The Ohio State victory over Michigan leaves the college football playoff picture an absolute mess.
Alabama is in, but Clemson, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Washington all need to win their conference titles to get in the top four. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes hope to cling to a spot, and Colorado and Oklahoma pray that big wins could prompt a surprise selection.
Receiving Consideration: Iowa, Houston, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Boise State, Tennessee, North Carolina, Troy, Western Kentucky, and Temple.
25. Air Force 9-3 [Defeated Boise State, Last Week NR]—The Falcons, victors over Navy and Boise State, are a heck of a Group of 5 football team despite a midseason slump.
24. Stanford 9-3 [Defeated Rice, Last Week NR]—Quietly, Stanford put together a solid end to its season. The Cardinal were a disappointment this year, but David Shaw is not a coach that will allow his team to grossly underperform.
23. South Florida 10-2 [Defeated Central Florida, Last Week NR]—The steady and remarkable improvement that Willie Taggart has brought to the Bulls has been quite impressive. It’s surprising his name has not been mentioned for new jobs more often.
22. Utah 8-4 [Lost to Colorado, Last Week #20]—Many teams toward the bottom of last week’s top 25 fell, but Utah did so to a better team. The Utes struggled to close the season, but they are still solid.
21. Pittsburgh 8-4 [Defeated Syracuse, Last Week NR]—Wins over top-ten foes Penn State and Clemson put Pittsburgh in rarified air. Moreover, the team was just involved in a record-setting offensive game.
20. LSU 7-4 [Defeated Texas A&M, Last Week NR]—Some would argue that LSU “settled” for Coach O, and there is a valid argument there. Still, the program has some momentum, and their new head man is a good fit and optimistic he can add Lane Kiffin to the fold.
19. Navy 9-2 [Defeated SMU, Last Week NR]—For the first time since 1917, the Midshipmen have posted back-to-back 60+ point games. Coincidentally, Navy is consistently playing better football than they have in decades and could be the AAC champ.
18. Florida 8-3 [Lost to Florida State, Last Week #16]—Few teams want to step up or stay in the “teens” this week with Florida, set for a beatdown in the SEC title game against Alabama, dropping only a couple of spots after a rough night against FSU.
17. Virginia Tech 9-3 [Defeated Virginia, Last Week #23]—Unlike Alabama, Clemson could lose its shot at a playoff with a loss in the conference title game. The Hokies are good enough to be a real threat as a spoiler.
16. Auburn 8-4 [Lost to Alabama, Last Week #14]—Without a healthy Kam Pettway or Sean White, Auburn looked hopeless against Alabama and Georgia. If those two recover in time for a bowl game, the Tigers could be a challenge.
15. West Virginia 9-2 [Defeated Iowa State, Last Week #21]—In an argument, I would not want to be forced to advance the idea that the Mountaineers have beaten anyone of consequence. It’s a tough position to take! Still, West Virginia is a two-loss team that won this week while others faltered.
14. Louisville 9-3 [Lost to Kentucky, Last Week #9]—Losing to a rival is usually somewhat excusable, but not when it is Kentucky. Despite a strong start and the nation’s top player, the Cardinals limping their way to the end of the season.
13. Oklahoma State 9-2 [Bye, Last Week #13]—The Big 12 is utterly awful, and it’s a testament to that fact that the Cowboys, a team with a real shot to win a Power 5 conference title, has absolutely no chance at making the playoff.
12. Florida State 9-3 [Defeated Florida, Last Week #12]—It feels strange to rank the Seminoles ahead of Louisville, but how you finish the season matters. Right now, Florida State looks more like the team it was expected to be at the beginning of the year.
11. USC 9-3 [Defeated Notre Dame, Last Week #15]—Four teams have multiple wins over programs in the top ten: Ohio State, Michigan, Pittsburgh, and USC. Few teams are hotter right now than the team I said was the most talented in the PAC 12 at the beginning of the season.
10. Western Michigan 12-0 [Defeated Toledo, Last Week #10]—After easily beating Toledo, the Broncos are on the verge of a MAC title and undefeated season. Its coach, meanwhile, may be on the verge of a big payday.
9. Michigan 10-2 [Lost to Ohio State, Last Week #3]—The Wolverines are in the conversation for best team in the country. However, unlike the 8 teams ahead of them, Michigan has no chance to be considered for the playoff.
8. Colorado 10-2 [Defeated Utah, Last Week #11]—Its losses—at Michigan and at USC—are worthy, but those are still two defeats. Moreover, this is a program that still has to overcome a perception problem. This team needs a big win over Washington in order to be in the top four, and it is unlikely that the Buffs will qualify even then.
7. Oklahoma 9-2 [Bye, Last Week #7]—If the Sooners beat the Cowboys and win the Big 12 title, there is an argument to be made for their inclusion. However, a three-touchdown loss to Ohio State and 10-point defeat at the hands of a three-loss Houston make it unlikely that this team without a signature win will be included in the playoff.
6. Penn State 10-2 [Defeated Michigan State, Last Week #6]—No team boasts a stronger win on their resume than the Nittany Lions, but they also suffered a humiliating loss to Michigan and a narrow loss to Pittsburgh. James Franklin’s team needs to beat Wisconsin and look good doing it.
5. Washington 11-1 [Defeated Washington State, Last Week #6]—A defeat of Leach’s fighting pirates strengthened the Huskies’ case for a spot in the playoff. Beating the Buffs might just push them over the edge.
4. Wisconsin 10-2 [Defeated Minnesota, Last Week #5]—Washington will make it a difficult choice, but, if Wisconsin wins the Big 10 title, the Badgers have perhaps the strongest case as a playoff team.
3. Clemson 11-1 [Defeated South Carolina, Last Week #4]—Before the season started, Will Muschamp arrogantly proclaimed to Dabo Swinney that the Clemson coach’s wife was hitting on him. At the end of the season, it is Dabo who utterly embarrassed the Gamecocks and Muschamp en route to a likely playoff berth.
2. Ohio State 11-1 [Defeated Michigan, Last Week #6]—A week ago, I wrote that you could flip a coin as to whether Ohio State or Michigan was the better team. The result on the field, an ultra-tight and somewhat controversial double overtime game, proved that to be true. Nevertheless, the victor, OSU, has earned the right to play for a title.
1. Alabama 12-0 [Defeated Auburn, Last Week: #1]—Despite playing a team that once was making a playoff push, making a bunch of mistakes, and playing in an emotionally-charged rivalry game, Alabama made it look easy. I do not anticipate Florida giving the Tide much of a challenge.