So you remember how last week the College Football Playoff Rankings were fairly stagnant at the top because everybody in the top four was taking care of their business and everybody from five on down was either getting upset or escaping by the skin of their teeth? Yeah, well, that lasted one week. We are officially into "campaigning before potential chaos" mode as everything from the third spot down is built on quicksand right about now. Just the way we like it, right?!
Let's get to it — here are the rankings unveiled last night by the committee:
1. Clemson 11-0
2. Alabama 10-1
3. Oklahoma 10-1
4. Iowa 11-0
5. Michigan State 10-1
6. Notre Dame 10-1
7. Baylor 9-1
8. Ohio State 10-1
9. Stanford 9-2
10. Michigan 9-2
11. Oklahoma State 10-1
12. Florida 10-1
13. Florida State 9-2
14. North Carolina 10-1
15. Navy 9-1
16. Northwestern 9-2
17. Oregon 8-3
18. Ole Miss 8-3
19. TCU 9-2
20. Washington State 8-3
21. Mississippi State 8-3
22. UCLA 8-3
23. Utah 8-3
24. Toledo 9-1
25. Temple 9-2
(Dropped from rankings: LSU 15, Houston 19, Memphis 21, USC 24, Wisconsin 25)
My observations on this week's rankings:
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1. The list of teams who still haven't been voted off of the College Football Playoff island: Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, Iowa, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Baylor, Ohio State, Stanford, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Florida, and North Carolina (barely). So 13 teams total, which should make for some delicious college football turkey this weekend.
2. The teams that control their own destiny, just win and they're in, by my count are six total, Here they are:
1. CLEMSON (11-0, 8-0)
The Tigers have a completely wounded, headless South Carolina this weekend and a frisky but likely overmatched North Carolina for the ACC title. Clemson should be favored by double digits in both of these games.
2. ALABAMA (10-1, 6-1)
With Wisconsin and LSU falling out of the Top 25, the Crimson Tide are actually left with only one win over the current Top 25 (Mississippi State), but it's obviously not hurting them in the selection room. I'm sure they're getting bonus points for beating Georgia when they still had Nick Chubb and LSU when they were undefeated. Like Clemson, the only games remaining are likely double-digit spreads against Auburn and, if they win that, Florida in the SEC Title Game.
3. OKLAHOMA (10-1, 7-1)The big winner in this week's rankings, they got huge credit for escaping 17-point underdog (and Trevone Boykin-less) TCU at home. Everyone seems to have forgotten they lost to a terrible Texas team in October, and if they win Bedlam this weekend, they'll be in. They're the darlings right now.
4. IOWA (11-0, 7-0)
Iowa keeps winning and winning against a pretty wretched schedule, but hey, they're undefeated. They have a tough trap spot this weekend in Lincoln and then the winner of the Big Ten East in the conference title game. I'm not counting on the Hawkeyes being here when the dust settles. However, if they win out, they're in.
5. MICHIGAN STATE (10-1, 6-1)
The Spartans have officially recovered from the refereeing debacle in Lincoln a few weeks ago, and now, if they beat Penn State this weekend and Iowa in two weeks (Iowa staying undefeated would help), they'll be in with solid road wins over Michigan and Ohio State, and a win over Oregon that keeps getting stronger. Connor Cook as a game time decision this weekend could be problematic.
12. FLORIDA (10-1, 7-1)
Let's be clear about one thing — Florida is about as horrific a 10-1 team as you'll find in recent history. They needed overtime to beat Florida Atlantic at home last weekend! I think they will get their ass kicked by Florida State and disemboweled by Alabama in the SEC Title Game. However, on the oft chance they win those two games, a 12-1 SEC champ is not getting left out of the playoff. No chance.
3. Here are the teams who need help and what they all need to be rooting for:
6. NOTRE DAME (10-1)
As it turns out, all those turnovers against Boston College really did wind up hurting the Irish, who fell all the way to sixth after a 19-16 win that they dominated on the stat sheet. The good news for Notre Dame is Stanford on the road provides a great chance to make a final impression on the committee. The bad news is they don't play during conference title weekend, so they won't get the last word.
What ND needs to root for: Oklahoma State over Oklahoma, TCU or Texas over Baylor, MIchigan over Ohio State, Penn State over Michigan State, Nebraska over Iowa, Auburn over Alabama, Florida State over Florida, Stanford to win the Pac-12, Clemson to win out and stay No. 1
7. BAYLOR (9-1, 6-1)
Baylor's win in Stillwater keeps the Bears alive for a spot, but they need help. That out-of-conference schedule will come back to roost at some point. Also, they may be on their third string QB this weekend versus TCU. Still, kudos to Art Briles for keeping it going after losing Seth Russell.
What Baylor needs to root for: Oklahoma State over Oklahoma, MIchigan over Ohio State, Penn State over Michigan State, Nebraska over Iowa, Auburn over Alabama, Stanford over Notre Dame, Stanford losing in the Pac-12 title game, South Carolina over Clemson, North Carolina over Clemson, Florida State over Florida
8. OHIO STATE (10-1, 6-1)
After losing by a field goal at home to the Spartans, the Buckeyes appear to be coming apart at the seams, with RB Ezekiel Elliott calling out the coaching staff for its play calling. However, the Buckeyes are still on the fringes of getting in if a few things happen. It's not as cut and dried as last year for Urban Meyer's crew, when a blowout over Michigan and then Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game was enough. They now need help.
What Ohio State needs to root for: Oklahoma State over Oklahoma (the closer, the better), TCU or Texas over Baylor, Penn State over Michigan State, Iowa over Nebraska (so the win in the Big Ten title game would be more impressive), Auburn over Alabama, Stanford over Notre Dame, South Carolina over Clemson, North Carolina over Clemson, Florida State over Florida
9. STANFORD (9-2, 8-1)
Someday a two-loss team will make this four-team playoff. Hell, a two loss team played in the BCS title game in 2007! Stanford is buoyed by two losses that aren't bad losses (at Northwestern, vs Oregon), wins over UCLA and suddenly surging Washington State, and two more chances to impress against Notre Dame and the Pac-12 Title Game versus the UCLA-USC winner. Make no mistake, they need to win and win convincingly for anything else to matter for them.
What Stanford needs to root for: Oklahoma State over Oklahoma (the closer, the better, so OSU doesn't jump then), TCU or Texas over Baylor, Penn State over Michigan State, Michigan over Ohio State (also close), Nebraska over Iowa, Auburn over Alabama, South Carolina over Clemson, North Carolina over Clemson, Florida State over Florida
10. MICHIGAN (9-2, 6-1)
With a close loss to Utah in the opener of the Harbaugh Era and a fluke loss to Michigan State as their only blemishes, Michigan can still get into this thing with some help and a win over Ohio State. (God, how bad does that Michigan State loss feel right now?)
What Michigan needs to root for: Penn State over Michigan State, Iowa over Nebraska (so the win in the Big Ten title game would be more impressive), Oklahoma State over Oklahoma (close), TCU or Texas over Baylor, Stanford over Notre Dame, Stanford loses Pac-12 title game, South Carolina over Clemson, Auburn over Alabama, Florida State over Florida
11. OKLAHOMA STATE (10-1, 7-1)
Make no mistake, for any of the other games to matter, OSU needs to not just beat OU, but to throttle OU. Still, it's not looking good for the Fighting Gundys.
What Oklahoma State needs to root for: TCU or Texas over Baylor, MIchigan over Ohio State (close), Penn State over Michigan State, Nebraska over Iowa, Auburn over Alabama, Stanford over Notre Dame (close), Stanford losing in the Pac-12 title game, South Carolina over Clemson, North Carolina over Clemson, Florida State over Florida
14. NORTH CAROLINA (10-1, 7-0)
The Tar Heels are more of a fly in the ointment for Clemson than a real factor in the playoffs at this point, but a 12-1 Power Five conference champ must be kept in the conversation, I suppose.
What North Carolina needs to root for: Everybody in front of them to lose as much as humanly possible