The first official College Football Playoff rankings have been released, and the noteworthy news is the handful of one-loss teams that have leap-frogged unbeaten teams. Alabama and Notre Dame are sandwiched between two groups of unbeatens, courtesy of strength of schedule. Some fans applauded the move, liking the idea of rewarding teams facing stronger competition, while others (most likely those fans of teams that were snubbed) disagreed wondering what more they can do than beat everyone on their schedule.
These things have a way of working themselves out, as the upcoming weeks offer a full slate of exciting games. Here’s who is currently in contention to make the CFP:
- Clemson (8-0)
- LSU (7-0)
- Ohio St. (8-0)
- Alabama (7-1)
- Notre Dame (7-1)
- Baylor (7-0)
- Michigan St. (8-0)
- TCU (8-0)
- Iowa (8-0)
- Florida (7-1)
- Stanford (7-1)
- Utah (7-1)
- Memphis (8-0)
- Oklahoma St. (8-0)
- Oklahoma (7-1)
- Florida St. (7-1)
- Michigan (6-2)
- Ole Miss (7-2)
- Texas A&M (6-2)
- Mississippi St. (6-2)
- Northwestern (6-2)
- Temple (7-1)
- UCLA (6-2)
- Toledo (7-0) * Lost to NIU Tuesday night
- Houston (8-0)
3 Teams that will drop:
Ohio St. Buckeyes
The preseason favorite to repeat as CFP champions, the Buckeyes have underwhelmed to say the least. Despite entering the season with an embarrassment of riches on offense, the Buckeyes struggled through the early part of the season and now face off-field concerns around their starting quarterback.
Turnovers and a run defense that has looked porous at times look to be their achilles heel. The late season schedule begins to get more difficult, with games against the plucky Minnesota Golden Gophers and ranked Michigan and Michigan St. teams.
Prediction: Ohio St. will slip against one of those three, and be looking up at the Top 4.
This placement of Baylor in this category is more a product of the fact that the Bears just lost their starting quarterback Seth Russell to a neck injury rather than any flaw in their play. Baylor’s offense might be the most potent in college football; but will it be quite the same with a true freshman at the helm? That’s a tough task, considering Baylor has 3 games against ranked opponents still to go (Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., and TCU).
Odds are there are growing pains, and one of those quality opponents pins a loss on them.
Florida St. Seminoles
The ‘Noles face a tough task this weekend playing at Clemson in the raucous Death Valley. After that, Florida St. plays no one of note until an in-state rivalry game at The Swamp versus the SEC-East-leading Florida Gators the final week of the regular season. Rivalry games are always fun, but there could be quite a bit on the line this year with both teams seeing a resurgence this season.
Winning both of those games on the road seems unlikely, and two losses probably pushes them out of the playoff picture.
3 Teams that will rise:
Oklahoma will face Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma St. before the end of the season. With Baylor suddenly mortal and the game against TCU at home, Oklahoma has an excellent chance to move up the rankings. The flip side is their extremely tough schedule, but Oklahoma has looked absolutely dominant since their lone blemish against the Texas Longhorns.
If the Sooners can continue this level of play they will force their way into the CFP conversation.
The Cardinal have rattled off seven straight wins since an opening day clunker versus Northwestern, and they will look to continue their strong conference play until the last game of the season, when they host #5 Notre Dame. If they can run the table and then take care of business against the Fighting Irish at home, they are poised to benefit from teams in front of them knocking each other off.
Don’t be surprised to see Stanford sneak into the picture late.
Everyone loves a Cinderella and Memphis looks like the best option coming out of the American Athletic Conference, where currently three Top 25 teams reside. With tough road games against Temple and undefeated Houston on the horizon that can bolster their strength of schedule, the Tigers could also sit pretty as the teams in front of them beat one another.
If they stand undefeated at the end of the season it’s hard not to see them making the cut for the top four. They have an offense capable of big plays and defense that has a knack for big stops and crucial turnovers. Assuming both offense and defense show up at the same time they’ll have a chance to surprise a lot of pundits.