As college football viewers, the older we get, the less time we have to spend complete Saturdays vegging out in front of the television from noon until midnight watching college football. In our teenage and college years, this was easily done. The weight of the world was not yet upon us.
However, we get married, we have kids, kids have sporting events to go to, and all of a sudden, you get to watch like one half of one game on a Saturday. (It's sad, really.) But even for the busiest of folk, there is still one random Saturday where the schedule lays out perfectly and you can relive your glory days of sloth by spending a whole day doing nothing but eating, drinking, farting, and watching college football. It's just the math, it HAS to happen once a season, right?
I say all that to say if this past Saturday happened to be your ONE Saturday of sloth, College Football Sofa Fan, then my thoughts and prayers go out to you, because the weekend before Thanksgiving sucks in terms of drama and meaningful games. Virtually the entire SEC is playing J.V. games before rivalry weekend, and the other conferences didn't serve up anything to fill the void.
As a result, we expect very few changes in this week's College Football Playoff ranking. We will still do a level set on where we are heading into rivalry weekend, but I also want to answer an important question about the nation's top ranked team, the Alabama Crimson Tide — has Alabama clinched a playoff spot?
Let's answer that while we examine where we are heading into what promises to be a gigantic weekend of Thanksgiving football. (NOTE: Rankings below are this week's AP rankings for each team.)
The First Four
1. ALABAMA (11-0, at Auburn)
2. MIAMI, FL (10-0, at Pitt)
3. OKLAHOMA (10-1, vs West Virginia)
4. CLEMSON (10-1, at South Carolina)
Nothing occurred with any of these teams, nor with the teams just below them, that should move these rankings in any way. It's important to note that the playoff committee actually has Clemson second overall and Oklahoma fourth. (Miami, like the AP, is ranked third in the playoff rankings.) All four of these teams control their own destiny, and it's possible that Alabama has almost clinched a playoff spot without winning another game. Here's how — while the Tide doesn't have a "signature win" (that was supposed to be Florida State in the season opener, but the Seminoles' bottom fell out when they lost their QB in that opener), they have thumped everyone on their schedule, except Texas A&M and Mississippi State, whom they beat by eight and seven points, respectively on the road. That's a nice resume, and Alabama is a blue blood program (which subconsciously matters to the committee).
If the Tide loses to Auburn in a close game, and goes 11-1, they could get in the same way Ohio State did last season, without even playing in the conference title game. If they beat Auburn and lose a close SEC title game to Georgia, I think Alabama at 12-1 would get in. So these two loss teams like Ohio State (or teams in danger of being a two loss team, like Clemson) really need Bama to win out and remove Auburn and Georgia from the playoff conversation.
The Next Two
5. WISCONSIN (11-0, at Minnesota)
6. AUBURN (9-2, vs Alabama)
All due respect to Minnesota, Wisconsin's season boils down to one game — beat Ohio State, go undefeated, and the Badgers are in. Auburn needs to beat Alabama this weekend, and then beat Georgia again in the conference title game. If they do, they're in.
One More In Control Of Their Destiny
7. GEORGIA (10-1, vs Kentucky, at Georgia Tech)
Crazy to think that you can lose 40-17 in mid-November and still control your own destiny, but the Bulldogs are in that exact scenario. Georgia Tech is a tricky game this weekend, though. Defending the triple option the week before a conference title game is not ideal.
The One That Won't Die
8. OHIO STATE (9-2, at Michigan)
Ok, let's see where the Buckeyes are on their to-do list to infuriate America and make the College Football Playoff...
1. They must convincingly roll through their final two games.
One down (Illinois), one to go (Michigan).
2. They must thrash Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.
3. They need Alabama to roll through the SEC.
4. They need Oklahoma to win out in the Big XII.
5. Have the Clemson-Miami loser lose soundly enough to go away.
The rest of these will all play out over the next two weeks.
On Life Support
10. TCU (9-2, vs Baylor)
TCU was impressive as you can be in the spot they were in, following a loss in Norman by going up to Lubbock and holding the Texas Tech Red Raiders to just THREE points! That's the lowest output for Tech in a game since 2006. The Horned Frogs need several specific outcomes to happen, and probably not just win/loss outcomes, but may need some of the teams in front of them to lose in resounding fashion, but for now, if they beat Baylor and impressively avenge their loss to the Sooners, the Frogs have a chance.
9. NOTRE DAME (9-2, at Stanford)
Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, this is my alma mater we are discussing here, but could Notre Dame still make the playoff, even with a 33 point loss to Miami just two weeks ago? Well, to answer the latter part, it seems almost every team with a loss has a BAD loss — Clemson losing to Syracuse, Georgia getting blown out by Auburn, Ohio State getting blown out by Iowa, TCU getting thrashed by Oklahoma.
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So aside from winning their remaining game against Stanford, what other SEMI-REASONABLE outcomes would Notre Dame need to have happen in order to nab a spot? I would say, if you're a Notre Dame fan, root for the following:
1. Alabama steamrolling Auburn and Georgia, like destroy them both by 20-plus points.
2. Georgia Tech rising up and running the option on Georgia to death, just to be safe and give the Bulldogs THREE losses, since the Irish lost to Georgia in Week 2 by one point.
3. Michigan rising up in their rivalry game and beating Ohio State, and then Ohio State beating Wisconsin by four touchdowns in the Big Ten title game. That would effectively eliminate the Big Ten from the playoff.
4. Hope that Washington beats Washington State this weekend, so Stanford gets to play in the Pac-12 title game, and you'd be guaranteed to say "Hey, we beat the Pac-12 champ!" since USC would play Stanford for the conference crown.
5. I think, barring Pitt beating Miami, Notre Dame is kind of screwed in jumping the Canes, so root for Miami to win out convincingly. Better to have your one bad loss to an undefeated Canes squad.
6. Hope TCU wins the Big XII and the committee sees your resume as better than the Frogs. Since leaving out the Big XII champ is kind of an annual tradition, that could very well happen.
So there you go... maybe the Irish aren't dead. (What am I saying... yes, they are.)
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.