College Football Playoff Rankings: Is The Big XII Nervous Yet?

So far, so good on the presentation of the build up to the second year of the College Football Playoff. Maybe it's because my school (go Irish) is prominently featured, right smack dab in the mix for one of the coveted four spots, but when the rankings are announced at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday evenings, my co-hosts and I are out the door to our studio and into our program director's office to see the weekly unveiling. 

And if I may say, too, the rankings are a godsend for talk radio content, especially because the committee seems to be all-in on trolling the entire state of Texas, what with their glass ceiling on the Big XII and their utter disregard for anything Houston has done in their first nine games. 

So let's get to this week's rankings, with a few of my thoughts afterward….

1. Clemson 9-0 
2. Alabama 8-1 
3. Ohio State 9-0 
4. Notre Dame 8-1 
5. Iowa 9-0 
6. Baylor 8-0 
7. Stanford 8-1 
8. Oklahoma State 9-0 
9. LSU 7-1 
10. Utah 8-1 
11. Florida 8-1 
12. Oklahoma 8-1 
13. Michigan State 8-1 
14. Michigan 7-2 
15. TCU 8-1 
16. Florida State 7-2 
17. Mississippi State 7-2 
18. Northwestern 7-2 
19. UCLA 7-2 
20. Navy 7-1 
21. Memphis 8-1 
22. Temple 8-1 
23. North Carolina 8-1 
24. Houston 9-0 
25. Wisconsin 8-2 

Ok, let's break down where we are here, knowing full well that in the second week of last season's rankings, the eventual national champion was still sitting outside the top ten:

1. The "win and in" group
I think right now there are four teams who truly, 100 percent control their own destiny: Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, and… wait for it…. Florida! Clemson has virtually nothing left on the schedule, but if they just take care of their business, the resume they've built to this point will put them in the top four. It may not be enough to keep the one seed, but who cares. Alabama will get in if they win out, because the SEC is the one conference that has a de factor mulligan built in for its champion. Ohio State is the three seed right now and hasn't even played its three hardest games (Michigan State, Michigan, Big Ten championship game). As for Florida, even though they're the 11th ranked team, they are already locked into the SEC Title Game and have an out of conference game against Florida State Thanksgiving weekend. If they win the SEC and beat the Seminoles, that should be enough to get them in. I can't imagine a 12-1 SEC champ misses the playoff. 

2. The "slight help" group
Notre Dame and Stanford are sitting at 4th and 7th, and they play each other on November 28. The winner of that game would have a great case for a spot regardless of how things play out everywhere else, but neither are a stone cold lock right now if they win out. Iowa is undefeated, but given that they play almost nobody in their conference games (no Michigan, MSU, Ohio State, or Penn State), they may need Ohio State to be undefeated in the Big Ten title game just to be certain that 13-0 gets them in. Beating an undefeated Ohio State is better than beating a one-loss whoever-it-is. To be clear, I think if Iowa knocks off an undefeated Ohio State and runs the table, they're in. LSU can still work its way back in with games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M remaining, if they get help from one of Alabama's opponents. Then there's….

3. The Big XII conundrum 
I think that the winner of the Baylor-Oklahoma State game, if that team goes undefeated, gets into the group of four. I THINK. I'm still not totally sure, though. I'm like 95.2 percent sure, but still, I think we need to be mindful of a couple things. First, the committee seems to have a definite bug up its ass about Baylor's scheduling habits, and I agree with the committee. Screw you for scheduling the weak, Baylor. Also, they're keeping one foot on the brakes with Oklahoma State, who made a big move this week after a 20 point trouncing of TCU, but still sits behind three one loss teams and a Baylor team that's accomplished nothing, relatively speaking. Could an undefeated Big XII champ get left out? I'm leaving that door cracked open for now.

4. The "lots of help" group
Utah can still win the Pac-12 and go 12-1, which would mean wins over UCLA and Stanford to add to their resume. Oklahoma has a ton of equity left on the schedule with Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma State remaining, but that loss to Texas is a huge problem, especially if Notre Dame is still in front of them with one loss. The Irish beat Texas 38=3. Michigan State, oddly enough, after getting screwed against Nebraska, still controls its own destiny to win the Big Ten. Would wins over undefeated Ohio State and undefeated Iowa in the Big Ten title game be enough to get them into the playoff? 

5. The "like support fringe"
You can still cobble together scenarios for Michigan, TCU, and Mississippi State, but they require a lot of things to happen. A LOT OF THINGS. 

6. Houston disrespect
The Cougars' win over Cincinnati meant basically nothing to the committee. Memphis lost by 25 at home to Navy, and they're still three sits ahead of the Coogs. If the goal is getting into one of the big six bowl games, it should all work out fine if Houston wins out. They likely play all three AAC teams in front of them — Memphis this week, Navy in two weeks, and possibly Temple in an AAC title game. Probably too much ground to make up to discuss a long shot playoff bid, but it could be a fun bowl season around here.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.                 

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