Alabama managed to fight off LSU in a 10-0 snoozer, while the rest of the upper echelon took turns dismantling inferior opponents (Yes, Nebraska, you are inferior). Oh, except for Texas A&M, which we told you had no business being ranked in the top four last week. The Aggies lost to lowly Mississippi State and are effectively out of the race despite somehow only dropping four spots (My guess is the committee wanted to keep the Aggies ahead of Auburn, whom they beat on the road). Of note, the committee essentially admits that it massively overrated Florida at No. 11 last weekend as they fall entirely out of the poll after an embarrassing loss to Arkansas. Same with LSU, who drops 11 spots despite losing a relatively close game to Alabama. At least things have become clear at the top.
Credit where it’s due: The Tide defense absolutely stifled LSU in Baton Rouge, holding the Tigers to a paltry 125 yards of offense. But the fact that this game was a 0-0 tie entering the fourth quarter has to be disconcerting to Alabama proponents with regard to the Tide’s offense. Jalen Hurts continues to be a threat running the ball, but he’s not exactly lighting it up throwing it, and there’s still that somewhat unsettling fact that he is a true freshman trying to lead a team to a national title. Alabama may be the best team in the country, but if you think it is invincible, you’re kidding yourself.
The Tigers finally notched the kind of dominant win most thought would be the norm inside Death Valley this season, and they maintain their hold on the No. 2 spot. Deshaun Watson’s hurt shoulder is a bit of a question mark right now, so hopefully he will be at full-go for the home stretch.
Michigan rolled yet another Big Ten opponent in helpless Maryland, and we still don’t see them meeting much resistance until their showdown at Ohio State to end the regular season. We project that to be a de facto Playoff elimination game at this point, but there is still plenty of football to play.
We (along with many others) told you last week that Washington deserved to be ranked in the top four rather than Texas A&M, but there were still hot takes all over the place throughout the week trying to justify the committee’s decision to rank the one-loss Aggies over the undefeated Huskies. Fortunately A&M took it upon itself to prove the Problems right by promptly taking a loss to SEC West bottom-feeder Mississippi State. We were slightly worried the committee might shaft Washington again and slide Ohio State into the fourth spot on the heels of the Buckeyes’ blowout win over previously overrated Nebraska, but we were spared from having to blast the committee two weeks in a row for the same issue. Things won’t be easy for the Huskies in the final weeks, with games against USC and Washington State looming.
5. Ohio State
We knew the Bucks were primed to expose Nebraska this past week, and what an exposing it was. They did terrible, unspeakable things to the overmatched Huskers, who are now mercifully removed from the Playoff picture. Ohio State looks to be recovering from its shocking loss to Penn State and still very much controls its own destiny with Michigan on the horizon.
The Ville got back to its dominant standard this week by easily disposing of Boston College. Still a good bit of chaos needed for the Cardinals to finish in the top 4, as their poor strength of schedule and probable lack of a conference championship remain huge strikes against their resume.
I’ll continue to say it: If you think the Badgers are out of this thing, you are sorely mistaken. Despite Wisconsin’s two losses, I see a real possibility that this team controls its own destiny to make the Playoff. The strength of record is there, and if Sconny finishes 11-2 with a win over either Michigan or Ohio State - both of whom it lost very tight games to in the regular season - in the Big Ten Championship, I think the committee ultimately takes the Badgers over both of those teams and one-loss Louisville.
8. Texas A&M
Effectively done, as the Aggies don’t have a realistic path to the SEC title game and now own a much worse loss than any other team in this vicinity of the rankings. Also, quarterback Trevor Knight is out for the season, so odds are they could falter down the stretch anyway.
Auburn, on the other hand, is in decent shape. The Tigers simply need to dispatch of Georgia this Saturday to set up a winner-take-all showdown for the SEC West in the Iron Bowl. A win there - not likely, but certainly not out of the question - and we’re talking about a potentially nightmare scenario for the committee in the final weeks. Assuming the Tigers followed that up with an SEC championship win, would the committee take two-loss SEC champ Auburn? One-loss former darling Bama? Both?
10. Penn State
No one can deny the Nittany Lions are playing well, but they are still overrated based on the entirety of their resume. However, they still have an outside shot at a Big Ten Championship, which means they are not out Playoff contention at this moment.
Let me be clear, I don’t think Oklahoma has a great, or even reasonable, path to the Playoff, and I don’t think the Sooners are deserving of a spot with their two embarrassing non-conference losses. But at the same time, I have trouble completely ruling the Sooners out at the moment. Sure, they would need to run the table in the Big XII (their toughest games are ahead of them) and have some odd things happen in other conferences, but until those chips actually fall we can’t say Oklahoma is totally finished.
Similarly, Colorado is a team to keep an eye on. (Keep in mind, we’re delving into never-before-seen realm of a two-loss team making the Playoff, but it will happen eventually and it would be irresponsible to not address possible scenarios, no matter how far-fetched.) The Buffs have a good strength of record number and still control their own destiny in the Pac 12 with as many as three ranked teams potentially still left on their docket. Winning out with the right amount (read: a lot) of chaos elsewhere could give Colorado an outside shot.
13. Oklahoma State
I still haven’t figured out how Oklahoma State is ranked in the top 20. The only plausible explanation is that the committee is chalking their shouldn’t-have-happened loss to Central Michigan as a game that ... well ... didn’t happen. Still, I don’t see any way for the Cowboys to maneuver their way anywhere close to the top 4.
14. Virginia Tech
The Hokies still control their own destiny in the ACC, but a New Year’s Six bowl is about the most they can hope for with two losses and basically one good win.
Sort of similar situation to Colorado here, except for the “controlling their own destiny for a conference” title part. The Utes would need a metric ton of chaos to even sniff the Playoff.
16. West Virginia
It’s a bit puzzing to still see one-loss West Virginia (who hasn’t beaten much of anybody) behind a few two-loss teams (that also haven’t beaten much of anybody). I get that Oklahoma State drilled the Mountaineers a couple weeks ago, but the Cowboys also have two bad losses and a weaker strength of schedule. I’m not saying I expect West Virginia to win out, or even that I think it’s an especially good team, I just don’t see the justification for having them ranked worse than, say, No. 13.
17. North Carolina
The Tar Heels look like the best team in the Coastal at present, but they still need Virginia Tech to drop a game against Georgia Tech or Virginia to reach their second straight ACC Championship Game.
18. Florida State
It would have been easy for the Noles - down 10 in the second half at NC State a week after an emotionally draining loss to Clemson - to fold up their tents, but they notched a road win that kept hope alive for an appearance in a quality bowl game.
Exposed! Bad! Wow!
20. Southern Cal
Most people don’t realize just how well Southern Cal has been playing recently, and they should provide Washington with a stiff test this weekend.
21. Western Michigan
The Broncos still have the inside track to a New Year’s Six opportunity.
22. Boise State
I don’t think there is enough meat on Boise State’s remaining schedule to leap frog an undefeated Western Michigan.
23. Washington State
I’m not going to claim the Cougars have a shot to make Playoff with a loss to an FCS school on the resume, but I will tell you they have a chance to climb pretty dang high in these rankings if they win out and claim the Pac 12 Championship.
The committee finally got it right with LSU, which - despite hanging around with Alabama - is a fringe top-25 team at best.
Thank you for your service this past week, Hogs.