.
Next game: vs Kansas
7. LSU (SEC, 8-2)
Last game: W vs Arkansas 24-17
LSU is ranked based upon their resume thus far, but the rest of the teams remaining in contention – and that includes #11 UCF – have a tougher schedule down the stretch. This Tigers team barely scraped by the worst team in the conference (Arkansas) and their last two opponents are dismal (Rice, Texas A&M). Even if LSU wins out, they can be hopped by teams behind them (Washington State, West Virginia, Ohio State, UCF, and even Syracuse).
Next game: vs Rice
8. Washington State (Pac-12, 9-1)
Last game: W vs Colorado 31-7
QB Gardner Minshew and Wazzu are clicking well at the moment, but they need to start looking like a playoff team against Arizona and #18 Washington to close the season. Their opponent in a potential Pac-12 Championship will be a sub-par South Division winner in Utah or one of the Arizona teams. #9 West Virginia and #10 Ohio State can both see themselves ahead of the Cougars based purely on strength of schedule alone, so coach Mike Leach needs some help.
Next game: vs Arizona
9. West Virginia (Big XII, 8-1)
Last game: W vs TCU 47-10
QB Will Grier continues to climb back into the Heisman conversation just as the bulk of the Mountaineers schedule arises with Oklahoma State and #6 Oklahoma in back-to-back weekends. Their schedule is tough enough to at least give them a shot at their first ever playoff berth, but they still need help from the Big Ten. WVU should root for #22 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game, whether they play #10 Ohio State or #4 Michigan. The Big XII Championship game will either be a rematch against #6 Oklahoma, #16 Iowa State (who beat WVU 30-14), or #15 Texas (who WVU beat on a two-point conversion).
Next game: @ Oklahoma State
10. Ohio State (Big Ten, 9-1)
Last game: W vs Michigan State 26-6
The Buckeyes need to look like a playoff team or they can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye and send them on their way with either #4 Michigan or the Big XII. Maryland and rival Michigan are closing out the regular season, so there is still room for a statement ahead of a potential Big Ten Championship bid against #22 Northwestern. If Ohio State wins out and looks impressive enough, they might only need #1 Alabama to run the table in the SEC to get a bid.
Next game: @ Maryland
11. UCF (American, 10-0)
Last game: W vs Navy 35-24
The American East will be decided Saturday night against #24 Cincinnati. A good South Florida (7-3) team is there to close out the season before facing Houston (7-3), SMU (5-5), or Tulane (5-5) in the American Athletic Championship – so needless to say a statement needs to be made right now. College GameDay will be in attendance for this crucial matchup as the Knights try to get to 23 straight wins. Here are some scenarios that UCF could root for down the stretch to keep their playoff hopes alive:
– #1 Alabama wins out, beats #5 Georgia in the SEC title game.
– #2 Clemson loses to Pitt, who UCF beat 45-14, in the ACC title game.
– #3 Notre Dame loses to USC to close out the regular season.
– #4 Michigan beats #10 Ohio State, loses to #22 Northwestern in the Big Ten title game.
– #6 Oklahoma and #9 West Virginia split their meetings, or #16 Iowa State or #15 Texas win the Big XII title.
Week 11 Recap: The wins have continued to pile on as we have gone four consecutive weeks with a positive performance. With a record of 10-8 over the weekend, total earnings jumped to $242.38. While Week 12 may not have the glamour of previous Saturdays, there is still a solid slate of games with plenty of upset opportunities to shake up the college football world.
As a note, all wagers are at -110 odds and I make the majority of my plays the morning after opening lines have been released. Visit http://www.vegasinsider.com for updated points and spreads.
Minnesota (+3.5) vs Northwestern (Last week I correctly called the Wildcats to upset Iowa. This week I like the Golden Gophers who are an entirely different team at home…. 5-1 versus 0-4 on the road. PJ Fleck’s squad is coming off a dominating win against Purdue, so I’ll take anything at a field goal or more.)
Middle Tennessee State (-16.5) at Kentucky (It’s been SIX WEEKS since Kentucky has scored more than 17-points in a game. MTSU is a solid 7-3 and I wouldn’t trust this Wildcat team to put up three scores against a high school team at this point.)
Arkansas (+21.5) at Mississippi State (The Razorbacks looked respectable against LSU and I still do not hold much confidence in the Bulldogs offense. Miss State should win but three touchdowns is a stretch.)
Ohio State (-14) at Maryland (Last week I said Ohio State needed to win by more than a field goal to look at all like a playoff team. Well, they won by 20 against a half-decent Michigan State team. There’s no reason they don’t do the same against a porous Maryland squad.)
Nebraska (+3) vs Michigan State (Michigan State has a great defense so it’s too bad their offense is completely worthless. Scott Frost seems to have the Huskers moving in the right direction and a future star in Adrian Martinez.)
NC State (-14.5) at Louisville (Wake Forest came out of nowhere to knock-off the Wolfpack last week but the Deamon Deacons also beat the Cardinals by 21 in the ‘Ville.)
Utah (-6.5) at Colorado (The Buffs are spiraling out of control while the Utes lost yours truly money last week when they ran all over Oregon.)
Syracuse (+11) vs Notre Dame (Both of the Syracuse’s losses were by less than a touchdown. Ian Book won’t be 100% for the Irish and this ‘Cuse team has averaged 46 points in their last four games.)
Utah State (-26) at Colorado State (Utah State is 9-1 this year ATS and I expect this trend to continue with a pummeling of CSU. The Rams are rough and Utah State has one of the most exciting offenses in football.)
West Virginia (-4.5) at Oklahoma State (In a conference where no one knows what a defense is, WVU at least has a mediocre secondary. OK State might as well not not send anyone onto the field when they don’t have the ball. Give me Grier and the ‘Neers by a touchdown.)
Liberty (+33) at Auburn (Auburn is a mess and looks far from the SEC West champs of last season. They should easily run away with this game but Gus Malzhan knows a 50-point win against Liberty means nothing unless his team is 100% healthy for Bama.)
UAB (+20) at Texas A&M (Talk about a trap game. The Aggies are reeling after a 5-2 start in which their only losses were against the top two teams in the country. They’ve now dropped 2 of 3 and have to take on a 9-1 UAB team that leads the nation in sacks. Did I mention that A&M is 121st in the nation in sacks allowed?)
Duke (+28.5) at Clemson (Duke actually has a decent team and quarterback Daniel Jones has NFL potential. I’ll take the 7-3 Blue Devils to keep this one within four touchdowns.)
Stanford (-1.5) at Cal (The Golden Bears simply can’t score. Their defense has played exceptionally well but I feel this is the week things fall apart for a team that hasn’t reached 16 points in three straight weeks.)
Southern Miss (+3) at LA Tech (Southern Miss. loves close games, with their last three outings all decided by a field goal or less. It’s also their senior day and the team is vying for a bowl bid.)
UTEP (+7.5) at Western Kentucky (In a battle between one-win C-USA bottom dwellers, there is no reason WKU should be favored by a touchdown against anyone.)
Boston College (-1) at Florida State (I am 2-0 when picking against the ‘Noles and 0-2 when picking in their favor. Congrats to FSU for winning the inaugural award for College football’s “Biggest Waste of Talent”.)
Arizona State (+4.5) at Oregon (Herm Edwards has these Sun Devils playing at a high level. Meanwhile, Oregon looks like a lost team after dropping 3 of 4.)
Miami at Virginia Tech (Over 28.5) (I understand neither offense is great but when I saw this opening on William Hill’s bookie site I couldn’t pass it up.)
San Diego State at Fresno State (Under 45.5) (These two teams have gone under the line in their past five meetings. Both defenses are solid so let’s make it six straight.)
College Gameday Pick ’em:
UCF- 51 Cincinnati- 42 (Gameday heads to the home of the faux National Champs and their 22 game win streak. The Bearcats are a formidable opponent and UCF puts up little resistance on defense. Barring any inclement weather in Orlando, I expect a fast paced shootout that stays close into the fourth quarter. )
Murray takes over as the Heisman favorite as Oklahoma’s offense is putting up staggering numbers. Tagovailoa is close behind as Haskins, Minshew, and Grier try to catch up in this week’s Heisman rankings:
The Oklahoma offense is putting up godly numbers this season. Their defense is still struggling, but Murray is completing over 70% of his passes and also taking it the distance as he scrambles. Can we see an Oklahoma quarterback take home the trophy for the second straight season?
Alabama continues to steamroll teams and have shutout their last two SEC opponents. Not only is Alabama the safest bet to make the College Football Playoff, they also have the most efficient passer in the game.
The Buckeyes’ offense continues to struggle, but there is no doubt that Haskins remains their best player. He is second in the nation in passing touchdowns and third in yards, but he still needs a few breakout games to surpass the likes of Murray and Tagovailoa.
Minshew has yet to throw for less than 319 yards in a game this season. He leads the nation in passing yards and it’s not even close (Ole Miss’s Jordan Ta’amu is over 400 yards behind him). If he can continue to put up the yardage, he’ll have his own case for the Heisman.
Next game: vs Arizona (10:30 PM, ESPN)
5. Will Grier (Quarterback, West Virginia)
TD: 31 (8 INT), 1 rushing
Grier has the toughest stretch of games to close out the season among all Heisman contenders, which could either propel him to the top or diminish his chances all together. He’s had three straight games in which he’s thrown 3 TD, but Oklahoma and a Heisman showdown with Murray await him – possibly twice.
The top 10 of the College Football Playoff rankings looks slightly different this week than it did last Tuesday. Both divisions of the SEC found their champions in Alabama and Georgia after two lopsided victories, the Big Ten saw Iowa and Penn State officially get placed in the elimination wastebasket, the Pac-12 is down to one possible bid in Washington State, the Big XII is a two-man race for a bid between teams that could face in back-to-back weeks, the ACC is left with Clemson and Boston College exclusively, and UCF is still in the mix. Here’s a look at which teams control their fate, in need of some assistance, and just flat-out eliminated in this week’s CFP poll.
CONTROLLING THEIR FATE:
#1 Alabama (SEC, 9-0)
Last game: W vs #7 LSU 29-0
Next game: vs #16 Mississippi State
Alabama is about as safe a bet as any team in the country. If they lose, they could still remain in the top 4 – which teams like #4 Michigan should deeply worry about (especially if it’s a loss to #5 Georgia in the SEC Championship). QB Tua Tagovailoa is still the favorite for the Heisman and the defense is clicking on all cylinders, which should prove vital this weekend against the Bulldogs.
#2 Clemson (ACC, 9-0)
Last game: W vs Louisville 77-16
Next game: vs #17 Boston College
QB Trevor Lawrence (18 TD, 3 INT) is proving exactly why he was able to steal the starting job earlier this season. Clemson’s defensive line is scary good and their offense is as potent as ever. They get #17 Boston College this weekend to decide the ACC Coastal.
#3 Notre Dame (Independent, 9-0)
Last game: W vs Northwestern 31-21
Next game: vs Florida State
The Irish can’t falter now. So far, Notre Dame has escaped multiple dark horses late in the season in Virginia Tech, Pitt, Navy, and Northwestern, but they still have Florida State and #13 Syracuse on schedule. An undefeated Notre Dame should receive a bid to a semifinal; a one-loss South Bend team would drop significantly.
#5 Georgia (SEC, 8-1)
Last game: W vs #11 Kentucky 34-17
Next game: vs #24 Auburn
Barring any November losses, the winner of the Alabama-Georgia SEC Championship game will receive a playoff berth. Georgia took care of business in the SEC East by beating Kentucky, and Alabama took care of LSU in the West. Georgia should control their remaining schedule and they would hop #4 Michigan if they won the conference title game. The question would be if Michigan can pass the eye test over a one-loss Alabama.
MOSTLY IN CONTROL:
#4 Michigan (Big Ten, 8-1)
Last game: W vs #20 Penn State 42-7
Next game: vs Rutgers
Michigan and QB Shea Patterson get the two weakest teams in the Big Ten before closing the season against #10 Ohio State to decide the East. The winner will play a current-unranked opponent in either Northwestern or Purdue on Championship Saturday. The Wolverines should get in the playoff with a title belt, but Georgia’s strength of schedule looms overhead.
#6 Oklahoma (Big XII, 8-1)
Last game: W vs Texas Tech 51-46
Next game: vs Oklahoma State
Oklahoma and Heisman candidate Kyler Murray have survived some scares this season, their latest being a shootout against Tech. The Big XII is still a four-team race late in the season with #9 West Virginia (5-1), Oklahoma (5-1), #22 Iowa State (4-2), and #19 Texas (4-2) and Texas and Iowa State still having a date in two weeks. The scenarios are interesting for who could face who in the Big XII Championship, and you can check out those scenarios at 247 Sports. Oklahoma and West Virginia are sandwiched between Michigan and Ohio State in the rankings, and any of those four teams that win out and win their conference would have to prove to be better than the others off-paper.
#9 West Virginia (Big XII, 7-1)
Last game: W vs #19 Texas 42-41
Next game: vs TCU
QB Will Grier ran the ball in the endzone on the two-point conversion and was able to leap over #10 Ohio State all at once as the Buckeyes struggled to beat Nebraska and stayed stagnant this week. WVU’s playoff hopes still ride on how the Big Ten and SEC play out, particularly Alabama vs Georgia and Ohio State vs Michigan.
#8 Washington State (Pac-12, 8-1)
Last game: W vs California 19-13
Next game: vs Colorado
Wazzu has no ranked opponents left outside of #25 Washington and their schedule is just too weak to compete with the Big XII and Big Ten. If any of Michigan, Oklahoma, West Virginia, or Ohio State win-out they will most likely jump QB Gardner Minshew and the Cougars – Heisman trophy or not. Washington State could hope for the Big XII chaos that could ensue near the top, for Ohio State to find a loss in #18 Michigan State before taking down Michigan for the seventh straight season, and for #1 Alabama to run the table. That may seem like a tall order, but history tells us otherwise.
#10 Ohio State (Big Ten, 8-1)
Last game: W vs Nebraska 36-31
Next game: vs #18 Michigan State
The Buckeyes have been slumming through games since Urban Meyer’s return. Indiana, Minnesota, and Nebraska all gave Ohio State unneeded scares as Purdue took them down with flying colors. QB Dwayne Haskins is a Heisman finalist today, but the run game needs to get going for his offense to be successful if he wants to beat #4 Michigan by season’s end. #18 Michigan State will be their first ranked opponent since Penn State this weekend. Ohio State should root for Northwestern to lose against #21 Iowa and Minnesota, setting up a potential revenge date with Purdue in Indianapolis.
#17 Boston College (ACC, 7-2)
Last game: W vs Virginia Tech 31-21
Next game: vs #2 Clemson
RB AJ Dillon (897 YDS, 8 TD) is still one of the most reliable backs in the country. If BC could take down #2 Clemson on Saturday, they’d control their own destiny in the ACC Atlantic with Florida State and #13 Syracuse to close the year. They would obviously need a lot of help from two-loss champions in other conferences, but the Eagles cannot be officially written off yet, especially with how the Committee views the ACC.
CAN ONLY WATCH AND WAIT:
#7 LSU (SEC, 7-2)
Last game: L vs #1 Alabama 29-0
Next game: vs Arkansas
The Tigers can win out and still remain #7 throughout the season. The CFP Committee values their most recent loss to Alabama – even if it was a 29-point shutout – as LSU only dropped 4 spots. If they win out, #8 Wazzu, #9 West Virginia, and #10 Ohio State could all be ranked above this “hop-over” team after Championship Saturday. LSU needs help and has no control of their own fate.
#12 UCF (American, 8-0)
Last game: W vs Temple 52-40
Next game: vs Navy
The Knights need to make a statement. Close games against American Conference opponents have kept them outside of the top 10, but Cincinnati continues to win and could be ranked by the time UCF faces them on November 17. If the Bearcats beat a two-loss South Florida team this weekend and are ranked next Tuesday, don’t count out UCF’s chances. Now, UCF still needs two-loss champs from the Big Ten, Big XII, and Pac-12 as well as #1 Alabama to look formidable in the SEC. It would also help if Houston could win out in the American West before the title game.
#11 Kentucky (SEC, 7-2)
Last game: L vs #5 Georgia 34-17
Next game: vs Tennessee
The Wildcats were eliminated from playoff contention after losing the SEC East to #5 Georgia on Saturday. Kentucky could play for a New Years Six trophy if they win out against Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and Louisville.
#13 Syracuse (ACC, 7-2)
Last game: W vs Wake Forrest 41-24
Next game: vs Louisville
Syracuse’s stock rose 6 spots this week and the Orange have a very good shot at a New Years Six game. They are virtually eliminated from ACC contention unless #2 Clemson loses twice. Syracuse’s schedule is interesting for their current ranking, as they still have #3 Notre Dame and #17 Boston College to finish out the year. They could rise significantly in future weeks and finish the season as the highest two-loss team.
#14 NC State (ACC, 6-2)
Last game: W vs Florida State 47-28
Next game: vs Wake Forrest
The Wolfpack take on Wake Forrest tonight and are still one of the stronger two-loss teams. The Committee values the ACC this season and is figuring to give Clemson a little wiggle room for a good bowl game or semifinal if they were to lose.
#15 Florida (SEC, 6-3)
Last game: L vs Missouri 38-17
Next game: vs South Carolina
The SEC has 5 of the top 15 teams with the back-to-back double-digit loss Gators as the highest ranking three-loss team.
#16 Mississippi State (SEC, 6-3)
Last game: W vs LA Tech 45-3
Next game: vs #1 Alabama
It’s too little too late, but the Bulldogs could make a case for a big bowl game with a win over the Tide.
#18 Michigan State (Big Ten, 6-3)
Last game: W vs Maryland 24-3
Next game: vs #10 Ohio State
A down season for Mark Dantonio is a good season for many other coaches, especially coming from the Big Ten. The Spartans could make a statement against #10 Ohio State this weekend as they have many times in the past.
#19 Texas (Big XII, 6-3)
Last game: L vs #9 West Virginia 42-41
Next game: vs Texas Tech
The Longhorns are still playing for a possible bid to the Big XII Championship, with Tech and #22 Iowa State on back-to-back Saturdays.
#20 Penn State (Big Ten, 6-3)
Last game: L vs #4 Michigan 42-7
Next game: vs Wisconsin
QB Trace McSorley is one of the most dynamic players in the country, but even he couldn’t withstand the might of the Wolverines defense.
#21 Iowa (Big Ten, 5-3)
Last game: L vs Purdue 38-36
Next game: vs Northwestern
A big game against the Wildcats this weekend is all for pride for the Hawkeyes. A three-loss team by the end of the postseason usually finds themselves in good position for next year.
#22 Iowa State (Big XII, 5-3)
Last game: W vs Kansas 27-3
Next game: vs Baylor
The Cyclones still have a shot at the Big XII crown and face #19 Texas next weekend. If they make it to Arlington, Iowa State would have to cancel that December 1 game against Incarnate Word – a true bummer.
#23 Fresno State (Mountain West, 8-1)
Last game: W vs UNLV 48-3
Next game: vs Boise State
The Bulldogs have a big test tomorrow night against the team that is usually ranked from the Mountain West in Boise State. Unlike their Group of Five counterparts (#12 UCF), Fresno has been destroying their opponents, but one could argue the American Conference is much stronger than the Mountain West.
#24 Auburn (SEC, 6-3)
Last game: W vs Texas A&M 28-24
Next game: vs #5 Georgia
The Tigers schedule couldn’t be more difficult down the stretch with #5 Georgia and #1 Alabama, both of which are on the road. Auburn hasn’t been blown out this year and could really do some internal damage to the SEC in the final weeks of the season.
#25 Washington (Pac-12, 7-3)
Last game: W vs Stanford 27-23
Next game: BYE
Washington hasn’t looked well on offense this season and veteran QB Jake Browning (13 TD, 8 INT) is struggling compared to his sophomore year numbers (43 TD, 9 INT). The Huskies could still win the Pac-12 if they take down #8 Washington State in the season finale.
An up and down college football weekend created a 5-man race near the top for the Heisman trophy. 5 quarterbacks on 5 teams that are hoping for a College Football Playoff berth are vying for a not only a spot in the final four, but atop college football hierarchy.
Through 9 games, Tua’s QBR has still remained nothing short of spectacular. It took him until last Saturday against LSU to throw an interception, but Alabama’s shutout win in Baton Rouge should prove that they are not only the best team, but Tua is – at the moment – the best quarterback.
Next game: vs #18 Mississippi State (CBS, 3:30 PM)
Murray has been keeping stride with Tagovailoa with the same exact QBR rating. If he can win a Big XII title and overcome Oklahoma’s defensive struggles, he will have a very high chance of giving the Sooners back-to-back Heisman trophy winners (Baker Mayfield 2017). The difference between Murray and the other quarterbacks is his legs, rushing for 100 yards in a classic shootout against Texas Tech.
Haskins struggled heavily to get the ball to his wide receivers in Saturday’s close win against Nebraska. He is still outthrowing Murray and Tagovailoa (FBS 3rd in passing yards) and he leads the nation with Hawai’i quarterback Cole McDonald for passing touchdowns (32). If Ohio State could have a 2014-esque turnaround to their offense, Haskins would have a strong case – but he’s running out of time.
Minshew leads the nation in passing yards and has over 1,000 more yards than Tagovailoa. His stock rises by the Saturday and he is making a strong case for the Pac-12’s playoff hopes. He also has thrown for over 300 yards (5 400-yard games) in every game this season.
Next game: at Colorado (ESPN, 3:30 PM)
5. Will Grier (Quarterback, West Virginia)
Passing Yards: 2,618
Touchdowns-to-Interceptions: 28:7, 1 rushing TD
Grier led the Mountaineers to a win against Texas and now has complete control in the Big XII. WVU could face off against Oklahoma in back-to-back weeks thanks to the round robin nature of the conference, which would have big Heisman implications with Murray on the other sideline.