The first set of rankings for the College Football Playoffs arrived early Tuesday evening, officially ushering in the stretch run of the college football season. First, let’s take a look at said rankings:
#1 is set in stone
Georgia has yet to be challenged, having already clinched the SEC East. They likely won’t be threatened until they play in the SEC Championship in Atlanta in December. And if they do make it to Atlanta unscathed, they’ll most likely be in the CFP win or lose.
Alabama’s reputation could be helping them
I love the Tide, but I’m not sure they’re the second best team in the country right now. They lost a game they had no business losing (although in their defense, they played a shit game and still only lost via a last second field goal), and they’ve struggled in large portions of other games. Maybe that great 4th quarter against Tennessee and the bye week have changed things, only time will tell.
Cincinnati might be screwed
Woo boy, the committee does not respect the Bearcats. As they try to become the first non-Power 5 team to make the CFP, they’ll obviously need to win out. But, with this initial ranking, they’ll need a good bit of help, as well. SMU did them no favors by losing to Houston this past weekend, killing a showdown of unbeatens late in the season. The Cougars will likely be Cincy’s opponent in the AAC title game, so that should give them another win over a ranked team (assuming Houston doesn’t lose in their final four games).
The Bearcats really need Notre Dame to win out and make their victory in South Bend look that much better. The Irish have four very winnable games left, and should finish in the top 10. Cincy also needs some chaos ahead of them. They’ll be rooting for Georgia to either win out or suffer a mammoth upset before the SEC CG. What they absolutely do not want is for an unbeaten Georgia to lose to a one-loss Bama in Atlanta, as that would give the SEC two of the four playoff spots. They’ll also hope the Big Ten eats itself alive (more on them in a second), and unbeaten Power 5 teams Oklahoma and Wake Forest (yes, you read that right) lose, as they would likely jump the Bearcats if they remain undefeated.
The Big Ten’s tricky situation
At first glance, the Big Ten looks to be sitting in a pretty comfortable spot. Michigan State is #3, Ohio State is #5, Michigan is #7, and even Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa sit at #20-22. But take a look at the remaining schedule and you’ll realize there’s a lot of potential for the Big Ten to screw itself out of the CFP. The Spartans travel to Columbus on November 20th. The following weekend will see the Buckeyes and Wolverines square off in Ann Arbor, the same day that Michigan State will host a still dangerous Penn State squad (who hosts Michigan on Nov. 13th). Then there’s the matter of the Big Ten Championship, where either the Spartans, Buckeyes or Wolverines will face a potential slip-up against either Minnesota, Iowa or Wisconsin.
Buckle up for a wild November in the Great Lakes region.
Oregon’s in an interesting position
Speaking of the Buckeyes, the only team to beat them so far this season sits at #4. Oregon’s loss at Stanford defnitely hurts them, but the committee may take mercy on them considering the fact that OC Joe Moorhead was absent for that one, along with a host of injuries on the Ducks’ squad. Unfortunately for Oregon, their remaining schedule doesn’t have any marquee games on it. Which means if both Oregon and Ohio State win out, the Buckeyes will certainly have the better resume. The big question will then be how much the committee values that Oregon win in Columbus on September 11th — especially if the two teams are vying for the 4th and final CFP bid.
Outside the top 10
Sitting just outside the top 10, in order, are Oklahoma State, Baylor, Auburn and Texas A&M. The Cowboys handed the Bears their only loss earlier this season, and have only lost to Iowa State themselves. They’d both need some help to make the CFP, but that might be besides the point. Both teams host Oklahoma down the stretch (Baylor on Nov. 13th, and the Bedlam game on Nov. 27th.), and are potential opponents for the Sooners in the Big 12 Championship. While they might not have a shot to make it, OSU and Baylor are still massively important in the CFP race.
As for the teams at #13 and #14, they’ll have a role in the race themselves. Auburn and A&M both sit at 6-2, and both are still alive in the SEC West race, though the Aggies would need some help. The two will face off in College Station this Saturday in a huge tilt. Alabama will be watching closely, as an A&M win — as well as three more to end the regular season — would certainly make their loss in College Station look better. An Auburn win more than likely sets up a de facto SEC West title game against Alabama at Jordan Hare on Nov. 27th (assuming the Tigers survive wild card Mississippi State next weekend), and we all know how goddamned scary that would be for Bama fans.