Baylor, Stanford, LSU, and Utah all suffered rough losses on Saturday, and only the Bears hold any hope of getting back into the playoff discussion.
The top 11 teams plus #14 TCU all see a path to the top four. Surprisingly, the two conferences thought to be at the top of the heap (the SEC and PAC 12) going into the season boast a combined two teams remaining in the hunt with both being from the SEC and still set to play each other. The ACC (2), Big 10 (3), and Big 12 (4) dominate the landscape of teams with somewhat viable playoff hopes.
25. Arkansas (6-4)—I am no fan of Bret Bielema, but for the second straight season the man has his Hogs playing great football at the end. Very, very few teams play better right now.
24. Washington State (7-3)—Mike Leach is a weird dude, but he is finding a way to win at hapless Washington State. That is impressive.
23. USC (7-3)—The Trojans deserve credit for getting to seven wins. The lure of LA is likely to shine brightly for some coach this offseason.
22. Wisconsin (8-2)—They have been very quiet about it, but the Badgers have put together a strong season. Though it technically means absolutely nothing, this week’s contest between Wisconsin and Northwestern means a lot to these two teams.
21. Oregon (7-3)—Remember Oregon? Yeah, those Ducks that were supposed to compete for the title. A disappointing season got a nice gift when the team was able to eliminate adversary Stanford from the playoff.
20. Northwestern (8-2)—It’s easy to overlook the Wildcats, but Pat Fitzgerald and crew have put together a very impressive season. They travel to Wisconsin this week, and a win there could make this a season to remember for the program.
19. Utah (8-2)—The Utes’ loss to Arizona stings, but the fact that the rest of the conference can’t sort itself out comes as a blessing.
18. Navy (8-1)—Circle that game against Houston as it will be one to watch. Keenan Reynolds has enjoyed a spectacular college career and this season seems a fitting way to honor what he has accomplished.
17. LSU (7-2)—That was humiliating. LSU was owned at the line of scrimmage for the second straight week, and this team has been exposed. All along, I said they were overrated, and that has held true. Alabama is the SEC’s saving grace in a year when the conference looks quite pedestrian.
16. Florida State (8-2)—For the Seminoles, this season is now about ruining Florida’s. Once again, that rivalry game will really mean something as it will trail only Ohio State-Michigan and Oklahoma-Oklahoma State in significance this year.
15. Stanford (8-2)—The Cardinal will have a tough time swallowing that loss, but the PAC 12 will certainly have a more difficult time. That conference is reeling after touting itself as college football’s best heading into the season.
14. TCU (9-1)—A six-point victory over an 0-10 Kansas team and an injury to Trevone Boykin does not leave the Horned Frogs with much confidence heading into an elimination game against Oklahoma.
13. Michigan (8-2)—As a Michigan fan, are you actually rooting for the Buckeyes to win so that your team, not the Spartans, can be the one to ruin their drive for a repeat? If not for that crazy loss to Michigan State, that rivalry game would match, and maybe even exceed, the hype of the 2013 Iron Bowl.
12. Houston (10-0)—If you are a fan of expanding the playoff, then Houston is your friend. The Cougars are poised to go undefeated, and, should they do so, would have beaten some very solid football teams.
11. North Carolina (9-1)—Seemingly out of nowhere, the Tar Heels are probably in a better playoff position than many ranked higher. Winning out almost certainly puts this team in the playoff, and that dominant performance on Saturday will certainly get people talking.
10. Baylor (8-1)—Without their star quarterback, the Bears now have to get by Oklahoma State, TCU, and Texas to even be mentioned as a possible playoff team again. The dropoff with Stidham at the helm looks like it has doomed the Bears.
9. Michigan State (9-1)—That was fast. One week after a tough loss to lowly Nebraska, the Spartans find themselves back in control of their own playoff destiny. If they can manage to beat Ohio State, Penn State, and Iowa, this team will not likely be kept out of the playoff. Easier said than done, though.
8. Florida (9-1)—The Gators have kept winning, but they would do well to earn more style points than have been won the last two weeks in lackluster wins against Vandy and South Carolina. Still, it is hard to see the Gators being kept out of the playoff if they manage to beat Alabama.
7. Oklahoma (9-1)—I never would have thought the Sooners would be in this position after that loss to Texas, but here they are. Defeating Baylor put them in a prime position to make a run for the playoff. A wounded TCU team stands between them and a matchup against Oklahoma State that could act as a de facto quarterfinal.
6. Notre Dame (9-1)—Yes, Notre Dame took care of business against Wake Forest, but the Oregon upset over Stanford has to have the Fighting Irish hanging their heads. They needed that potential win to look as impressive as possible. Even so, this is still a team likely to be in the playoff should they win out.
5. Iowa (10-0)—Could the Hawkeyes be the team of destiny? The unexpected undefeateds need only get by Purdue and Nebraska for a shot at Ohio State, the Big Ten title, and a playoff berth.
4. Oklahoma State (10-0)—After squeaking by against lowly Iowa State, there’s reason to question whether the Cowboys can handle the pressure of such a lofty ranking. With Baylor and Oklahoma still on the horizon, we will find out very soon.
3. Alabama (9-1)—As much as I think records matter and have a truly difficult time putting a one-loss team ahead of undefeated Power 5 programs, the Tide look like the best team in college football right now. Florida remains the toughest roadblock on the schedule, but it’s hard to imagine this front seven allowing anyone to threaten a victory.
2. Ohio State (10-0)—The Buckeyes have not lost since the opening week of 2014, and their defense has not allowed more than 14 points in more than a month. That counts for something, and, in this case, that something is the #2 ranking. Can they keep it? That remains to be seen.
1. Clemson (10-0)—Watching the Tigers does not inspire awe, but this team has the best resume in college football right now. Getting past North Carolina in the likely ACC title-game matchup looks increasingly difficult, but this team likely competes in the playoff.