Predicting the final record of the top 10 teams in Playoff rankings
It’s not how you start. It’s how and where you finish.
Week 11 saw 2 more teams fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. (We predicted the Alabama loss in this space last week but figured Penn State would lose later, not at Minnesota.)
Round 2 of the Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night. I crushed the Playoff committee for their initial rankings. I’ll praise them for the redo. We largely agreed.
At any rate, that’s where the teams are entering Week 12. This is a prediction of where the top 10 teams will finish the regular season (including conference championship game where applicable).
1. LSU (13-0)
I’m not sure it was possible to have any more confidence in Joe Burrow than I already did before he lit up Alabama. I mean, I started lobbying for him to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft in September. Special year, special quarterback.
2. Ohio State (13-0)
Nobody in the Big Ten is stopping this runaway train. Minnesota better bring some life jackets to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game. That boat is about to take on some water.
3. Clemson (13-0)
Nobody in the ACC is stopping this runaway train.
4. Georgia (10-3)
I’m extremely confident that Auburn’s defense can slow down a less-than-impressive Georgia offense on Saturday, especially if Lawrence Cager is dinged up. Can the Tigers’ offense score enough against the Dawgs’ impressive D? I’ll give Auburn a very slight edge, only because the Tigers are at home, but I’m not overly confident. I’m quite confident that once Georgia wraps up the East, it’ll fall by double digits against LSU in the SEC title game.
5. Alabama (11-1)
Last week’s 11-1 prediction is this week’s 11-1 prediction. The Tide will rebound against Mississippi State. Nick Saban hasn’t lost consecutive games in back-to-back weeks since 2007. He hasn’t lost to an unranked team since 2007. Neither streak ends this Saturday. Assuming Tua Tagovailoa is healthy (and I’d sit him against Mississippi State and Western Carolina to ensure he is), the Tide will finish the season knowing it has to dominate Auburn to make its Playoff case. They will.
6. Oregon (12-1)
It’s not so much about the 12 wins and predicted Pac-12 title. It’s about the loss — to the SEC’s 4th-best team that will continue to give the committee pause. It’s hard to jump 2 (or 3) SEC teams that beat the team you lost to. But the Ducks are the best out West.
7. Utah (11-2)
The Utes have a better shot at the Playoff because they don’t have to explain away a loss to the 4th-best SEC team. But can they beat Oregon for the Pac-12 title? I don’t think so.
8. Minnesots (11-2)
I didn’t think Minnesota would beat Penn State. The Gophers won by 5. Can they finish the regular season 12-0? I don’t think so. It won’t matter. The Big Ten East is the dominant division, and Ohio State is the dominant team. The boat ride will end. It’s merely a matter of when.
9. Penn State (10-2)
The Nittany Lions travel to Ohio State on Nov. 23. Given the way Minnesota threw the ball on that secondary, Justin Fields will enjoy his first 300-yard day. That’ll be the last we hear of the Nittany Lions in these rankings.
10. Oklahoma (12-1)
The Sooners are still the class of the Big 12. The committee obviously wasn’t overly impressed with the Sooners, but I had them at No. 10, too, and chastised them for a wasted opportunity to impress against Iowa State. The Sooners will move up with a victory this week against Baylor. They’ll need a lot of help — and a lot of points — to overcome the fall.