In the last two weeks we have witnessed games that have had quite the impact in the College Football Playoff rankings. In Week 10 Clemson showed its dominance with a win over Florida State; the Tigers’ only real chance to lose in what is left of the season. The Crimson Tide was ranked No. 4 when they took down No. 2 LSU, dropping LSU to just inside the top 10. Michigan State traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, to take on the unranked Cornhuskers and lost, dropping the Spartans six spots to No. 13. Oklahoma State defeated TCU, removing the Horned Frogs from the top 10, and moving the undefeated Cowboys closer to playoff contention.
Week 11 brought another slew of game changers. No. 10 Utah lost to unranked Arizona. LSU fell for the second week in a row, to an Arkansas team who beat Ole Miss the week prior. The Tigers have moved from No. 2 to No. 15 within two weeks. The undoubted favorite in the Pacific-12, Stanford, lost to the Oregon Ducks, solidifying the Pac-12’s fate of having a two-loss conference champion. Finally, Oklahoma beat No. 6 Baylor to make the Bears’ path to the playoffs even more difficult than it already was.
Two weeks ago when the first rankings were released I said not to let the rankings bother you, it was early and there was still a lot of football to be played. Going into Week 10, there were 11 undefeated teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Currently there are five and none from two power five conferences, the SEC and the Pac-12. I can’t say that the CFP rankings released this past Tuesday make any more of a difference, but as we wind down the regular season, what the committee is saying does tend to have more of an impact. We all want to see where our teams stand and if our top-four picks coincide with the committee.
The final ranking will be released on Dec. 6, and that is the only one that matters. It’s the one that seals each team’s fate for the season, and Week 12 is going to have a huge say.
This week there is a high chance that two more teams could be receiving their first loss. Week 12 welcomes six games between two ranked opponents, two of which have both teams in the top 10.
First there is No. 9 Michigan State traveling to Columbus to take on the No. 3 and undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes. The biggest thing the Buckeyes and Spartans have had to answer to this season is weakness of schedule. Neither team has gone up against top-notch programs, and the Spartans fell to unranked Nebraska. This game is the end all for either team as the loser will automatically be removed from playoff conversation.
The Buckeyes have the Spartans this week, followed by a trip to the Big House to take on the Michigan Wolverines on Nov. 28. If the Buckeyes close out the regular season undefeated and then add a win against the undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big 10 championship, Ohio State has every right to be in the top four. If Michigan State wins out, a controversial loss to the Cornhuskers would almost definitely have to be overlooked to send the Spartans to the playoffs.
No. 10 Baylor is on the road at Boone Pickens Stadium, where both teams need a win to remain in the top 10. Oklahoma State comes into the game at No. 6 and is the only undefeated team remaining in the Big 12. Even if the Cowboys win, they have a season closer at home against state rival No. 7 Oklahoma on Nov. 28. Like OSU, Baylor would need to win out to potentially make the playoffs. If Baylor loses to the Cowboys, it would be the Bears’ second straight loss; but if they win, they end their season on the road at TCU.
The Big 12 has been the talk of the town for the last two weeks and it will continue for the next two weeks. An extremely backlogged schedule created this mess or in a way “blessing” for the college football playoff committee. No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 18 TCU are also in “do-or-die” mode in Week 12 with the loser out of the top four guaranteed. A TCU loss and potential drop out of the top 25 would devalue the entire Big 12 conference.
No. 15 LSU and No. 22 Ole Miss fight to stay in the top 25. No. 24 University of Southern California needs a win against No. 23 Oregon to win the Pac-12 South. The Ducks need a win, and a Stanford loss, to win the North.
No. 20 Northwestern travels to No. 25 Wisconsin in a fight to stay in bowl contention — but in all reality their outcome matters more to No. 5 Iowa than anyone else. The Hawkeyes’ resume depends on how both of these teams finish the season.
Every week the committee leaves college football fans confused and with way too many questions floating around in their heads. This week is no different.
Clemson is undefeated and has proved itself with wins over Notre Dame and Florida State but does the SEC team truly deserve the No. 1 spot? Sure a spot in the top four, but No. 1?
No. 2 Alabama and the SEC excel where the Big 10 falls short, strength of schedule. The Crimson Tide worked its way into that top spot with a win over LSU, but with the Tigers falling two times in a row does that win still hold that much weight? Also, who can forget Alabama’s loss to current No. 22 Ole Miss? Heads up: after their loss to Arkansas, the Rebels dropped out of the top 25. They’re only back in because they had a bye in Week 11.
Speaking of Ole Miss, how did they manage a jump in the rankings after a bye week while TCU made a drop following a win over Kansas? The Jayhawks have been considered the worst power five football team, with only Oregon State being mentioned in the same sentence, but a win is a win and a bye is a bye. TCU dropped three spots.
Perhaps the biggest question following this weeks ranking is No. 13 Utah being ranked one spot behind No. 12 Michigan. The Wolverines are coming off a Week 11 win over unranked Indiana, but the game went into double overtime and could have easily went either way. Michigan didn’t prove itself in any spectacular way. In fact putting themselves in the double overtime position with an unranked opponent is pretty equivalent to a loss.
Like the Wolverines, the Utes also found themselves in a double overtime situation against an unranked team in Week 11, but Utah lost. The difference is Utah lost to previously ranked Arizona, but Michigan beat never ranked Indiana.
Finally, how does Baylor remain in the top 10 after a loss to Oklahoma when TCU dropped nine spots after losing to Oklahoma State? The Horned Frogs lost to the Cowboys by 20 points whereas the Bears lost to the Sooners by 10. That’s a 10-point difference, but the bigger loss came by an undefeated opponent.