Sean Pendergast

Survivor: College Football Playoff Edition, Version 2.0

Tom Herman has the Longhorns in the conversation for big things in 2018.
Photo by Jack Gorman
Tom Herman has the Longhorns in the conversation for big things in 2018.
Let's rewind to Labor Day weekend, Week 1 of the college football season, and let's focus on two specific schools. First, we have the University of Texas. That weekend, they were busy gifting Maryland a win for the second straight season, a Maryland team that was in turmoil with an interim head coach and a program in the midst of an internal investigation of the coaching staff's training methods. Texas' season seemed over after one week.

Then we have Auburn, coming into the season with plenty of juice and high hopes. In perhaps the marquee matchup of Week 1, the Tigers knocked off Pac-12 power University of Washington, and with plenty of SEC schedule equity to come in the future weeks, Auburn was a chic pick to find their way into the four team playoff at season's end.

Fast forward five weeks, and Texas has righted the ship, winning five straight and defeating TCU and Oklahoma in the Big XII. Meanwhile, Auburn just picked up its second SEC loss of the year, a 23-9 disaster against Mississippi State, and their playoff hopes are dashed. My point is that in college football, life can come at you pretty fast, and your season isn't over, in a good or bad way, after one week.

Let's get to this week's playoff snapshot. First, here are this week's AP Top 25 rankings:

1. Alabama(59) 6-0 1522
2. Georgia 6-0 1426
3. Ohio State(1) 6-0 1420
4. Clemson(1) 6-0 1331
5. Notre Dame 6-0 1315
6. West Virginia 5-0 1174
7. Washington 5-1 1098
8. Penn State 4-1 1097
9. Texas 5-1 956
10. UCF 5-0 917
11. Oklahoma 5-1 879
12. Michigan 5-1 875
13. LSU 5-1 794
14. Florida 5-1 719
15. Wisconsin 4-1 710
16. Miami 5-1 591
17. Oregon 4-1 505
18. Kentucky 5-1 485
19. Colorado 5-0 419
20. NC State 5-0 342
21. Auburn 4-2 335
22. Texas A&M 4-2 257
23. South Florida 5-0 144
24. Mississippi State 4-2 136
25. Cincinnati 6-0 114 
Ok, with LSU's loss to Florida (they were my two seed last week), here are my four playoff teams, as of today:

1. ALABAMA: Another game where they were just scoring at will, although the defense was slightly leaky against Arkansas, but this team is so good, we are nitpicking a 65-31 win on the road. Missouri will be an interesting test for the Crimson Tide defense this week, as possible first round pick QB Drew Lock can move the football.

2. OHIO STATE: Here's Ohio State's schedule over the next five weeks — vs Minnesota, at Purdue, vs Nebraska, at Michigan State, at Maryland. In other words, the Buckeyes whole regular season comes down to the Michigan game. That could be a playoff elimination game for both teams.

3. NOTRE DAME: The Irish passed their biggest road test of the season, outscoring Virginia Tech 28-7 in the second half of a 45-23 win over the Hokies. The biggest test the Irish have remaining is more the nuance of the schedule than the opponents themselves. In the final five weeks of the season, the Irish travel to San Diego (Navy, neutral site), Chicago (at Northwestern), South Bend (Florida State at home), New York City (Syracuse at Yankee Stadium), and finally to LA (at USC). They'll be favored in all of those games.

4. CLEMSON: We swap out one set of Tigers (LSU) for this set of Tigers, after Clemson racked up a 63-3 win over Wake Forest. Their stiffest remaining regular season test is next weekend against currently undefeated N.C. State. They are the most resume-challenged of the potentially undefeated teams remaining.


GEORGIA: The Bulldogs are the second best team in the country, and I have them out of the playoff right now, but they play ranked teams in the next four games, starting with LSU in Baton Rouge this weekend, so this will take care of itself.

WEST VIRGINIA: When I say the Mountaineers control their own destiny, it's because I have faith that there won't be four other undefeated teams, should West Virginia win the Big XII.

LSU: Despite the loss to Florida, LSU still controls its own destiny toward being a one-loss SEC champion. Of course, they'd have to beat Alabama, but still....

KENTUCKY: Same with Kentucky, the A&M loss does not hinder their goal of winning the SEC, since the loss was to an opponent in the other division. That means with just one loss, they would still win all head to head tiebreakers in the SEC East.


WASHINGTON: Washington hasn't been terribly impressive, yet here they sit at number seven in the AP poll. Auburn continuing to slide is making that close loss in Week 1 less impressive. Games against Oregon and Colorado the next two weeks should be fun.

FLORIDA: Huge win for the Gators over LSU, although for some reason, the pollsters still have them behind the Tigers, but whatever. They need Kentucky to lose another game (I'd say that's likely, considering they have to play Georgia still) to remove them from the head to head conversation, and obviously need to win out.

TEXAS: Man, that loss to Maryland. Yuck. However, if the Longhorns win out and then beat Oklahoma a second time in the Big XII title game, they would be near the front of the line of one-loss teams.

OKLAHOMA: Same with Oklahoma, if they get back to the Big XII title game with one loss and exact revenge on the Horns, they will be near the front of the line.

MICHIGAN: Michigan is another team, like Texas, that people were burying after a Week 1 loss to Notre Dame. Turns out that they have the "best loss" of all the one loss teams, on the road to a top 5 team. The Wolverines schedule is significantly more difficult than Ohio State's between now and their season finale, with home games against Wisconsin and Penn State sandwiching a road game against Michigan State in the next few weeks.

WISCONSIN: Wisconsin will have plenty of chances to impress over the rest of the season, with road games at Michigan and Penn State, and a potential Big XII title game against Ohio State. That should pretty much cancel out a home loss to BYU, if they run the table.


PENN STATE: Losses in division as a killer when the loss is to Ohio State. Penn State needs to win out and get two losses by the Buckeyes just to get to the Big XII title game. They're basically dead.

UCF: Undefeated and into the Top 10, I hope UCF keeps winning so we have a "little guy" storyline in November.

MIAMI: A one loss ACC champion is going to need SO much help this season. The ACC stinks.

OREGON: Big one this weekend against Washington, as they can begin mitigating the damage from the disastrous collapse against Stanford three weeks ago.

COLORADO: The Buffaloes day of reckoning comes next week against Washington.

N.C. STATE: The Wolfpack's obit should come in two weeks, after the Clemson game. Speaking of obits....


AUBURN: Going back to the end of last season, the Tigers are now 3-4 in their last seven games against FBS schools, and there might be three more losses (Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama) on this schedule. Again, life comes at you pretty fast.

STANFORD: As it turns out, the first 45 minutes of the Oregon game told us what we need to know — this year's Stanford team is very average. That gift of a win was followed up by blowout losses to Notre Dame and Utah. The Cardinal's playoff hopes are done.

MICHIGAN STATE: Loss to Northwestern. Done.

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