Sean Pendergast

Survivor: College Football Playoff Ranking Preview, Version 3.0

The Cinderella run for Charlie Brewer and the Baylor Bears ended on Sunday night.
The Cinderella run for Charlie Brewer and the Baylor Bears ended on Sunday night. Photo by Jack Gorman
The College Football Playoff system was ostensibly created to crown a deserving national champion in the sport of collegiate football. However, from a business perspective, the four team playoff, in an ecosystem with FIVE power conferences, was created to generate conversation, television ratings, wild conjecture, and American currency.

In 2019, it appears the College Football Playoff will check MOST of those boxes, but if the turn of events this weekend is any indication, the debates on which four teams should be invited to the dance won't be nearly as lively as they've been in years past. That's because three big things happened this weekend, two of which shattered a Cinderella's glass slipper (or at least severely cracked it) and the third of which shattered Tu's Tagovailoa's hip.

Minnesota and Baylor, both long shots to make the College Football Playoff to begin with, watched their undefeated seasons go up in smoke, with the Gophers falling in Iowa City to the Hawkeyes 23-19, and Baylor watched a 28-3 lead gradually evaporate throughout the evening on Saturday in losing to Oklahoma 34-31. This brought the number of unbeaten teams down to three — LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson, all of whom are on the fast track to the playoff.

So before we get into just how many teams remain in the mix, let's lay out this week's AP rankings, as voted on by several dozen media members:

1. LSU (54) 10-0, 1542
2. Ohio State(5) 10-0, 1478
3. Clemson(3) 11-0, 1442
4. Georgia 9-1, 1343
5. Alabama 9-1, 1263
6. Oregon 9-1, 1243
7. Utah 9-1, 1155
8. Oklahoma 9-1, 1144
9. Penn State 9-1, 1030
10. Florida 9-2, 984
11. Minnesota 9-1, 902
12. Michigan 8-2, 829
13. Baylor 9-1, 787
14. Wisconsin 8-2, 746
15. Notre Dame 8-2, 676
16. Auburn 7-3, 623
17. Cincinnati 9-1, 536
18. Memphis 9-1, 520
19. Iowa 7-3, 493
20. Boise State 9-1, 379
21. SMU 9-1, 328
22. Oklahoma State 7-3, 200
23. Appalachian State 9-1, 154
24. Texas A&M 7-3, 132
25. Virginia Tech 7-3, 61
Others receiving votes: Indiana 47, Iowa State 31, Virginia 23, Navy 13, Air Force 12, Pittsburgh 9, San Diego State 7, USC 6, Washington 6, Texas 4, Illinois 1, North Dakota State 1
So let's predict what we think the new CFP rankings will look like when they're released tonight at 6 p.m. on ESPN. Here are the four teams that would be in the playoffs, the is pretty easy:

1. LSU (10-0, 6-0)
@ Texas 45-38, vs Florida 42-28, vs Auburn 23-20, @ Alabama 46-41
11/23 vs Arkansas
11/30 vs #24 Texas A&M
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: LSU just keeps cruising along, beating up on Ole Miss by three touchdowns this weekend. Pray for Arkansas on Saturday, LSU might win by 50. The A&M game is interesting, but LSU is probably at least a two touchdown favorite in Baton Rouge. The SEC title game is probably the only real chance for an LSU loss, and even then, they may still get into the playoff at 12-1, given the quality of their wins. LSU is basically in right now.

2. OHIO STATE (10-0, 7-0)
vs Cincinnati 42-0, @ Indiana 51-10, vs Wisconsin 38-7
11/23 vs #9 Penn State
11/30 @ #12 Michigan
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: Ohio State failed to cover a 52-point spread against Rutgers this past weekend. That's about the only bad thing I can say about them. These next two games are interesting. Penn State still has a puncher's chance at making a late Big Ten and playoff run, and Michigan is a rivalry game. A date with Minnesota or a rematch with Wisconsin likely awaits in the Big Ten title game.

3. CLEMSON (11-0, 8-0)
vs Texas A&M 24-10
11/30 @ South Carolina
12/7 ACC Title Game
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: Can South Carolina do to Clemson what they did to Georgia? Hell, the Gamecocks won IN ATHENS, this Clemson game is at home! Keep in mind, South Carolina is 4-7, so they won't be bowling. This Clemson game will be played up as their bowl game by Will Muschamp. Can you imagine a team going 5-7, but two of their wins are over Clemson and Georgia? Muschamp is a gem.

4. GEORGIA (9-1, 6-1)
vs Notre Dame 23-17, vs Florida 24-17, @ Auburn 21-14
LOSS: vs South Carolina 20-17
11/23 vs #24 Texas A&M
11/30 @ Georgia Tech
12/7 SEC Title Game
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: Hey, speaking of Georgia, they also have the Aggies on the schedule. Man, the Aggies may have a say in this playoff, huh Ags? Georgia losing in the SEC title game would open the door for all the teams we are about to discuss. Georgia winning probably insulates the SEC and gets them two teams into the four team dance.


MINNESOTA (9-1, 6-1)
 vs Penn State 31-26
LOSS: @ Iowa 23-19
11/23 @ Northwestern
11/30 vs #14 Wisconsin
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: The elimination of Baylor as a possible dark horse, undefeated conference champ opens the door for a one-loss Big Ten champion to be assured of a spot in the dance. The Big Ten is generally regarded as the clear second best conference, so I think Minnesota still controls their own destiny, since winning out and beating Ohio State (presumably) in the Big Ten title game would get them in.

PENN STATE (9-1, 6-1)
@ Iowa 17-12, vs Michigan 28-21, vs Indiana 34-27
LOSS: at Minnesota 31-26
11/23 @ #2 Ohio State
11/30 vs Rutgers
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: Same thing with the Nittany Lions. Win out, and they are in the Big Ten title game, playing Minnesota or Wisconsin for the league championship and a spot in the playoff.


ALABAMA (9-1, 6-1)
@ Texas A&M 47-28
LOSS: vs LSU 46-41
11/23 vs Western Carolina
11/30 at #16 Auburn
PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: Things got really complicated for the Tide this past weekend. They beat Mississippi State 38-7, that was expected. However, they lost their quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, for the season with a gruesome hip injury. Losing key players, especially quarterbacks, gets factored in by the playoff committee. This, combined with no real chance for a signature win remaining on the schedule (sorry, Auburn), and losing their only tough game this season, and no chance at a conference title, means Alabama can probably start making Sugar Bowl plans.

OREGON (9-1, 7-0)
@ Washington 35-31
LOSS: vs Auburn 27-21 (in Arlington)
11/23 @ Arizona State
11/30 vs Oregon State

UTAH (9-1, 6-1)
@ Oregon State 52-7, @ Washington 33-28
LOSS: @ USC 30-23
11/23 @ Arizona
11/30 vs Colorado
OREGON/UTAH PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: The Tua injury and the two undefeated teams getting knocked off were the best things to happen to the two Pac-12 hopefuls. They just both need to win out convincingly, hope LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson all win out, then hope they win a beauty contest with Alabama and the Big XII champion. It was a decent weekend for the Pac-12.

OKLAHOMA (9-1, 6-1)
vs Texas 34-27 (in Dallas), @ Baylor 34-31
LOSS: @ Kansas State 48-41
11/23 vs TCU
11/30 @ #22 Oklahoma State

BAYLOR (9-1, 6-1)
@ Kansas State 31-12, @ Oklahoma State 45-27
LOSS: vs Oklahoma 34-31
11/23 vs Texas
11/30 @ Kansas
OKLAHOMA/BAYLOR PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: When Baylor was up 28-3 on Oklahoma, it was fun to think about how an undefeated Baylor would twist the committee into a pretzel. I mean, if the Bears had held on, you'd have to give them a similar bump as the one Minnesota got after beating Penn State a few weeks ago, right? Unfortunately, the Baylor offense answered that question. Turns out Baylor is just a fun, little team who will probably play in the Alamo Bowl, which is still light years ahead of where they were two seasons ago, when they were 1-11. They barely have a playoff pulse. Meanwhile, Oklahoma is going to look to stomp TCU, Oklahoma State, and probably Baylor again in the Big XII title game, so they can get into the mix with the Pac-12 champ and Alabama for the fourth playoff spot, should the remaining undefeated teams win out.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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 afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast