Sean Pendergast

Survivor: College Football Playoff Ranking Preview, Version 2.0

LSU finally got their big win over Alabama, and should be number one now in the CFB Playoff rankings.
LSU finally got their big win over Alabama, and should be number one now in the CFB Playoff rankings. Screen grab from YouTube
We got our first taste of this season's playoff rankings this past Tuesday, and the surprises started immediately, right at the top of the board, with Ohio State taking the top spot in the first set of rankings. I don't get too worked up over exact slotting at this stage. Stuff will take care of itself in due time.

I do think that we can see a pecking order developing, and because of the complete lack of chaos in this regular season, so far, the playoff picture is shaping up pretty formulaically:

* Provided they have just one loss (or no losses, obviously), the SEC champ and the Big Ten champ WILL both make the playoff.

* If Clemson wins out, they will be in as the champs from the ACC. If they don't, they won't.

* If either Oklahoma or Baylor wins out, they will surpass both of the Pac-12 one loss teams, and have a damn good look at things. The Pac-12 is pretty much screwed.

* Alabama picked a great year to have the shakiest one-loss team of the Saban Era, they're still very much in the hunt for one of the four playoff slots, even with a loss to LSU at home.

* No Notre Dame or Group of Five chatter for the playoff makes things even more cut and dried.

As always, here are this week's AP rankings, as voted on by several dozen media members:

1. LSU (55) 9-0, 1591
2. Ohio State (5) 9-0, 1523
3. Clemson (4) 10-0, 1491
4. Alabama, 8-1, 1356
5. Georgia 8-1, 1327
6. Oregon 8-1, 1269
7. Minnesota 9-0, 1154
8. Oklahoma 8-1, 1128
9. Utah 8-1, 1096
10. Baylor 9-0, 1028
11. Penn State 8-1, 942
12. Florida 8-2, 937
13. Auburn 7-2, 863
14. Michigan 7-2, 731
15. Wisconsin 7-2, 670
16. Notre Dame 7-2, 659
17. Cincinnati 8-1, 590
18. Memphis 8-1, 517
19. Boise State 8-1, 452
20. SMU 9-1, 326
21. Navy 7-1, 249
22. Iowa 6-3, 187
23. Texas 6-3, 163
24. Appalachian State 8-1, 133
25. Indiana 7-2, 123

Others receiving votes: Oklahoma State 49, Wake Forest 45, Louisiana Tech 43, Kansas State 38, San Diego State 32, Texas A&M 31, Air Force 25, Virginia Tech 17, Virginia 12, Louisiana 1, UCF 1, Wyoming 1

1. LSU (9-0, 5-0)
@ Texas 45-38, vs Florida 42-28, vs Auburn 23-20, @ Alabama 46-41
11/16 @ Ole Miss
11/23 vs Arkansas
11/30 vs Texas A&M
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: I was surprised when the committee didn't make the Tigers the No. 1 overall seed in the first set of rankings, instead choosing Ohio State. The Buckeyes may very well be the best team, but the Tigers have easily the best resume, and that resume was spiced up exponentially with a 46-41 win over Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium that was more dominant than the final score would indicate. I expect the Tigers to overtake the Buckeyes tonight.

2. OHIO STATE (9-0, 6-0)
GOOD WINS: vs Cincinnati 42-0, @ Indiana 51-10, vs Wisconsin 38-7
11/16 @ Rutgers
11/23 vs #11 Penn State
11/30 @ #14 Michigan
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: Meanwhile, the Buckeyes were super impressive, in a 73-14 drubbing of Maryland, a game in which OSU converted an onside kick in the first half, and was using their timeouts up 42-0 late in the second quarter. It would appear that either (a) Ryan Day hates Maryland, (b) he is trying to rack up style points, or (c) both. Now, Ohio State waits to see what the NCAA does to punish Chase Young, their dynamic edge rusher who was pinched for taking a loan from a friend to fly his girlfriend to the bowl game last year. (The NCAA is the worst.)

3. CLEMSON (10-0, 7-0)
vs Texas A&M 24-10
11/16 vs Wake Forest
11/30 @ South Carolina
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: Clemson was fifth in the first set of rankings, but we knew at least two teams in front of them would be losing at some point, we just didn't expect both to occur this past weekend. If any team should waltz into the playoff now, it's these Tigers.

4. ALABAMA (8-1, 5-1)
@ Texas A&M 47-28
LOSS: vs LSU 46-41
11/16 @ Mississippi State
11/23 vs Western Carolina
11/30 at #13 Auburn
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: Look, I realize that the Tide's only win of note is over a Texas A&M team that is "also receiving votes" right now, but who are you going to put in there at No. 4? Georgia? They lost to South Carolina at home. Either of the one-loss Pac-12 teams? No. Minnesota is undefeated and the Penn State win is better than any of the wins Bama has, but come on. They ain't jumping from 17th to 4th. Oklahoma's still got work to do. The Crimson Tide will be fourth tonight, mark my words. And yet, I don't think they control their won destiny like these teams, who can all surpass the Tide if they win out ....


GEORGIA (8-1, 5-1)
GOOD WINS: vs Notre Dame 23-17, vs Florida 24-17
LOSS: vs South Carolina 20-17
11/16 @ #13 Auburn
11/23 vs Texas A&M
11/30 @ Georgia Tech
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: Yeah, the South Carolina loss is bad, but unlike the Crimson Tide, if they win out the Bulldogs will get a crack at the SEC title, and a chance to do what Alabama couldn't do — beat LSU. Georgia's remaining slate is not easy, but if they run the table, and beat LSU, they're in.

MINNESOTA (9-0, 6-0)
11/16 @ #22 Iowa
11/23 @ Northwestern
11/30 vs #15 Wisconsin
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: We will learn more about Minnesota this week traveling to Iowa than we did this past week in the home upset of Penn State. Upsets happen all the time on an underdog's home field, but how Minnesota handles that success and a road trip to miserable Iowa will be telling. That said, an undefeated Big Ten champ will make the playoff, so the Gophers absolutely control their own destiny.

PENN STATE (8-1, 5-1)
@ Iowa 17-12, vs Michigan 28-21
LOSS: at Minnesota 31-26
11/16 vs #25 Indiana
11/23 @ #3 Ohio State
11/30 vs Rutgers
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: I also think that a one loss Big Ten champ, this season, makes the playoff, and the good news for Penn State is that their loss to Minnesota is an out of division loss, so if they run the table, it would mean a win and the tie breaker over Ohio State, and a chance to avenge their loss to the Gophers on a neutral field.


OREGON (8-1, 6-0)
@ Washington 35-31
LOSS: vs Auburn 27-21 (in Arlington)
11/16 vs Arizona
11/23 @ Arizona State
11/30 vs Oregon State

UTAH (8-1, 5-1)
@ Oregon State 52-7, @ Washington 33-28
LOSS: @ USC 30-23
11/16 vs UCLA
11/23 @ Arizona
11/30 vs Colorado
OREGON/UTAH PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: Both of the playoff contenders from the Pac-12 were idle this week. The problem for both, quite honestly, is that the Pac-12 stinks. There are literally no remaining opportunities for an impressive win because the only two ranked teams from the conference are THEM. Hell, there aren't even any other Pac-12 teams that are receiving votes. The entire conference needs to chip in and buy out Clay Helton's contract so USC can become relevant again, and raise the profile of this conference, which I'm not even sure is better than the American Athletic Conference right now, top to bottom.

OKLAHOMA (8-1, 5-1)
vs Texas 34-27 (in Dallas)
LOSS: @ Kansas State 48-41
11/16 @ #10 Baylor
11/23 vs TCU
11/30 @ Oklahoma State

BAYLOR (9-0, 6-0)
@ Kansas State 31-12, @ Oklahoma State 45-27
11/16 vs #8 Oklahoma
11/23 vs #23 Texas
11/30 @ Kansas
OKLAHOMA/BAYLOR PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: There's not much that needs to be said here — these two teams play in Waco this weekend, ESPN GameDay will be in town, and the winner will stay in the playoff hunt. The loser will hope they get a rematch in the Big XII title game, and cross any plans for the playoff off their to-do list.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast