Predicting what the 4th College Football Playoff rankings will look like
Saturday morning I wondered when we’d see chaos again and whether Arizona State freshman QB Jayden Daniels could be the rifleman to deliver it.
Oh, he did.
The No. 3 QB in the 2019 recruiting class lived up to his billing, destroying No. 6 Oregon’s Playoff hopes with a 408-yard, 3-TD performance. Daniels is the 2nd freshman QB to beat Oregon this season, following Bo Nix, who went Duck hunting in the season opener.
So obviously the top 10 will look different tonight. How much different?
Here’s how I expect the top 10 to look when the College Football Playoff committee reveals their rankings tonight (7 p.m. Eastern, ESPN).
Joe Burrow stayed on pace to break the SEC’s single-season records for passing yards and TDs. He now has 4,104 yards and 41 TDs. The records are 4,275 and 44.
With at least 3 games remaining, and possibly 4, Burrow likely will top 5,000 and 50 before he heads off to the NFL. If he gets there, those will become the most unbreakable records in SEC football history.
2. Ohio State
The Buckeyes had a real opportunity to reclaim No. 1, but they stumbled their way through a solid victory over No. 8 Penn State. It only matters in the sense that the No. 2 team will have to deal with Clemson in the Playoff semifinal. The Buckeyes have wrapped up the East, so even if they lose Saturday at Michigan, they’ll still make the Playoff if they finish as a 12-1 Big Ten champion.
The Tigers were idle, resting up for the season-finale against South Carolina. Nothing happened behind them to warrant anything other than No. 3.
Again, this is what I expect the Playoff committee to do. I wrote Sunday that I’d have Alabama in this spot. Ultimately, the SEC title game will determine all. Georgia is in the Playoff with a win and out with a loss. There is no 3rd option.
For this week’s discussion, however, Georgia’s defense is at a Playoff level, but its offense is just asking to be embarrassed. Georgia also has the worst loss among Playoff hopefuls, at home against South Carolina. Alabama’s offense is vastly superior and its lone loss was by 5 to LSU.
Oh, and for the blind résumé crowd, Alabama blew out Texas A&M 47-28 — in College Station. Georgia beat the Aggies by 6 — in Athens.
Whatever questions the committee might have had last week, there was nothing about Saturday’s performance that should dramatically lower evaluations.
Sure, it would have been nice to see Mac Jones hit a few deep balls, but he did everything Bama wanted him to: play point guard, distribute the ball.
No, he’s not a Russell Westbrook-type point guard, but he has 4 scorers on the outside. Just get them the ball and accept the handshakes that come your way.
It’ll get insanely interesting if Alabama beats Auburn by 20+ Saturday. Anything less than that, however, no matter how great the game might be, likely will keep the Tide out of the Playoff for the 1st time in the format’s history.
The Utes benefitted most from Oregon’s loss, but they still have to convincingly win the Pac-12 Championship Game to be a realistic Playoff threat. Georgia has to lose. Even then, 2 SEC teams deserve to make the Playoff.
Utah’s issues are 2-fold: The loss at USC wasn’t terrible — USC has rebounded nicely — but it was worse than losing to the No. 1 team in the country. And while national media types love to poke holes in Alabama’s nonconference schedule, at least the Tide played another Power 5 program. Utah faced 3 mid-majors.
The transitive game isn’t overpowering, either. The Utes beat Arizona State, which beat Oregon. OK. So did Auburn.
The Sooners missed another opportunity to make a big move. A 4-point victory over TCU isn’t going to impress anybody. They’ll move up because others lost, but even with another victory over Baylor in the Big 12 Championship Game, it’s difficult to see them leaping a 12-1 Utah team with a Pac-12 title or a 2nd SEC team.
The Gophers didn’t do anything particularly impressive Saturday, but they won to keep their Playoff path intact. That’ll be enough to move up as Penn State and Oregon fall out of the top 10.
We’ve reached the point where the committee will be ranking the best teams without a Playoff path. Florida has stayed at No. 11 because of that. They’ll be inside the top 10 tonight.
The Wolverines are peaking and pose the biggest remaining threat to Ohio State’s Playoff chances. For drama, the committee could push the Wolverines as high as No. 8. They’re better than Minnesota.