This is a difficult piece to write with an inevitable Belk Bowl bid looming for Texas A&M, but the playoff marches on. The College Football Playoff Committee released its second rankings Tuesday night. The committee appears to place more value, in most cases, into who a team has beaten rather than who a team has lost to. This is evidenced by two one loss teams in the top four over unbeaten Power-5 teams.
There was a little movement from last week as only three departed from the rankings (Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Toledo), four unbeaten teams lost (LSU, Michigan State, TCU, and Memphis), and there are three new faces in the mix (Navy, UNC, and Wisconsin). This weekend looks to be lackluster, and I don't expect a lot of movement in the rankings. However, we should be able to have some questions answered about a few teams. For instance, can Baylor and Houston remain undefeated with their toughest tests to date?
Sometimes the craziest Saturdays are the ones where we least expect it. At least there are three ranked teams guaranteed to lose with OU @ Baylor, Alabama @ Mississippi State, and Memphis @ Houston. Twenty four of the teams are in action with ten going on the road. Only Wisconsin is safe this week. Here's hoping that this week brings some excitement.
Since we have discussed most of these teams in previous articles, I will lay out what needs to happen for each team to make the playoffs. First, there are a couple of assumptions made: 1) A two loss team will not make the playoffs under the current circumstances; 2) No conference will have more than one team in the playoff; 3) The lack of a conference championship game is hurting the XII, and will need an undefeated champion to make the playoffs.
#1 Clemson Tigers (9-0): Last Week FSU 23-13. Next up @ Syracuse. This spot is Clemson's to lose. With Syracuse, Wake, and South Carolina left to go, losing doesn't seem possible. Still time for #Clemsoning, but most likely these teams will be #Clemsoned. Clemson will most likely face UNC in the ACC title game, which may turn out to be a decent game, but will be the clear favorite. Win and in.
#2 Alabama Crimson Tide (8-1): Last Week LSU 30-16. Next up @ #17 Mississippi State. The committee loves what Alabama has done this season, even forgiving the early Ole Miss slip up. Bama will have a tough test this week going to Starkville to face CLANGA CLANGA Missis-CLANGA-sippi State CLANGA Bull-CLANGA-dogs CLANGA and Dak CLANGA CLANGA Prescott CLANGA. Alabama then has a cupcake before the Iron Bowl against rival Auburn. Win and the Tide will face one loss Florida in the SEC title game. Alabama will not be jumped if it wins out.
#3 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0): Last Week Minnesota 28-14. Next up @ Illinois. Ohio State survived the 1-week suspension of newly starting QB J.T. Barrett by beating Minnesota. Barrett will be back this week to face Illinois. He will need the tune up game before facing Michigan State and Michigan to close out the regular season. If Ohio State can survive the Michigan schools, it will then most likely face Iowa in the B1G title game. Definitely a tough stretch, but will allow OSU to not get jumped by winning out.
#4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1): Last Week @ Pitt 42-30. Next up Wake Forest. The big game remains at the end of the regular season at #7 Stanford. But ND must get past Wake Forest and Boston College to set up the elimination game with Stanford. I think that Notre Dame will need some help down the stretch to solidify its playoff spot. An undefeated Big XII champion would jump ND in my opinion. ND should be rooting for chaos in the Big XII.
IN THE HUNT:
#5 Iowa Hawkeyes (9-0): Last Week @ Indiana 35-17. Next up Minnesota.
At least in my dreams.
#6 Baylor Bears (8-0): Last Week @ KSU 31-24. Next up #12 Oklahoma. Jarrett Stidham proved that he is more than capable in running the Bear's offense. But can Baylor stop the run? Should be a crazy shootout. Baylor will then have OK State, TCU, and Texas to go. Win out, and it will be near impossible to leave an undefeated Power-5 conference champion out of the playoffs. Winning out will be tough on the road in Stillwater and Fort Worth.
#7 Stanford Cardinal (8-1): Last Week @ Colorado 42-10. Next up Oregon. Stanford is a 10 point favorite over the Ducks. After that, the Trees have Cal then #4 Notre Dame. The remaining schedule will be tough, but could be enough to prove to the committee it belongs. Stanford needs either the Big XII or the B1G champion to have a loss, or it could see itself as the first team left out.
#8 Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-0): Last Week TCU 49-29. Next up @ Iowa State. This has shades of 2011 written all over it. No, not second half collapses, but an undefeated Oklahoma State heading to Ames, Iowa with the National Championship implications. Oklahoma State lost that game in overtime. Can Iowa State play the spoiler yet again? (Probably not). After this trap road game, the Cowboys head back to Stillwater to face Baylor then OU in the annual Bedlam game. Oklahoma State already made quite an impression on the committee by moving up 6 spots in the playoff rankings after beating TCU last weekend. I think they will be able to continue the climb and could jump a one loss ND or Stanford if it wins out.
Just think if this was an 8 team playoff? Sounds way more fun.
#9 LSU Tigers (7-1): Last Week @ BAMA 16-30. Next up Arkansas. The LSU Tigers were shut down last week in Tuscaloosa, and have surging Arkansas up next. The Tigers obviously need to bounce back but have a brutal up coming schedule with Ole Miss and Texas A&M, well more so with Ole Miss. LSU has a lot of ground to make up and needs Alabama to lose again so it can win the SEC West. LSU could easily win out and miss on the playoffs as a 1 loss SEC West team.
#10 Utah Utes (8-1): Last Week @ Washington 34-23. Next up @ Arizona. Vegas actually has Utah as a favorite again. Utah can make noise in the playoff as it has #19 UCLA left to play this regular season. If it wins Pac12 South, it would most likely play #7 Stanford in the conference championship game. Imagine if Stanford beats Notre Dame and then a one loss Utah beats Stanford. Throw in no undefeated Big XII, and we would learn a lot about which conference the Committee dislikes the most; Pac 12 or Big XII. Utah can most certainly play its way into the playoff but needs some outside help.
#11 Florida Gators (8-1): Last Week Vanderbilt 9-7. Next up @ South Carolina. Florida survived a scare from the scrappy Vanderbilt defense (lifeless offense) last weekend. By doing so, Florida locked up the SEC East and will face the SEC West Champion in Atlanta. Florida still has #16 FSU at the end of the season (take notes Texas and Texas A&M) to boost its position. If Florida can beat FSU and most likely Alabama to close out the season, it could potentially jump into the Playoff spots.
#12 Oklahoma Sooners (8-1): Last Week ISU 52-16. Next up @ #6 Baylor. If the committee does have bias towards the all offense Big XII, then OU may be its only hope for a one loss team to make it in. OU has to do enough to overcome an embarrassing loss to Texas early in October. Beating Baylor and OSU on the road, and knocking off TCU at home should go a long way in making up ground. A loss to the B1G champion would help too. OU needs a lot of help, but will significantly rise by winning out.
#13 Michigan State Spartans (8-1): Last Week @ Nebraska 38-39. Next up Maryland. Michigan State still has to play Ohio State, but there is a way for Sparty to win the B1G and set itself up with two wins of teams currently higher ranked. This would go a long way for Sparty; however, that loss to Nebraska may prove to be too much for Michigan State.
#15 TCU Horned Frogs (8-1): Last Week @ Oklahoma State 29-49. Next up Kansas. The Frogs dropped 7 spots after the loss to Oklahoma State. Beating Kansas will not help them much in the committee's eyes. The Horned Frogs still have OU and Baylor to help its case, but may be too little too late. TCU would need some help in the B1G and the Pac12 to help pave the way for a 1 loss Big XII team to make it from this far back.
#16 Florida State Seminoles (7-2): Last Week @ Clemson 13-23. Next up NC STATE.
Oh wait, it's not at NCSTATE, no matter; carry on shirtless wolfpack man.
#17 Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-2) Last Week @ Mizzou 31-13. Next up #2 Alabama.
#18 Northwestern Wildcats (7-2) Last Week Penn State 23-21. Next up Purdue. Northwestern students are currently protesting a ground breaking ceremony for the athletic department... Wildcats are a non-factor, as they already lost to Iowa.
#19 UCLA Bruins (7-2) Last Week Oregon State 41-0. Next up Washington State. UCLA wont make the playoffs this year, but can ruin Utah's hope of getting in.
#20 Navy* Midshipmen (7-1) Last Week @ Memphis 45-20. Next up SMU. Navy is not making the playoffs, but could be playing in a New Year's six bowl. That's pretty cool, and is why you should join a conference. Cough cough BYU cough.
#21 Memphis Tigers (8-1): Last Week Navy 20-45. Next up @ #24 Houston. Memphis's perfect season was sunk by Navy. Memphis may have been the only hope to get in. The AAC dream can live on through Houston, but most likely will have to wait till next year.
#22 Temple Owls (8-1): Last Week @ SMU 60-40. Next up @ South Florida.
#23 North Carolina Tarheels (8-1): Last Week Duke 66-31. Next up Miami. Welcome to the rankings UNC. UNC has managed to climb back into the rankings after a horribly embarrassing loss to South Carolina to begin the season. UNC has got to win the ACC by beating an undefeated Clemson team to even sniff the playoffs. I don't think that will be enough to vault them into the discussion.
#24 Houston Cougars (9-0): Last Week Cincinnati 33-30. Next up #21 Memphis. This is going to be a highly entertaining game. I can't wait. Houston is the last non-power 5 team to remain unbeaten; but it hasn't played anyone yet. If Houston can run the table by beating Memphis and Temple (conference championship game), then it should skyrocket up this list. The odds of actually making the playoffs are fairly small with so many good power 5 teams currently a head of the Cougs.
#25 Wisconsin Badgers (8-2) Last Week @ Maryland 31-24. Next up BYE. Wisconsin's chances in GIF form:
Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Toledo...