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Thank you, ACC football, for being so much more fun to watch than the SEC

This is The Top Whatever, Spencer Hall’s weekly ranking of only the teams he feels like ranking today.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports


They’re No. 1 this week because they survived the best game I watched all year* and now sit with one loss on the year, a roster I’m pretty sure could ball with anyone in America for 60 minutes, and only a lack of a Big Ten championship standing between them and the Playoff.

Ohio State looked bad on offense for much of the game and still won, because at their core, the Buckeyes are built around their merciless offensive line. And when you are built around a mean-ass line, you can afford to grapple while you wait for something to break. Look bad? Fine, keep hammering away. Look good? Cool, keep hammering away. In the midst of all that, eventually J.T. Barrett will make a play. Eventually he’ll get loose, probably at a time you can least afford it.

As for officiating breaks that may have played a crucial role in how the game played out: maybe you shouldn’t let that be the margin you need. The problem is not that the rope broke. It’s that you ended up hanging off the cliff in the first place, Michigan. Officials will be human and make mistakes. Mistakes like fumbling at the goal line, for instance.

P.S. I don’t really know what I’d do as a Michigan fan after that game, other than curse life’s beauty and pain and crawl into a snow cave for four months with a waterproof volume of Camus and enough food to last the winter. The bowl game will somehow probably be against Florida, and that’s an automatic win, because Michigan never loses to Florida in bowl games. Go sleep and wake up for the spring game. Jim’s got this.

* Okay, maybe it wasn’t the most fun I had all year watching a game. That goes to Arizona State-Arizona, where a broke-ass, undermanned, 2-9 team with zero hope blew the Sun Devils off the field. It wasn’t a good game, but if you’re going to have something like a positive ending, it’s getting your third win in an error-filled night game that denies your opponent a bowl game. It’s just fun to watch Rich Rodriguez play crab in a bucket and yell, “YOU’RE IN HERE WITH ME, TODD GRAHAM,” because rivalry games are about petty.


30-12 victors over Auburn. Putting the Tide at No. 2 just to remind everyone that they only have to play an enfeebled Florida to finish undefeated and only had to beat an Auburn team without a functioning quarterback to win a rivalry game. Nick Saban is a hoarder whose dominance is, at this point, killing the economy of the SEC and reducing it to a monopoly. Antitrust legislation for football teams will never be a real thing, but it really should be, at this point.

All the talent in the SEC is kept in Tuscaloosa, and we should redistribute it to the people forcibly. That’s Governor Ed “a whole cow in every pot” Orgeron’s campaign strategy. It got him elected, didn’t it?

It is cool that Alabama’s offense right now is “throw it to someone 3 yards out of the backfield and see what happens,” because a.) it infuriates Alabama traditionalists by working, and b.) it is entertaining to watch ArDarius Stewart humiliate defenders in the open field. Jalen Hurts threw two interceptions, a number that doesn’t matter, because nothing matters if you’re playing Alabama’s defense. No one ran for more than a hundred yards on them in the month of November; no one has scored a rushing TD on them since Oct. 15.

[/futile hand gestures]

[/walks away and patiently waits for time to destroy the things I am so bored with]


Ruined the happiness and well-being of South Carolina, 56-7. Here is a short recap.

  • Clemson scored 42 unanswered before South Carolina decided to return the favor, once.
  • Clemson had 41 first downs. I don’t know if you know how hard it is to give up 41 first downs in a football game. If you have 41 first downs in a game, it not only means you were beyond efficient on offense. It means the other team was badly outmatched, but never stopped trying, even when trying felt like an exercise in sorrow. It means South Carolina was the pit bull on the leg of a Tyrannosaurus; it was going to lose, but it was not going to let go until the end. It means we should all admire South Carolina for continuing to tackle, because most teams would have just let things go for touchdowns in the end? Or maybe just shake our heads, because “vast, tireless effort in the name of ignominious defeat” is sort of their head coach’s brand?
  • Mike Williams wore a DB into the endzone like he was in a Baby Björn.

South Carolina DB Jamarcus King is clinging to Williams like a rodeo clown to the back of a bull. We salute you, Jamarcus. Like your team, you never gave up, even when it really made sense for you to do so.

Clemson will now play Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship. If the Tigers beat the Hokies, Clemson is an easy selection for the Playoff. This is not only because Clemson’s been good all year, but because the ACC has been good overall, and not just from a quality perspective. (They were 3-1 against the SEC yesterday. Did you hear that? You should repeat that to an SEC fan.)

It’s also because the ACC’s been a blast to watch. They’ve had good-to-great QB play across the board, from Mitch Trubisky to Lamar Jackson to Jerod Evans to emerging playmakers like Deondre Francois. Hell, even Pitt’s quarterback, Nathan Peterman, had his moments. (Like throwing five TDs in an upset of Clemson, for instance). Even the cellar-dwellers of the Atlantic Division are entertaining and/or improving. The ACC’s diverse in style of play, and not some monochromatic slab of pro-style and middling half-assed spread offense like SomE Conferences have. It’s all over the map, and even has a bizarro triple-option team.

So if we’re fairly confident about putting Clemson in the Playoff, it’s not just because of their resume. The ACC as a whole, after years of suffering ironic praise at the hands of myself and anyone else watching, put on entertaining programming this year. And I’m not here to be bored. If I was, I’d watch more 2016 SEC football.


45-17 dominance over Washington State that was over so fast, you scarcely had time to react to the abundant asskicking. Even the Huskies seemed shocked at how fast it happened, up 28-3 after the first quarter, and with none of those scoring drives taking longer than four minutes. Mike Leach got so discombobulated, he called four straight run plays in the red zone. It got THAT bad.

That’s fine by the Huskies. It means they got to rest starters, prep for the Pac-12 Championship against Colorado, and marvel at the wreckage while waiting for everyone to decide they’re worthy of a Playoff slot. Which, yeah, they would be worth of it as a one-loss conference champ. That is no given, because as I have to remind you every week, one of the few genuinely delightful things about the 2016 season is that Colorado is a good team.


Penn State. The beneficiaries of the year’s weirdest major upset, their win over Ohio State, the Nittany Lions could make the Playoff if the committee decides to value a conference championship over a non-conference loss to Pitt. The committee, by the way, already considers a loss to Pitt perfectly fine; Clemson has one, and it hasn’t affected their chances. Losing to Pitt is cool in 2016; it’s what the kids are doing, and it’s great. That is the greatest compliment to what a great job Pat Narduzzi has done: Pitt is now everyone’s acceptable, Playoff-enabling, quality loss.

Wisconsin. Might be a step behind Penn State in the longshot division, because they weren’t blessed enough to lose to Pitt. PITT FOOTBALL: WE BEAT THE TEAM THAT BEAT YOUR TEAM, PROBABLY.

Colorado. Needs to win and have everyone else lose and hope someone on the committee has actually watched CU play this year, and that probably hasn’t happened, so no, this is probably not happening. Sefo Liufau still deserves the People’s Heisman, even if the Buffs only have a 0.00000001 percent shot at getting in the Playoff.

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Both teams could get into the Playoff, but it requires some lobbying, and a vivid imagination capable of pretending Oklahoma State did not lose at home to a 6-6 MAC team. If you want to be told it can and should happen, and that Bedlam is just like a Big 12 Championship, I am here to tell you that, because I want you to believe what you want to believe because it feels good.

  • You can eat cake for breakfast.
  • Those pants look fine on you.
  • It’s not you; it’s definitely someone else’s fault. AND THEY SHOULD BE PUNISHED.
  • The winner of this game is in the Playoff.

Florida. No.

Michigan. Sort of feel like we’re getting deep into the same hole you get into when you get 32 steps down in the order of presidential succession, and it becomes like:

  • Secretary of Education
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs
  • Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Tom Bergeron
  • Tom Bergeron II
  • Someone who looks kinda like Tom Bergeron
  • Borrow Canada’s prime minister for a few days until you figure it out