Sean Pendergast

Survivor: College Football Playoff Edition, Version 7.0

Oklahoma's season has nearly gone off the rails the last two weeks.
Screen grab from YouTube
Oklahoma's season has nearly gone off the rails the last two weeks.
After a few weeks of anywhere from moderate to significant shakeup (beyond the three Power Five undefeated teams), this past weekend entailed very little movement in the College Football Playoff race. Honestly, the only result that should affect shuffling within the top ten would be LSU squeaking by Arkansas at home, 24-17. Maybe now we can stop treating LSU like they're a top seven team, even though they have two losses, and drop them a notch or two or three.

This coming week, too, will likely be a week with very little happening in the upper reaches of the playoff rankings. The only one of the nine "surviving" squads with a matchup against a ranked opponent is Notre Dame, who head to Yankee Stadium to face off against surprising Syracuse. Nearly the entire SEC is on a de facto bye week, with almost the whole conference playing Group of Five or FCS schools. Hell, there might be a high school team or two on the SEC docket this weekend, for all we know. Check it out:

The Citadel at Alabama
Middle Tennessee State at Kentucky
Idaho at Florida
Massachusetts at Georgia
Liberty at Auburn
UAB at Texas A&M
Rice at LSU
Chattanooga at South Carolina

I mean... wow. So instead of playing the "survivor" game we normally do here, since everyone is likely to survive, let's do some resume examination for the inevitable beauty contest that will take place for the selection committee in a few weeks. As a point of reference, here are the AP rankings that came out on Sunday morning, which pretty closely mirror how the CFB Playoff rankings should look tonight, when they're released:

1. Alabama(61) 10-0 1525
2. Clemson 10-0 1459
3. Notre Dame 10-0 1406
4. Michigan 9-1 1327
5. Georgia 9-1 1288
6. Oklahoma 9-1 1188
7. West Virginia 8-1 1111
8. Washington State 9-1 1052
9. Ohio State 9-1 1050
10. LSU 8-2 1019
11. UCF 9-0 983
12. Syracuse 8-2 787
13. Texas 7-3 726
14. Utah State 9-1 689
15. Florida 7-3 575
16. Penn State 7-3 542
17. Washington 7-3 501
18. Iowa State 6-3 497
19. Cincinnati 9-1 344
20. Kentucky 7-3 337
21. Utah 7-3 307
22. Boston College 7-3 254
23. Boise State 8-2 147
24. Northwestern 6-4 136
25. Mississippi State 6-4 133

So here are the nine teams remaining in the conversation, with a capsule of information and opinion on each one:

1. ALABAMA (10-0, 7-0)
11/17 vs Citadel, 11/24 vs Auburn, 12/1 SEC Title Game
* Week 4: vs #22 Texas A&M, 45-23
* Week 10: at #3 LSU, 29-0
* Week 11: vs #16 MIss St., 24-0
THE TRUTH: At this point, the only thing that would knock Alabama out of the playoff race would be a loss to Auburn and then a loss in the SEC title game to Georgia, or a standalone blowout loss to Georgia. I think even with a close loss in the SEC title game, Alabama might get in over other one-loss teams outside of the SEC.

2. CLEMSON (10-0, 7-0)
11/17 vs Duke, 11/24 vs South Carolina, 12/1 ACC Title Game
* Week 2: at Texas A&M, 28-26
* Week 5: vs Syracuse, 27-23
* Week 8 : vs #16 NC State, 41-7
* Week 11: at #17 Boston College, 27-7
THE TRUTH: Clemson is likely to face Pitt for the ACC title, which is the type of game that, when they do actually lose a game, Clemson loses. However, I think Clemson is the safest bet to be in the playoff at this point, even safer than Alabama.

3. NOTRE DAME (10-0)
11/17 vs Syracuse (at Yankee Stadium), 11/24 at USC
* Week 1: vs #14 Michigan, 24-17
* Week 5: vs #7 Stanford, 38-17
* Week 6: at #24 Virginia Tech, 45-23
* Week 7: vs Pitt, 19-14
* Week 10: at Northwestern, 31-21
THE TRUTH: Notre Dame is in, if they win out, but given the quality of Syracuse, the rivalry with USC, and the cross country travel in between those two games, the Irish are not out of the woods, by any means. Getting QB Ian Book back this week will help. The question is "What if Notre Dame loses a game?" Well, I don't know how the committee will view them, but I can promise you the narrative on conference title weekend will be "SEE? THIS is why Notre Dame needs to be in a conference!"

4. MICHIGAN (9-1, 7-0)
11/17 vs Indiana, 11/24 at Ohio State, * 12/1 Big Ten Title Game
ONE LOSS: at Notre Dame, 24-17 (Week 1)
* Week 5: at Northwestern, 20-17
* Week 7: vs #15 Wisconsin, 35-13
* Week 8: at #24 Michigan State, 21-7
* Week 10: vs #14 Penn State, 42-7
THE TRUTH: Now comes the beauty contest. Michigan has the best subjective case right now, with a quality loss (Notre Dame), and blowout wins over ranked (even if slightly overrated) foes in the last month. Ohio State in Week 13 is a good chance to make a statement on the road, and they may even get a second chance in the Big Ten title game to beat Northwestern by more than the three points they beat them by back in late September. Only one thing looms as problematic....

5. GEORGIA (9-1, 6-1)
11/17 vs Massachusetts, 11/24 vs Georgia Tech, 12/1 SEC Title Game
ONE LOSS: at LSU, 36-16 (Week 7)
* Week 2: at #24 South Carolina, 41-17
* Week 9: vs #9 Florida, 36-17
* Week 10: at #9 Kentucky, 34-17
* Week 11: vs #24 Auburn, 27-10
THE TRUTH: Michigan has the clear accomplishment equity over Georgia, but Georgia gets the biggest opportunity to impress of any team the rest of the way — an SEC title game matchup with juggernaut Alabama. The Bulldogs resume isn't anything to sneeze at, with their own set of blowout wins over ranked (possibly overrated) teams in the last month, but their loss was a 20-point blowout to LSU, which isn't as impressive as Michigan losing by a touchdown at Notre Dame in Week 1 (even if the score was a bit deceptive, ND carried that game). However, the SEC title game, provided Alabama and Georgia each have zero or one loss, looms as a de facto play-in game for the winner, and a sleepless night for the loser, as the committee ponders resumes.

6. OKLAHOMA (9-1, 6-1)
11/17 vs Kansas, 11/23 at West Virginia, * 12/1 Big XII Title Game
ONE LOSS: vs Texas, 48-45 (Week 6)
* Week 3: at Iowa State, 37-27
* Week 4: vs Army, 28-21 (OT)
* Week 10: at Texas Tech, 51-46
* Week 11: vs Oklahoma State, 48-47
THE TRUTH: Oklahoma has the best chance of standing in and trading offensive blows with Alabama, if they played the Crimson Tide, but it's hard to get past a couple things with the Sooners — their defense stinks (like REALLY stinks), and they are not getting better as the season winds down. They're escaping with their lives the last two weeks. Trajectory matters when you're making these comparisons. Oklahoma definitely deserves to be behind all five teams they trail in the rankings.

7. WEST VIRGINIA (8-1, 6-1)
11/17 at Oklahoma State, 11/23 vs Oklahoma, * 12/1 Big XII Title Game
ONE LOSS: at Iowa State, 30-14 (Week 7)
* Week 5: at #25 Texas Tech, 42-34
* Week 10: at #13 Texas, 42-41
THE TRUTH: West Virginia should jump LSU this week. They may not, but they should, and then ultimately, Oklahoma and the Mountaineers will decide who's better on the field, perhaps twice, if they meet in the conference title game. As I pointed out last week, the Mountaineers' missing that out of conference data point against a solid NC State team (cancelled due to Hurricane Florence) may come back to haunt them.

8. WASHINGTON STATE (9-1, 6-1)
11/17 vs Arizona, 11/23 vs Washington, * 11/30 Pac-12 Title Game
 at USC, 39-36 (Week 4)
* Week 5: vs Utah, 28-24
* Week 8: vs #12 Oregon, 34-20
* Week 9: at #24 Stanford, 41-38
THE TRUTH: Stanford, Washington, and USC falling off this season really hurts the Cougars. They need a ton of help. The problem is that, even if they get help in front of them, a team like...

9. OHIO STATE (9-1, 6-1)
11/17 at Maryland, 11/24 vs Michigan, * 12/1 Big Ten Title Game
ONE LOSS: at Purdue, 49-20 (Week 8)
* Week 3: vs #15 TCU, 40-28
* Week 5: at #9 Penn State, 27-26
* Week 10: vs Nebraska, 36-31
* Week 11: at #18 Michigan State, 26-6
THE TRUTH: ...the Buckeyes could leapfrog them with a win over Michigan... and a team like Notre Dame or Clemson probably doesn't fall below Washington State, even with one loss. To be clear, Ohio State is ranked below Washington State right NOW, but the Buckeyes still have a pulse. The Cougars are all but dead. (And yes, I know part of my Wazzu analysis bled into Ohio State's capsule, but who cares. Screw Ohio State!)

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