1. The Committee should have an easy choice for first week of CFB Playoff Rankings
When ESPN releases the first College Football Playoff Rankings, there is little doubt who the top-four teams will be. There are four undefeated Power 5 teams remaining, making the selection of what teams are in thus far relatively easy for the selection committee.
Last year’s national championship participants Alabama and Clemson are joined by Washington out of the Pac-12 and Michigan out of the Big Ten as the lone undefeated teams in the Power 5 conferences. The only mystery will be how the committee lines them up. Alabama is destined to be No. 1, but the committee can go any way from 2-4 with Clemson, Michigan, and Washington.
Each of those teams has a claim to any given seed, but no one can deny those four teams belong in thus far.
Alabama was idle this week, while Michigan, Clemson, and Washington each gained road wins against conference rivals. Michigan avenged last season’s heartbreak loss to Michigan State as the Wolverines pulled away from the Spartans 32-23 in East Lansing. Washington remained undefeated by beating Utah in Salt Lake City 31-24 in what many believe was a Pac-12 Championship Game preview. And Clemson capped the night with a 37-34 win over its archrival Florida State in Tallahassee after the Tigers rallied from an eight-point four quarter deficit.
Meanwhile, five teams fell from the ranks of the unbeaten, including Power 5 teams Nebraska, Baylor, and West Virginia — all losers on the road. There were growing questions each week with the stack of unbeaten and a solid list of one-loss teams. But after Week 9, the puzzle has become clear for the committee as it approaches the first week of rankings.
2. Challenges still ahead for top-four
The season is sorting out — although there is a lot more sorting to go. Clemson controls its own destiny to win the ACC Atlantic division and head to the ACC Championship Game in Orlando by virtue of wins over both Louisville and Florida State. The Tigers have cleared all of its major hurdles, including a win over the red hot Auburn Tigers. Barring any unforeseen hiccups against Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, and South Carolina, the Tigers will be in prime position when it goes to the ACC title game against presumably a dangerous Virginia Tech team.
The remaining three undefeated teams do not share ease as Clemson does for the remainder of the season. The defending champions Alabama still have two huge challenges, beginning Saturday against LSU in Baton Rouge. The Tigers have been on a tear winning three straight after the firing of coach Les Miles.
There was never any doubt LSU has the talent to beat Alabama.With them ridding the dark cloud of Les Miles, interim coach Ed Orgeron has taken the talent at LSU and turned them into a threatening football team behind the wheels of Leonard Fournette and the quarterbacking of Danny Ellering.
If the Tide survives Saturday night’s clash, they still the Iron Bowl at the end of the regular season against Auburn, who have won five straight including beating LSU.
Auburn’s only two losses have been to Texas A&M and Clemson two top-10 teams. Records are tossed out the door whenever Alabama and Auburn collide, but the Tigers are much improved and some would say are a bigger threat to Alabama than LSU is.
Meanwhile, Michigan has been steamrolling through competition but they still have their challenges ahead. Not many expect them to slip against Maryland next week, but the Wolverines have a trip to Iowa City to face the tough Iowa Hawkeyes on Nov. 12. Then they will face an Indiana team that has played just about everyone tough this year before closing the regular season with a trip to Columbus to face Ohio State in what should be a winner takes all Big Ten East battle.
Washington has wins over Stanford, Oregon, and now Utah. But, they have a dangerous trip to Cal next week along with a meeting with USC before closing the season out at Washington State. The Huskies are battle-tested but their last four contests are far from any cupcake and if they are still standing at season’s end no one will doubt their place in the CFB Playoffs.
It may be clear who the four teams best suited for the first week of the CFB Playoffs rankings, but there is still a whole lot of sorting before the final set of rankings are released on Dec. 4.
3. Don’t count out two-loss teams
Despite having two losses, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Auburn, and LSU each have a legitimate chance at making the CFB Playoffs. Yes it seems inconceivable to some, but it’s a great chance. Each of the aforementioned teams has a chance to win their respective conferences and with the exception of Oklahoma, the teams can do so by beating an undefeated or formidable one-loss team in the process.
Virginia Tech controls its own destiny in the ACC Coastal with wins over North Carolina, Miami, and Pittsburgh. If the Hokies win out the remaining of their schedule and then beat Clemson in the ACC title game, how can they get left out of the mix even at 11-2 with losses to Tennessee and Syracuse?
If Auburn runs win out that would mean they would have won the SEC and beat Alabama, LSU, and more than likely one-loss Florida to do so. Their loss to Texas A&M could haunt them, but a trip to the SEC title game would mean the Aggies would have loss once more in conference play. Having an SEC champion left out of the CFB Playoffs is hard to imagine even if it’s with two losses.
For LSU a win over Alabama would put them ahead of the Tide in the SEC West standings and with Texas A&M on the schedule they would only need to win out and have Auburn lose once more to reach the SEC Championship Game. If that happens they would have wins over Alabama and A&M. Again how can an 11-2 SEC champion get left out of the mix, especially in a season there won’t be four undefeated or one-loss teams from the Power 5?
Wisconsin is the best two-loss team in the nation. They’re losses have come to Ohio State and Michigan each by seven points. Wisconsin’s win over Nebraska leaves them one game behind the Cornhuskers in the Big Ten West standings. But, Nebraska still must play at Ohio State and a loss would put Wisconsin in first place. If the Badgers win their final four games and Nebraska loses once more, Wisconsin would get a rematch against either Michigan or Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship. A win, and at 11-2 they would have a strong case for being considered for the Final Four and remember they beat LSU in Week 1.
Oklahoma’s case is murkier than the others, as they don’t have a conference championship game or another undefeated or formidable one-loss team remaining to play. But, the Big 12 has a round-robin and the Sooners are currently the league’s only undefeated team in conference play. If they are able to 9-0 in league play they may have a case.
Remember they lost to Ohio State, but if the Buckeyes’ placement in the CFB Playoffs is a forgone conclusion, meaning the Buckeyes have won the Big Ten beating Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin in the process, and the chips fall with some of other top teams losing, the Sooners could still have a chance to slide in. A lot has to happen, but as we have seen through the first nine weeks, anything is possible.
What the CFB Playoffs has done is force everyone to play each other to build their resume. The return is the odds have increased of having a two-loss team making the playoffs.
4. CFB Playoffs could have non-conference champion
As the case of seeing a two-loss team make the CFB Playoffs, there is just as strong for another first this year. Louisville and Texas A&M are sitting on outside looking in after losing to Clemson and Alabama, respectively. And while both need help to get in their respective conference championship game, neither may need to.
Louisville is one the best five teams in the nation. If Clemson runs the table, and if other teams ahead of the Cardinals fall in the case of having a two-loss team win their league or a major upset like Tennessee beating Alabama in the SEC Championship, the committee may have to accept the possibility of having two teams from the ACC in the playoffs.
Coincidentally, there was chatter of two ACC teams possibly making the playoffs prior to the start of the season, as many thought Florida State and Clemson would have dominating records. Louisville rained on that parade, throttling Florida State earlier this season. And while Clemson beat Louisville 42-36 in Clemson, the Cardinals have seemed to shrug off the defeat. Winning out and having a team or two slip from other conferences may have the Cardinals joining their conference mate Clemson in the Final Four.
Who wouldn’t want to see a rematch of those two on a neutral field?
5. Tennessee is a flop
The clock has struck midnight on Tennessee. After jumping out to a 5-0 start highlighted by close wins over Florida and Georgia, the Volunteers now have lost three straight. On Saturday they were embarrassed by unranked South Carolina 24-21. At a 2-3 record in the SEC, hopes of making it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship are fading.
This was supposed to be their year, but instead the Volunteers are forced to regroup and salvage their season. In the KCM Sports Power Rankings, Tennessee was given the benefit of the doubt after losses to Alabama and Texas A&M as they were ranked 13th. Now after the loss to the Gamecocks, they have plummeted out of the power rankings and they should expect the same treatment from poll voters for the Top 25, who did not hold the Vols at same regard as I did.
KCM Sports Power Rankings ahead of Week 10
- Watching Clemson-Florida State, showed Louisville had no business losing to Clemson a couple of weeks ago. The Cardinals appear to be the better of two teams, and the Cardinals would love their chances to play the Tigers once more. With that said, the Cardinals need help if they want in the top-four that counts.
- Washington continues to prove their case of being the second-best team in the nation. After blowout wins over Stanford and Oregon, the Huskies traveled to Utah and came away with an impressive 31-24 win.
- All is forgiven with Virginia Tech and their inexplicable loss to Syracuse, as the Hokies have rebounded with wins over Miami and Pittsburgh to go along with their win over North Carolina. After beating Pitt, the Hokies jump 13 spots to No. 11.
- The top seven stays the same as last week, but what stands out is Wisconsin. The Badgers will get a huge boost in the polls that will place them near the same spot they have been for some time in the KCM Sports Power Rankings. The Badgers only two losses have come to No. 6 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan by a combined margin of 14. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has wins over No. 9 Nebraska and No. 14 LSU. If they get a crack at the Big Ten Championship Game, they have a great chance to become the first two-loss team to make the CFB Playoffs.
- SEC, Big Ten, and ACC each have five teams in this week’s power rankings. All five SEC teams are in the top 14, while the Big Ten and ACC have four within the top 14. In fact, Washington (No. 2) is the lone top-14 team not from the SEC, Big Ten, or ACC. SEC has always been the top dog, but remember when the narrative was about how weak the Big Ten and ACC were?