Predicting what the 5th College Football Playoff rankings will look like
Disclaimer: After 3 years of being able to anticipate the Playoff Selection Committee’s next step, I’m far less confident about what this new group of voters will do if chaos ensues this weekend.
It still seems as if they can’t quite agree on what matters most. That’s probably the scariest thought a contending football coach could have entering championship weekend. It certainly explains why, outside of the top 3 teams, I haven’t agreed much with the rankings over the previous 4 weeks.
At any rate, there is a consensus about the top 4 teams, if not the order. The real drama starts at No. 5.
This is how I expect the top 10 to look when the Playoff committee reveals their 5th set of rankings tonight (7 p.m., ET, ESPN).
1. Ohio State
If the committee was impressed by the Buckeyes’ previous victory over Penn State, I can only imagine how much gushing they’ll do about the blowout at Michigan. For the record, last week I predicted the committee would keep LSU at No. 1 in part because of how unimpressive Ohio State’s victory over Penn State was.
There’s no debate this week. Ohio State was impressive.
The race for No. 1 is not over, though. If LSU trounces Georgia in the SEC title game, it would have the best overall case.
Whether these Tigers are No. 2 and Clemson’s Tigers are No. 3 is irrelevant. As of now, this is the semifinal pairing either way. Though I don’t actually believe it will end up this way. I actually pushed Clemson ahead of LSU in my Playoff rankings Sunday morning.
People are actually debating whether a 13-0 Clemson team with an ACC title deserves a Playoff spot? And you wonder why I don’t participate in talk radio. Why would anybody even ask the question? This much is certain: The Tigers are a Playoff lock as long as they beat Virginia in the ACC title game. They’re playing every bit like a reigning national championship team should. Nobody, not even LSU, has a more dangerous collective set of offensive skill players in the country.
The Dawgs will stay at 4 tonight, knowing the only thing that matters is what happens Saturday in Atlanta against LSU. Beat LSU, and the Dawgs could climb as high as No. 2. Lose, and they’ll open a spot for the Pac-12 champ or Big 12 champ.
The committee has preferred the Utes over Oklahoma every step of the way. Nothing happened Saturday that will change their mind about the order tonight. Utah’s biggest hurdle is one it can’t control: Oregon already has 2 losses and won’t be in the top 10 when they meet for the Pac-12 championship.
Again, this is what I expect the committee to do. I’ve had Oklahoma above Utah each week and certainly would reward the Sooners for going on the road and knocking off their ranked rival by 18. That was the Sooners’ 3rd victory over a Top 25 team at the time of kickoff — and all 3 were away from home. They’ll get a chance for No. 4 in the Big 12 Championship Game against Baylor.
Could a lone 3-point loss keep a 12-1 Big 12 team out of the Playoff? It happened to TCU in 2014.
The Bears’ only blemish is the 34-31 loss against Oklahoma.
A No. 6 vs. No. 7 matchup should enough to send the winner to the Playoff if Georgia loses. Right?
Minnesota only fell 2 spots after it lost at Iowa. Penn State fell 2 spots last week after its 2nd loss.
It’s going to be difficult to justify dropping Alabama below No. 8 based not only on this committee’s precedent but also the fact that the Tide’s offense dominated an Auburn team like no other this season and lost by 5 on the road after giving up 2 defensive touchdowns and a field goal that never should have been kicked. Frankly, they’d beat Baylor, Utah and probably Oklahoma.
Just like Alabama, there’s no Playoff path. The committee hasn’t been impressed with the Gators yet. Maybe a 23-point victory over their bitter rival will be enough to push them back into the top 10.
If the Gators aren’t in the top 10, it’s simply because the committee wants to set up as much drama as possible entering championship weekend. In which case 2-loss Wisconsin would move up to No. 9 and 2-loss Oregon would sneak in at No. 10.
Again, the committee knows what sells. Not that it really matters because Ohio State almost assuredly will make the Playoff even if it loses to Wisconsin, but in the race to stay No. 1, a victory over a top 10 team sounds better than a victory over a top 20 team. Especially when LSU potentially could throttle the No. 4 team.