What College Football Playoff rankings should look like for Week 12
The third installment of the College Football Playoff rankings will be released tonight (9 p.m. ET, ESPN). What we’ll see is anybody’s guess.
Death, taxes and Alabama football. Those are the only guarantees in life right now. While the rest of the Power 5 undefeateds were being upset this past Saturday, the Crimson Tide mauled Mississippi State 51-3.
Then-No. 2 Clemson lost at home to Pittsburgh. Then-No. 3 Michigan lost on the road to Iowa. Then-No. 4 Washington — with College GameDay on site, no less — lost at home to USC. What was once a straight-shot playoff picture is now a muddied mess, as all three of those teams now have a winding road to the Final Four.
With regard to the best conference in America, the SEC has been relegated to ‘Bama and everybody else. Auburn now has three losses. So does Texas A&M. While Florida only has two, they’re behind a lot of three-loss programs in the polls.
Here’s how the third CFP rankings should look. Despite all the chaos in Week 11, not a lot of permanent damage has been done.
The best team in the country by leaps and bounds, the Crimson Tide dismantled a Mississippi State squad fresh off an upset of Texas A&M.
Offensively, quarterback Jalen Hurts threw for 347 yards and ran for an even 100 to become the only player in ‘Bama history to go for 300-plus and 100-plus in the same game. Needless to say, there’s a lot of history in Tuscaloosa.
On the other side of the ball, the Tide limited the Bulldogs to 274 total yards and kept them out of the end zone entirely. They are first nationally in rushing defense — for the second year in a row — and while they rank behind Michigan in both total D and scoring D, the Wolverines haven’t played nearly as tough of a schedule.
Nick Saban and Co. are dynamic on offense. They’re suffocating on defense. Even if their special teams are far from flawless, they’re yet to be involved in a game that came down to a crucial kick in the fourth quarter.
With Auburn getting upset at Georgia this past Saturday, the season-ending Iron Bowl is just about meaningless right now.
2. Ohio State
While Nos. 2-4 were busy throwing up on themselves in Week 11, the Buckeyes throttled Maryland 62-3 in College Park.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett fell out of the Heisman Trophy conversation to some degree after OSU was upset at Penn State, but he hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 7 at Wisconsin and accounted for 4 total TDs against the Terrapins.
Because the Nittany Lions have turned out to be better this season than most experts predicted — they’re currently No. 9 in the AP Poll — Ohio State isn’t hurt quite as badly by that defeat. A victory over the Badgers also carries a lot of weight, as they’re regarded by many as the best two-loss team out there.
Urban Meyer (above) and his crew finish with Michigan State on the road and then Michigan at home. It’s been a lost season for the Spartans, who won’t go to a bowl only one year after making the College Football Playoff.
In all likelihood, the winner of Buckeyes-Wolverines goes to the Final Four. The loser is all but eliminated, though.
Ranked No. 3 by the committee a week ago, the Wolverines might not fall a single spot despite an upset loss at Iowa in Week 11.
While Big Blue started the season 9-0 and did so in impressive fashion, only once did they leave the state during that time. Outside of an easy flight to Rutgers, there were seven home dates and a trip to East Lansing.
Having to deal with an enemy crowd that was really into the game for the first time in 2016, Jim Harbaugh’s offense could do no better than 98 yards on the ground — averaging 2.8 yards per carry, too — and 103 through air against a Hawkeyes unit that surrendered 41 points and 599 total yards to Penn State seven days prior.
Now, Michigan has to make some magic happen at the quarterback position. Wilton Speight, who is third in the Big Ten in passer efficiency rating, will miss the rest of the season with a broken collarbone suffered in Iowa City.
But in the end, this loss doesn’t hurt the Wolverines all that much. If they beat Ohio State and win the Big Ten, they’re in the playoff.
Because there are so few teams with better résumés at this point, the Tigers can survive a home loss to unranked Pittsburgh.
Unquestionably, coach Dabo Swinney’s (below) program has been playing with fire all season long. Clemson should’ve lost to N.C. State but had a prayer answered by the field-goal gods. However, in Week 11, those same prayers went unanswered.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson set a career high with an eye-popping 580 yards passing against the Panthers, although he was intercepted three more times to bring his season total to 13 — nobody in the ACC has thrown more. While he’s a tremendous player, he’s made too many mistakes in 2016 to be part of the Heisman discussion.
There’s no reason to think the Tigers will stumble against either Wake Forest or South Carolina, but we said the same thing prior to their matchup with Pitt. Too often, this team has been caught sleepwalking against inferior competition.
Just like Michigan, Clemson simply needs to regroup, win the rest of its games and claim a league title. That should be enough.
Even if the Cardinals might be the most serious threat to Alabama due to Lamar Jackson, their head-to-head loss to Clemson is a killer.
The committee has a history of rewarding conference champions. If the Huskies still manage to take the Pac-12, there’s hope for them yet.
The Badgers have only lost to Ohio State and Michigan. Upsetting either of those two in the Big Ten title game probably earns an invite.
There are many Big 12 haters out there, and deservedly so, but the Sooners have won seven straight and finish with two ranked opponents.