We have escaped three SEC teams in the playoff for now, but don't get too comfortable, as Alabama is lurking right on the periphery.
1. Mississippi State (Last Week: 1)
Looked shaky at home against Arkansas, but an undefeated team in the SEC West deserves the No. 1 spot.
2. Florida State (Last Week: 2)
Say what you want about the Seminoles, but they are nothing if not resilient on the football field. Jameis Winston overcame a couple early interceptions to lead an impressive comeback that included 35 second-half points to keep FSU undefeated.
3. Auburn (Last Week: 3)
The Tigers won a de facto elimination game (barring chaos) against Ole Miss, and the horseshoe from last season seems to still be firmly planted for Gus Malzahn's team. I have maintained that the Tigers are deserving of a spot at this point, and a road win over the Rebels does nothing to dissuade me from that.
4. Oregon (Last Week: 5)
I don't have a huge issue with Oregon here (they would be my No. 5), but it's fair too wonder if the Ducks' remaining schedule has enough meat on it to fend off other potential hard-charging one-loss teams.
5. Alabama (Last Week: 6)
The Tide seems to be slotted here purely on name recognition. Their best win is an opening-week neutral-site win over West Virginia. They have arguably their three toughest games in the season's final four weeks, but with Mississippi State and Auburn at home, they control their own destiny to lock up a playoff spot.
6. TCU (Last Week: 7)
I don't understand how you can't rank TCU ahead of Alabama right now based on resumes if you are purporting to be a group of completely objective observers. The Frogs have a titanic game this weekend against Kansas State that will likely eliminate the loser from playoff consideration.
7. Kansas State (Last Week: 9)
The Wildcats have a killer schedule remaining, starting this week at TCU, but if they run the table they can book a trip to the playoff.
8. Michigan State (Last Week: 8)
I still have a funny feeling we will see the Spartans in the playoff with all the inevitable carnage to come ahead of them. This would entail winning out, obviously, beginning this week when Ohio State comes to town.
9. Arizona State (Last Week: 14)
Big mover here, and a very strange one, at that. I guess a home win against Utah in overtime is worth this significant of a jump? The sad thing is, that's actually the Sun Devils' best win to date, which makes this ranking even more puzzling. They face Notre Dame this week, and the loser will be out of playoff contention.
10. Notre Dame (Last Week: 10)
A win over Arizona State would help matters, but winning out may not even be enough to get the Irish to the Final Four. And I'm OK with that.
11. Ole Miss (Last Week: 4)
The Rebels were oh-so-close to sweeping the Alabama schools and keeping themselves in the thick of the playoff race. The outlook is now grim with two losses, however. It's interesting that they were seemingly punished more for a loss to Auburn than a loss to LSU, regardless of venue.
12. Baylor (Last Week: 13)
Should be ranked ahead of Arizona State, Notre Dame and Ole Miss. The schedule will work some of that out, but I think the committee is short-selling the Bears right now.
13. Nebraska (Last Week: 15)
I don't know if a team has ever had eight wins of less substance than Nebraska does at this juncture. I expect the Huskers to go down at Wisconsin next week, but I suppose we'll have to tolerate them until that happens.
14. Ohio State (Last Week: 16)
Better news here, as we will not have to tolerate Ohio State past this week once Michigan State hands the Buckeyes their second loss of the season.
15. Oklahoma (Last Week: 18)
Aside from a win at West Virginia, there's not a whole lot here, aside from the preconceived notion early in the season that Oklahoma was a playoff threat.
16. LSU (Last Week: 19)
Still getting some of that good old SEC benefit of the doubt, as the Ole Miss win helps beef up an otherwise pedestrian resume.
17. Utah (Last Week: 17)
This is my biggest beef with the entire poll, and it has absolutely no bearing on the actual playoff. Utah loses to Arizona State (who the committee obviously thinks is special, so maybe that explains it) and DOES NOT DROP in the poll. We have discussed before that Utah was a fraud, and I simply do not understand the infatuation with the Utes. They have two decent wins and by far the worst loss of any team in the poll (Washington State at home). They should not have even made the poll this week, and yet here they are at No. 17. I am baffled.
18. UCLA (Last Week: 22)
UCLA jumps four spots because they beat Arizona (who we all knew was overrated), and now the Bruins themselves are overrated. The Pac-12 is a fine conference, but it's getting a little too much love from the committee in my opinion.
19. Arizona (Last Week: 12)
Basically the same as UCLA, except the Wildcats at least beat Oregon.
20. Georgia (Last Week: 11)
Wow. From right in the thick of things to national laughing stock in one fell swoop. The Bulldogs made a terrible Florida team look not only competent, but downright dominant in an embarrassing loss that ended any national championship hopes and put a serious damper on thoughts of even winning the SEC East.
21. Clemson (Last Week: 21)
Clemson holds at 21 after the bye week. It's hard to say where the Tigers should be among the other two-loss teams until they actually have a healthy Deshaun Watson, but I can promise you they are better than Utah.
22. Duke (Last Week: 24)
Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Pitt shanked a chip-shot field goal at the end of regulation, and the Blue Devils escaped with an overtime victory and remain in the rankings.
23. West Virginia (Last Week: 20)
It's hard to stay in the poll with three losses, but the Mountaineers probably deserve this spot after a heartbreaking loss to TCU.
24. Georgia Tech (Last Week: NR)
Georgia Tech quietly enters the rankings, helping the ACC keep four teams in the poll.
25. Wisconsin (Last Week: NR)
Hey, look, Sconny is back. We'll be willing to overlook their loss to Northwestern as long as they dispatch of Nebraska next week.