College Football Playoff
Rankings: Week 2
1. Georgia Bulldogs
What went right this week? Anytime you play in a rivalry game, expect the unexpected. While the Gamecocks form South Carolina aren’t world beaters, they are better on defense than most teams the Bulldogs have faced to this point. First and foremost, Georgia won the game. Regardless of flash or pizazz, the Dawgs solidified their berth in the SEC Championship. Even Alabama still awaits their fate.
What went wrong this week? You could say that Georgia didn’t bury South Carolina like they have most teams this year. The Bulldogs only punted on three occasions. Outside of those drives, you couldn’t ask for much more. They held USC to only 43 total rushing yards, maybe they should have held them to 23. Honestly, despite the score, this game wasn’t really that close.
Why they’re #1: I’m not sure there is anyone close to them at this point, at least not that remains undefeated. Alabama gets too much credit for the brand and the realistic product doesn’t matter as much. UGA has a win over #3 Notre Dame & #16 (over ranked) Mississippi State. Alabama owns a sloppy win over #24 LSU.
What’s in their way? If there was one game that meant so much to so many, this weekend is it! The matchup between Auburn and Georgia this weekend is pivotal. If Georgia wins, they are all but assured a perfect regular season. This win would also have a positive/negative effect as well. Alabama would be guaranteed a spot in the SEC Championship if they beat MSST and UGA beats Auburn. For the resume, that looks great. However, if Georgia thought Auburn would beat Alabama, they could lose, play Auburn in the SEC Championship and have one heck of a rematch. Win that and you’re in. Don’t worry, Kirby Smart won’t mail it in this weekend. If anything, Kirby is calling out Nick Saban.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
What went right this week? This is easy and short. The Tide were able to force a turnover and only committed one penalty. No seriously, other than actually winning, that’s it.
What went wrong this week? Even Lane Kiffin continues to troll Alabama. Look, the Tide aren’t as good as their record would suggest. Remember Penn State was undefeated a couple weeks ago. Wisconsin is still undefeated. They haven’t played anyone. Watching the SEC West is worse than peewee football right now. LSU dominated the time of possession, limited Bama to 3.2 yards per carry and held them to 5-14 on third down. This is the same LSU that beat Auburn, yes. It is also the same LSU who lost to Troy (don’t forget that). I know, I just said, expect the unexpected in rivalry games. But if that’s the case with Alabama, we can’t also give them a free pass for their middle school schedule.
Why they’re #2: This one is easy. Its Alabama & Nick Saban. End of story. They went undefeated until the National Championship last year and they haven’t lost yet this season. To me, that’s hogwash. Texas A&M and LSU are the only Power 5 wins on their schedule with a winning record. If you are going to continue to put down Wisconsin for their schedule, then the same should be applied to Alabama. I have Alabama currently ranked #6 after their struggles against LSU.
What’s in their way? Themselves. I understand injuries happen. Heck, Clemson played Ray Ray McCloud at CB against Ryan Finley and NCST. Alabama’s problems are internal. I never thought I would say that, but it is true. Something must change in their locker-room or they are going to play their way out of the SEC Championship and playoffs. I listed MSST as a struggle for Alabama but seeing as how the Bulldogs from the West almost lost to U-Mess, I think they are safe this week. Auburn comes calling soon and if the Tigers lose to Georgia, they are going to be out for blood. Let’s not forget that Alabama will have to face Georgia in the SEC Championship if they beat Auburn. A long way to go for the Tide and a lot of poison in their way.
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
What went right this week? The running game continues to be hot. The Irish averaged over 8 yards per carry this past week, tallying 380 total yards on the ground. To add to that ridiculous number, Notre Dame also threw the ball for 330 yards. The last time I saw those kind of numbers, I think Case Keenum was playing in Houston against Texas Tech. They avoided the turnover bug, managed 50% on third down and put up 48 points.
What went wrong this week? If there ever was a time to put an opponent away, it was this past weekend. The Irish edged out Clemson for the #3 spot in the initial rankings and it was time they proved why. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, they couldn’t make the Demons disappear. Wake Forest totaled 587 yards of offense, managed 6 yards per carry and put up 37 points against a defense that hasn’t allowed more than 20 points to an opponent all year. This is not the time to regress.
Why they’re #3: At this point, they do have best loss. Anytime you lose to the #1 team by a point, it’s a moral victory (if those exist). However, their body of work includes two Top15 wins and another from the Top25. Right now, no one loss team can claim that.
What’s in their way? This week is a BIG one. The Irish will travel to #7 Miami for a showdown that holds a lot of weight moving forward. With Stanford falling off the Top25 map, the Irish need this win to secure the #2 spot in the committee’s eyes. This would give Notre Dame an undeniable claim to the College Football Playoff.
4. Clemson Tigers
What went right this week? The second half. Clemson kept its streak alive as well. When rushing for 200+ yards in a game, the Tigers are now 50-1. The coaching was admirable as well. Knowing that NCST had great depth on its defensive line, the Tigers coaching staff rotated their offensive lineman throughout the game to keep the starters fresh. It worked. Special Teams was also a key component of their win. Ray Ray McCloud (starting WR who played CB as well) returned a punt for Clemson’s first touchdown. Kelly Bryant (starting QB), also had the longest punt for the Tigers. That punt ultimately flipped field position.
What went wrong? The first half. The first series. On third-and-9 from their own 26 yard-line, Kelly Bryant’s second pass was intercepted. When you get the ball to start the game, you don’t want to turn it over and definitely not on your side of the 50. That was a sign of things to come in the first half. Clemson’s offense sputtered. Kelly Bryant was not in rhythm and overthrew his targets on several occasions. Nick Chubb was in the backfield all night, borrowing towels Kelly Bryant. According to Twitter, it was so he had something to cry in after the loss. To make matters worse, Dave Doeren asked that the Tigers be investigated for having a laptop on the sidelines. I didn’t think this was New England or New Orleans but, ya never know.
Why they’re #4? The Tigers have a miserable loss on their resume. They know it, we know it and the committee knows it. What they also have is something similar to Notre Dame in the wins column. The Tigers now have wins over #10, #17 and #23. Their strength of record and strength of games played edges out Oklahoma for that coveted fourth position. If Alabama is still going to get credit for beating the Seminoles when they were over ranked, then Clemson beating them this weekend should all but seal the deal.
What’s in their way? Realistically, nothing. The Tigers need to beat Florida State this weekend to wrap up the ACC Atlantic and face Miami (almost certainly). The way the committee values common opponents, if the Tigers win out, they would have wins over Wake Forest, FSU, South Carolina and Auburn. This would showcase their abilities compared to all three of the teams currently ahead of them. If anything stands in their way at this point, it will either be injuries or coaching.
Those on the outside (5th – 9th)
5. Oklahoma Sooners
How can they move into the playoffs? Two weeks ago, their win over the Ohio State Buckeyes looked pretty good and the loss to Iowa State didn’t look too bad. What a change one week can make. Oklahoma must win this week when TCU comes to town. It would be hard for the committee to overlook an Oklahoma team with one loss at the end of Championship week. With their win against OKST this past week, Oklahoma has a chance to close out their schedule with wins over two Top15 teams and then a rematch with one of those teams in the Championship Game. If Oklahoma wins and TCU goes on to beat TTU and Baylor, the rematch will be set.
What would the committee see? When the dust settles after Championship Weekend, Oklahoma would have wins over Ohio State, TCU (twice) and Oklahoma State. Where Ohio State and Oklahoma State finish will be important, but to win three games late in the season over Top25 teams, that would be a statement they cannot ignore. Baker Mayfield is back in the Heisman conversation and what would the playoffs be without the “best” player in college football?
What’s likely to happen? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. There isn’t a person inside the football world that believes the second go around is easier, especially when it’s a mere three weeks away. If Oklahoma defeats TCU this weekend, the task will be that much more difficult in three weeks. This weekend doesn’t offer you the luxury of holding back. The Sooners will have to give 100% effort on both sides of the ball and dig deep into the playbook. There will be no surprises left for the Championship Game. OU will win this weekend but will not win the Big12 Championship.
6. TCU Horned Frogs
How can the Frogs make it to the playoffs? For the Frogs, this task is a bit more complicated. TCU lacks a non-conference win that would make the committee smile. Their 28-7 win over Arkansas is the only win over a Power 5 non-conference opponent. The Horned Frogs find themselves in the position that style matters. They must go into this weekend and shutdown one of the nation’s best offenses. TCU must also put up a lot of points. Oklahoma is great on the offensive side but near the bottom in defense. If TCU can’t score at will against the Sooners, they won’t be happy on Selection Sunday. Their remaining schedule doesn’t include anyone else in the Top25 and Baylor hurts everyone’s schedule.
What would the committee see? When looking at TCU, if they went undefeated the rest of the way, the committee would be forced to compare opponents. Looking at the teams in the Top4, Clemson is the only team TCU might have an argument against (at this time). Yes, the Horned Frogs would have beaten two of the nation’s best offenses (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) but outside of that, they own a 21-point win over Arkansas who should have lost to Coastal Carolina. Clemson has wins against Virginia Tech, Auburn, NCST, and would in this scenario have a win against Miami. They would also have a win over South Carolina. Remember, the Gamecocks destroyed Arkansas. The committee couldn’t leave the defending champs out of the race in favor of TCU.
What’s likely to happen? Stopping Baker Mayfield this weekend will be a tall task. The Horned Frog defense is great but their offense has been inconsistent in a conference that lacks defensive prowess. TCU will get a second chance in three weeks and I believe they can alter their game to beat OU but that second loss will eliminate them from contention.
7. Miami Hurricanes
How does Miami make the Final Four? The luck of the Irish. This weekend is Miami’s last shot to make a statement in the regular season. Last week’s win over Virginia Tech was a start but the Hurricanes will need to put their best foot forward. They will need a little help as well.
What would the committee see? Depends on the perspective. Right now, Notre Dame looks like a team that is prime for the playoffs. A win against the Irish would open a spot in the Top4 and would provide the Hurricanes with a much-needed win against a great non-conference opponent. After the regular season concludes, their showdown with Clemson would loom as a play-in game. With a win over Clemson, Miami would be in the driver’s seat. An undefeated Hurricanes team with wins over Notre Dame, Clemson and Virginia Tech would certainly join the ranks of UGA and Bama.
What’s likely to happen? Miami’s quest for the playoffs will end this weekend. A loss to the Irish will all but seal their fate. This game is almost more important than the ACC Championship. It won’t matter though. The Hurricanes will be playing spoiler for the Clemson Tigers at this point. Notre Dame can run the ball better than most Top25 opponents and the Canes have struggled to put teams away. Miami will finish the regular season 10-1 and lose to Clemson in the Championship Game.
8. Wisconsin Badgers
Can the Badgers sneak into the playoffs? I met a couple of fans last week before their win over Indiana. They were the most honest fans I have ever met. Having said that, when your fans know that you have no shot at the playoffs, you might as well count Wisconsin out. The gentleman wasn’t really wrong. Wisconsin doesn’t have a schedule that says, “look at me, we’re undefeated.” Realistically, the Badgers aren’t out yet but they are teetering on the edge. They are a victim of their schedule. Similar to TCU but without any opportunity to make a statement. Well…that is until this weekend when they play Iowa. A breath of fresh air for Wisconsin. Finally, someone on their schedule is in the Top25. A win against the Hawkeyes, who just destroyed Ohio State, and then a win in the Big Ten Championship Game would give them a much stronger argument.
What would the committee see? This is a double-edged sword. You can’t in one statement praise a team for beating someone and then turn around and say that team wasn’t great. That will most likely be the case for Wisconsin. Beating the Hawkeyes and Buckeyes within three weeks of each other and a strong win against a bad Michigan team doesn’t hold the weight it did 4 or 5 weeks ago. At best, Wisconsin would be looking at the 4th spot in the playoffs. They would need Clemson to lose and either UGA or Bama to lose to Auburn.
What’s likely to happen? It’s the Big Ten. Say what you want about all the teams in the that were in the Top25, the Big Ten is just slightly better than the Pac12. I have said all year; Ohio State isn’t that great. Penn State had us all fooled. Oh wait, no they didn’t. I called the Nittany Lions one-dimensional weeks ago. Just like the fan I ran into last week, I have given up on the Badgers chances of making the playoffs. They won’t even make it past the Hawkeyes, much less the Buckeyes.
9. Washington Huskies
Why are we even talking about a team from the Pac12? I figured if I didn’t mention the Huskies, Chris Petersen would start crying. It’s okay coach, the East Coast doesn’t care about you but we will still include you. Does anyone know who the Huskies have beaten this year? Yea, me neither. However, I did look it up. Washington’s best win of the season so far, is #42 California. They proceeded to lose to #41 Arizona State a week later.
Can the Huskies make the playoffs? Sure, they can. I would give them a 1% chance at best. For this to happen, the Huskies need more help than my great grandmother after hip replacement surgery. Notre & Clemson must both lose. Either Alabama or Georgia would need to lose to Auburn. Wisconsin would need to lose in the Big Ten Championship Game and possibly to Michigan or Iowa. Oklahoma and TCU would need to split their series. Miami would need to beat Notre Dame and Clemson but lose to Pitt or Virginia.
I promise this is the last time I make fun of Chris Petersen… This year.
Living on a Prayer
If the Tigers can manage to beat both Alabama and Georgia and win the SEC Championship, Auburn would have a case as a two-loss team. One of their losses would have been to Clemson by one score. This would eliminate Alabama, move Notre Dame to #1, Clemson to #2, and Georgia to #4. Wouldn’t that be interesting. Clemson vs Auburn in a rematch? UGA vs Notre Dame? How about Clemson vs UGA in the National Championship? Read back about 4 weeks ago and see what I had predicted.
11. Michigan State
Beating Penn State last week was a start. If the Spartans can beat Ohio State this weekend and then hold onto the division, the Spartans would play undefeated Wisconsin in the Championship Game. If Sparty wins three big games in 5 weeks, it would be almost impossible to overlook them for the playoffs. Granted, someone would have to stumble but a 2-loss Michigan State team looks better than the 1-loss Huskies. Go cry me a river, Chris Petersen. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
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