With just four weeks remaining, 13 or more teams possess a realistic path to the playoff. A crazy Ohio State victory over Penn State and another Iowa State shocker shook up the landscape a bit.
This week, Penn State-Michigan State, Ohio State-Iowa, Clemson-NC State, Virginia Tech-Miami, Stanford-Washington State, Auburn-Texas A&M, South Carolina-Georgia, Iowa State-West Virginia, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, LSU-Alabama, and Arizona-USC make for an intense grouping of matchups that will either clarify or muddy the picture further.
Receiving Consideration: Michigan (6-2), Washington State (7-2), Boise State (6-2), South Florida (7-1), Toledo (7-1), Northwestern (5-3), Kentucky (6-2), Texas A&M (5-3), SMU (6-2), and West Virginia (5-3)
25. Michigan State 6-2 [Last Week #15: Lost to Northwestern 39-31] —A triple OT loss to a feisty Northwestern team is rough, especially considering Penn State is coming to town followed by a visit to Columbus.
24. NC State 6-2 [Last Week: #17, Lost to Notre Dame 35-14]—The Wolfpack kept it competitive for a litte bit but were eventually overwhelmed by the Fighting Irish. They still have a chance to play spoiler with Clemson at home this week.
23. South Carolina 6-2 [Last Week: NR, Defeated Vanderbilt 34-27]—Will Mushcamp has the Gamecocks as one of the top SEC East teams heading into a key matchup against UGA this week.
22. Mississippi State 6-2 [Last Week NR: Defeated TAMU 35-14] —Despite routes at the hands of Auburn and Georgia, the Bulldogs are handling business against other SEC opponents. Dan Mullen will be a popular candidate as a host of other SEC programs will consider changes.
21. Arizona 6-2 [Last Week: #12, Defeated Washington State 58-37]—A 3 touchdown win over Washington State puts the Wildcats squarely in PAC 12 contention. Beating USC would put them in the divisional driver’s seat.
20. USC 7-2 [Last Week: #24, Defeated Arizona State 48-17]—After easily defeated the Sun Devils, the Trojans now get Arizona at home in a pivotal PAC 12 matchup.
19. Auburn 6-2 [Last Week: #23, BYE]— Auburn’s embattled Gus Malzahn sees a nice jump after an off week. This week’s contest against Texas A&M looks easier, but a trip to College Station is still a challenge.
18. Stanford 6-2 [Last Week: #21, Defeated Oregon State 15-14]—Despite 3 out of 4 games coming at home, Stanford’s remaining schedule is brutal. The Cardinal needs Bryce Love back plus a bounce back after an embarrassingly close game against the abysmal Beavers.
17. Memphis 7-1 [Last Week: #22, Defeated Tulane 56-26]— A beneficiary of the stumbles of others, Memphis is a big riser this week. The Tigers could be on a path toward a rematch against UCF.
16. LSU 6-2 [Last Week: #20, BYE]—LSU is riding so high right now that even an off week moves the Bayou Bengals up 4 spots. However, that likely ends this week when they run into the Crimson Tide.
15. Iowa State 6-2 [Last Week: NR, Defeated TCU 14-7]—Matt Campbell is my still early pick for Coach of the Year as his Cyclones look like giant killers in the Big 12.
14. UCF 7-0 [Last Week: #18, Defeated Austin Peay 73-33]—I am not sure that UCF can make a serious run at the top 4, but their position as one of five remaining undefeated teams makes them intriguing.
13. Oklahoma State 7-1 [Last Week #14, Defeated West Virginia 50-39] —It was what you would expect from these two teams, but the Cowboys emerged on top. Mike Gundy and his team now get Oklahoma at home. This is probably the last team with a realistic shot at making a playoff run.
12. Virginia Tech 7-1 [Last Week: #13, Defeated Duke 24-3]—A huge conference matchup at Miami has major implications nationally as the Hokies still have an opportunity to make a run.
11. Washington 7-1 [Last Week: #12, Defeated UCLA 44-23]—The PAC 12 has the look of the weakest Power 5 conference, and that will hurt Washington’s opportunity to vie for a playoff spot should they win out.
10. TCU 7-1 [Last Week: #7, Lost to Iowa State 14-7]—A rough loss to the surprising Cyclones takes TCU from a clear route to the playoff to a potentially rough ending t0 2017 with a tricky game against Texas and a visit to Oklahoma up next.
9. Miami 7-0 [Last Week: #9, Defeated UNC 24-19]—An utterly unimpressive undefeated team, the Hurricanes have a lot to prove with home games against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame the next two weeks.
8. Clemson 7-1 [Last Week: #8, Defeated Georgia Tech 24-10]—Dabo’s squad is behind the Nittany Lions and the Fighting Irish due to a less impressive loss. Still, this team remains in the hunt.
7. Notre Dame 7-1 [Last Week: #10, Defeated NC State 35-14]—Notre Dame routed a solid NC State team to emerge as a very serious playoff threat. Should the Irish win out, they could leapfrog Penn State and the SEC/Big 10 title losers to earn a top 4 spot.
6. Penn State 7-1 [Last Week: #3, Lost to Ohio State 39-38]— The Nittany Lions are now on the outside looking in, but fans need to stay patient. A narrow loss on the road to an elite team is certainly not a disqualifier. Even without any upsets, there is a path for James Franklin’s team to emerge in the top 4.
5. Wisconsin 8-0 [Last Week: #6, Defeated Illinois 24-10]—The Badgers traditionally struggle to look as dominant as some of their elite Big 10 counterparts, but they just keep winning. This team could be undefeated going into an epic conference title game.
4. Ohio State 7-1 [Last Week: #5, Defeated Penn State 39-38]—A remarkable comeback has the Buckeyes and star QB J.T. Barrett poised for big things. This week’s visit to Iowa cannot be overlooked, but Urban Meyer has this team positioned for the playoff.
3. Oklahoma 7-1 [Last Week: #4, Defeated Texas Tech 49-27]—I’m not sure that Oklahoma would beat OSU again, but the fact that they did puts them in this spot. Back to back contests at Oklahoma State and against TCU will decide the Big 12.
2. Georgia 8-0 [Last Week: #2, Defeated Florida 42-7]— UGA needed just 7 pass attempts from Jake Fromm to defeat the Gators in what was Jim McElwain’s last game as HC.
1. Alabama 8-0 [Last Week: #1, BYE]—After a week off, Alabama hosts LSU in a key SEC West matchup this week.