Week 12 CFP Rankings: It's Alabama and everybody else right now
Last week, the College Football Playoff committee gave us a top four of Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington.
They were surely the easiest selections that the voters have had to make in three years of existence. We had only four undefeated teams left from Power 5 conferences. Rank them accordingly, move on with the day.
But as this sport we all know and love tends to do, it threw a grenade on the proceedings despite what had the feeling of a ho-hum Saturday. Clemson lost at home. Michigan lost as a heavy favorite. Washington lost in most embarrassing fashion considering the fact that College GameDay had made the 2,900-mile trip from Bristol to Seattle.
When it was all said and done, only defending national champion Alabama was left standing. The Crimson Tide laughed at the notion of an upset and throttled Mississippi State by seven touchdowns at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Here are my four most important takeaways from the third installment of the CFP rankings. The committee appears to have gotten it right again.
Despite the fact that Michigan lost to an unranked Iowa team on the road, it retained the No. 3 position in the rankings.
Clemson also wasn’t hurt all that much, only falling from No. 2 to No. 4, even though its loss came to unranked Pittsburgh at home. The Tigers have played with fire most of the 2016 and finally got burned, but the scar appears to be superficial.
Voters gave us even more evidence to suggest that head-to-head results matter. Because Clemson owns a victory over Louisville, the Cardinals will have that much tougher of a time jumping the Tigers — even if they destroy Houston this coming Saturday — assuming they each finish the schedule with one defeat.
Being a conference champion matters, too. No conference champions have been crowned yet, of course. But both Clemson and Michigan control their own destiny in the ACC and Big Ten, respectively. Louisville needs help.
It’s natural to assume that late-season losses are killers in the CFP rankings. However, Michigan and Clemson still have great résumés.
bucking the trend
Ohio State is comfortably No. 2, even with the very real possibility that it doesn’t even play for a conference championship.
If the Buckeyes beat Michigan at home to close out the regular season, they could finish tied atop their division with Penn State. The problem is that the Nittany Lions upset OSU and own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Assuming Ohio State wins its next two games and posts an 11-1 record — with its only loss coming to a 10-2 Penn State on the road — it will be interesting to see what the committee does after all these conferences play their championship games. The Buckeyes will have one fewer opportunity to impress voters.
If mano-a-mano results matter, then a two-loss Nittany Lions squad could conceivably jump OSU if they win out and beat Wisconsin to claim the Big Ten title. A one-loss Washington that recovers to win the Pac-12 championship could, too.
Still, as I’ve written before, this is a television show. Urban Meyer and Co. are a national brand that draws ratings.
get out of jail free
Since Alabama has already clinched the West, its next two games against Chattanooga and Auburn are borderline meaningless.
As far as Chattanooga is concerned, the Crimson Tide could start their scout teams on both sides of the football and win comfortably. The Mocs are coming off a 36-28 defeat to Wofford. They also lost 22-14 to The Citadel earlier this year.
Because Auburn was upset at Georgia in Week 11, the Iron Bowl will have no effect on who goes to the SEC Championship Game — it’s ‘Bama, no matter what. Therefore, the Tide could fail to show up entirely and still make reservations for Atlanta. If anything, it might even be wise to take their foot off the gas against the Tigers.
If Alabama wraps up the SEC with a 13-0 record, that squad is going to the College Football Playoff in the pole position. The funny thing is that a 12-1 Crimson Tide club that captures a conference title probably does, too.
Coach Nick Saban and Co. have built up a lot of equity. An upset by Auburn wouldn’t derail them off their present course.
one and done
With Auburn’s loss this past Saturday between the hedges, the SEC can say goodbye to its dream of getting two teams in the playoff.
While the Big Ten currently has four of the top eight teams in the CFP rankings, the best conference in America has Alabama at No. 1 and then a pair of Tigers — Auburn and LSU — at 15th and 16th, respectively.
Two programs are still mathematically alive in the East, but Tennessee is only No. 19. Florida is even lower at No. 23, probably due to its head-to-head loss to the Volunteers. Even if the Vols can find a way to Atlanta for a rematch with the Crimson Tide, getting even wouldn’t be enough to make the Final Four.
The Gators have a better chance to raise some eyebrows. They finish the regular season with LSU and Florida State, both on the road, so those could be two monster victories. ‘Bama would be next in the league title game.
Does this version of Florida look like it has what it takes to beat the Bayou Bengals, Seminoles and Tide in consecutive weeks? I didn’t think so.