I don’t even know how to describe this weekend in college football other than: CHAOS.
Alabama dominates Mississippi State early in the day 51–3, then sits back #2 Michigan falls to Iowa, #3 Clemson falls to Pittsburgh and #4 Washington falls to #20 USC. Not to mention #8 Texas A&M blowing a lead to Ole Miss (wait, I thought Ole Miss was the one that was supposed to blow leads) and #9 Auburn falling between the hedges to Georgia.
All in all, it was a crazy day, but the big question is — who is in the playoff now?
The rankings will be released a little later than normal this week (8 pm CST), but we’ll still get them to you live on Primetime some way. But I don’t think anyone can actually predict how things will go because there are legitimately seven or eight teams that can argue to be in those three spots behind Alabama.
Here’s how I think it should play out:
2. Ohio State
The weird thing with Ohio State is that they are actually in a poor position to win the Big 10 championship. Should that hurt them? I don’t think it should, but we know how the committee views conference championships. The way it’s trending now, the Big 10 championship game will be Penn State vs. Wisconsin. Ohio State has to hope that Penn State loses to either Rutgers or Michigan State, aka the two worst teams in the conference. Then of course they have to win out over Michigan as well.
But will that actually hurt them? I don’t think that it should, but could that potentially drop them in the final rankings to fourth if they still make it, behind the ACC champ and someone else, forcing them to play Alabama first. This, like the other teams below, comes down to the eye test, the resume, and flat out — who is the better team?
The Cardinals struggled a bit tonight against Wake Forest, but the Demon Deacons actually are a decent team this year. They came in at 6–3. But still, Louisville won 44–12, so no harm, no foul.
Just like with Ohio State, the story is now — are the Cardinals good enough to be in without a conference title? Clemson still controls their destiny in the ACC, they just need to beat Wake Forest themselves next week. Meanwhile, Louisville is done and has to hope Wake Forest can pull off the upset. They have games against Houston (who isn’t as good as we thought they were at the beginning of the season) and Kentucky (who seems slightly improved, but not THAT much).
And of course the biggest thing hanging over the Cardinals head — they lost to Clemson earlier this season. I’ve maintained that Louisville is the better team overall, despite the fact that they went to Clemson and lost a close game that went down to the wire. Clemson’s loss tonight, and their struggles against Auburn, Troy, NC State and Florida State, all make me continue to think that they are the second best in the conference. However, I understand the committee rewarding Clemson for their head-to-head win.
Still, I have to think Louisville belongs in this spot with them playing better as of late, and with Clemson going down to the wire in three of their last four games with a loss.
It’s hard to only drop Clemson one spot, but as of right now, that head-to-head over Louisville is the best win of the one-loss teams. So even though I’ve put Louisville ahead, it doesn’t mean Clemson should necessarily drop out.
I also look at it from the future, and that Clemson will still most likely win the ACC championship, which the committee rewards. I feel like most people would move Ohio State and Louisville up into the second and third spots, but neither one controls their own destiny to win their conference title, so you have to wonder if that will hurt them in the long run.
With Clemson, they also have the experience of being in the playoff after last season. Deshaun Watson is still a great quarterback, and the team around him is still plenty good. I look at the overall team dynamic for Clemson, and I like the offense for Clemson enough to put them here, but I’m still leaning towards Louisville ahead of them.
Many people might say “but they lost to an unranked team tonight, how can you keep them in the top 4?” It’s definitely a valid argument, but I still think they are the better team of the rest of the one-loss teams, and I’m not ready to move a two-loss team in…yet.
Michigan had the worst loss of the undefeated teams during week 11. I don’t have a lot of respect for Iowa after they lost to North Dakota State (who isn’t even the top team in the FCS anymore) and also lost to Northwestern, Wisconsin and crushed by Penn State.
Michigan doesn’t have any particular factor that wows me, other than the defense is fairly good and Jabrill Peppers is a very talented athlete. I like Harbaugh, and I think his future teams will be really good from the recruiting he’s done, but he’s just not quite there yet.
Part of why I have them ahead of the others though, is that they still do control their own destiny. It’s simple, beat Indiana and Ohio State and you’re in the Big 10 title game. Neither of those games will be easy, obviously Ohio State is looking much better right now, but you still have to give them credit for putting themselves in position to still win the conference and make the playoff.
Their loss actually hurt Ohio State more than it did them, at least as far as the conference title race is concerned, but I still don’t like the loss.
Wisconsin is in a good position. They do have two losses, but they are to Ohio State in overtime, and a 7-point loss at Michigan. That’s why I have them behind those two teams, but they did beat LSU in their non-conference schedule, and beat Nebraska and Iowa.
The two losses will hurt the Badgers, but similar to Auburn leading into this week, they could win out over a decent Minnesota team, then win the Big 10 title game and weasel their way in. They still have this chance, and with Auburn being out of the picture now, it moves them up to sixth in my mind.
Washington was barely hanging on when they were undefeated, and now they they lost, they will definitely drop out. However, they did actually have the best loss of the top 10 teams this week with #20 USC beating them. The Trojans are vastly improved since their opening game against Alabama. They have made the changes necessary to potentially even work their way into a New Years 6 bowl with some more chaos.
However, Washington had no margin for error, and they lost. They are out unless there is even more chaos. We’ll see how they award conference titles when it comes up to a 1-loss Ohio State or Louisville as a non-champion vs. a 1-loss Washington champion.
For now though, Washington has fallen just out of the picture, but not too far. The good thing for Washington (and Clemson and Michigan), is that EVERYONE lost outside of Alabama, but Texas A&M and Auburn lost too, so there isn’t very far to fall back, despite losing.
8. Penn State
Despite their two losses, Penn State actually is better shape than Ohio State due to their head-to-head win. Still, Michigan is the one that controls their destiny, but the way Ohio State has been playing lately compared to how Michigan looked against Iowa, Penn State may be in good position.
Still, the two losses have me leaving them just outside for now. I think you could make the case for them to jump Washington, but that’s about it…for now. Don’t forget, one of their losses is to Michigan (and it was a blowout) and one of them is to Pitt, who beat Clemson today. So while the Pitt loss looks a little better, the Michigan loss looks worse.
Should they win the Big 10, then they have a good argument. But until Ohio State plays Michigan, it’s hard to make a good judgment on Penn State for now.
After the first few weeks of the season, no one would have guessed that Oklahoma would be in the top 10. However, there is no one else to really put here. Their losses to Ohio State an Houston exposed them early in the season, but they have been flawless since. They have had some close games, but still, they are undefeated in the Big 12 and if they win out over West Virginia and Oklahoma State (who are both ranked), they could have a legitimate argument to try and sneak into the playoff.
We wrote out the Big 12 a long time ago, but if a little more chaos happens, I think we could see the Sooners. We could also see West Virginia, who is 8–1 with wins over Missouri and BYU in the non-conference schedule (which wasn’t bad scheduling when it happened), and have only lost once to Oklahoma State on the road.
I think it can come down to the Oklahoma/West Virginia game this coming weekend to determine not only the Big 12 champion, but who would have the best shot at the playoffs.
10. Southern Cal
I know this sounds weird, but they are playing really well right now and I’m not sure anyone else that could fit in this spot would be better than the Trojans. They have made the changes they needed to in order to be successful, and their losses are to Stanford (7–3), #15 Utah (8–2), and of course Alabama in week one. They have beaten Colorado, and of course beat Washington now to have a couple of signature wins.
I thought Colorado might could belong in this spot with a little better record, but USC won head-to-head PLUS I think they are the better team now in the Pac-12. The problem is that Colorado controls their own destiny. The good thing though is that the Buffaloes have Utah and Washington State left, and they could easily lose one of those.
So I’ve got to go with USC in this spot for now.
So what will actually happen? I don’t think many people can correctly guess, with the right logic, because the committee has already changed their criteria from two weeks ago with Texas A&M over Washington to last week with using the exact opposite criteria for putting Washington over Ohio State.
Another question is where will the rest of the SEC teams fall?
I think Texas A&M should fall out of the poll altogether honestly. I know I picked them to win the SEC preseason, but without Trevor Knight and blowing their lead to Ole Miss and losing to both Mississippi schools back to back — they don’t belong in the poll anymore.
Auburn is a little different story. The loss to Georgia was bad, but I don’t think they should fall out of the polls. You’d imagine that Kamryn Pettway will be back for the Alabama game, so they should be able to bounce back a little bit, but then a loss to Alabama will then most likely knock them out to end the regular season.
I also think the polls should give LSU a little more love. They don’t have a ton of signature wins, but their losses (outside of maybe Auburn) aren’t that bad, and they are a different team now than they were with Les Miles. I’ll be interested to see how high they go after a big win on the road over Arkansas that saw Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice combine for almost 400 all-purpose yards alone plus five touchdowns.
Regardless, 8 pm Tuesday night should be fun when the latest college football playoff rankings come out. We’ll discuss this crazy weekend on the next Jox Primetime. Make sure to give us a follow @JoxPrimetime and we’ll take your calls and social media reaction at 6 pm Monday night!