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Poll Problems: Week 10

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We take a look at the College Football Playoff poll each week to see what the committee got right and what it got terribly wrong.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Iowa
Iowa picked off J.T. Barrett four times and slaughtered Ohio State to put a serious damper on the B1G’s Playoff hopes.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

A disastrous weekend for the B1G put the conference in serious jeopardy of missing the Playoff, with Michigan State knocking off Penn State and Iowa dismantling Ohio State in unbelievable fashion. This week brings another fantastic slate of games, including three top-10 matchups for the first time since 2002 - two of which may be de facto elimination games. We saw the top 5 remain unchanged, but there was plenty of movement beyond that.

*** “SOR” denotes strength of record
*** “SOS” denotes strength of schedule

1. Georgia (9-0; SOR: 1; SOS: 39)

Georgia still has the best resume in the country, despite a so-so win over South Carolina. The Bulldogs’ game at Auburn this week provides an opportunity to strengthen their hold on the top spot, but also a very real chance to suffer their first loss.

2. Alabama (9-0; SOR: 5; SOS: 46)

Interestingly enough, Alabama’s win over LSU didn’t do much to boost its standing, other than giving the Tide their first decent win of the season. They actually dropped to 5th in the strength of record metric, but a matchup with Mississippi State this weekend will add another much-needed boost to their schedule.

3. Notre Dame (8-1; SOR: 6; SOS: 12)

Notre Dame must win out to make the Playoff; there is no doubt about that. A two-loss team with no conference championship should never have a chance to make the field. But if the Irish continue to win, they would certainly have a compelling case to be included in the field, as their strength of schedule should only improve from here on out and they would possess numerous quality wins. They face No. 7 Miami on Saturday, and a win would go a long way toward boosting their resume and keeping hope alive.

4. Clemson (8-1; SOR: 3; SOS: 2)

It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but the Tigers got the win they needed on the road against an NC State team that remains in the top 25. The only cause for concern for the Tigers is that their strength of schedule will start to suffer a gradual decline beginning this week (Although sitting at No. 2 right now will likely keep them from dropping far enough for it to become worrisome). If Clemson can win out, it has to feel pretty good about its Playoff prospects. Though I could concoct a scenario where the Tigers could be sweating it out at the release of the final poll, they are in good position.

5. Oklahoma (8-1; SOR: 4; SOS: 16)

That defense continues to be a problem (to put it lightly), but Oklahoma went on the road and notched one of the best wins of the weekend against rival Oklahoma State. The win wasn’t enough to jump Clemson - who added a quality one of its own - but tacking on a win against TCU this weekend would give the committee plenty of ammo to slide the Sooners ahead of the Tigers.

6. TCU (8-1; SOR: 7; SOS: 43)

The one beef I have with the top 10 is the decision to keep TCU ahead of Miami, but that’s splitting hairs at the moment. The Horned Frogs’ Playoff hopes are riding on a road trip to Oklahoma this weekend. They haven’t been particularly impressive recently and are just kind of hanging around, but an upset this weekend would change their outlook significantly.

7. Miami (8-0; SOR: 2; SOS: 28)

Hard to fathom why Miami - who finally nabbed a convincing win over a quality opponent - wasn’t able to jump TCU. It quite simply has the better resume of the two. I would imagine there is still an eye test element at play there, which is understandable to a degree, but if the Hurricanes can tack on a signature win over Notre Dame on Saturday, they will force the committee to take them even more seriously.

8. Wisconsin (9-0; SOR: 8; SOS: 73)

We have discussed that Wisconsin’s one and only chance at the Playoff is to finish as a 13-0 B1G champion, and while they still have a ways to go to achieve that, it’s time to start asking the question: How much help would they still need? Is there a real chance the committee leaves out an undefeated Power 5 champion? It’s really going to depend on what the rest of the landscape looks like. I think your standard amount of carnage would be enough to get them in, but until that happens the Badgers are going to be on the outside looking in.

9. Washington (8-1; SOR: 17; SOS: 63)

It’s possible that Washington is one of the best teams in the country, but we may never have the opportunity to find that out. Again, this team is essentially “Wisconsin with a loss.” It takes no more than reading the above paragraph about the Badgers to know that is not an enviable position. The strength of schedule will improve some down the stretch, even slightly more than Wisconsin’s, but you’re looking at a Huskies team that has to finish 12-1 and get a ton of help to have a CFP shot.

10. Auburn (7-2; SOR: 14; SOS: 38)

Chaos has a name, and that name is Auburn. We love to posit about two-loss teams that still have a shot to make the Playoff, but very often that is the most wishful of thinking that would require a number of external factors to work in those teams’ favor. This Auburn team, however, has an uncommon opportunity ahead of it. Is it likely? No. But starting this weekend, the Tigers can construct a gauntlet for themselves that, if traversed unscathed, would almost certainly land them in the Playoff field. Auburn hosts No. 1 Georgia on Saturday, then hosts No. 2 Alabama on Nov. 25. Win both of those, and they get Georgia again in the SEC Championship. Take down the Bulldogs one more time? See you in the CFP.

11. USC (8-2; SOR: 9; SOS: 11)

Southern Cal’s strength numbers alone mean you can’t 100% rule it out of the running, but it would take an incredible amount of chaos for the Trojans to work their way anywhere near the four-team field.

12. Michigan State (7-2; SOR: 10; SOS: 10)

Sparty ended any faint hope Penn State had of a Playoff spot and actually put itself in the best position of any B1G team outside of Wisconsin to make a run at it. Much like USC, though, Michigan State has to win out and get plenty of help.

13. Ohio State (7-2; SOR: 16; SOS: 27)

We told you last week that people were overreacting to Ohio State’s win over Penn State, and whaddya know. The Buckeyes were on the wrong end of one of the more shocking results I can remember in a 55-24 throttling at the hands of an Iowa program that hasn’t dreamed of scoring 55 points in years. Ohio State still controls its own destiny for a conference title, but I can’t imagine anybody could take this team seriously at this point.

14. Penn State (7-2; SOR: 12; SOS: 24)

No notable wins. Controls nothing. Done.

15. Oklahoma State (7-2; SOR: 13; SOS: 15)

Technically still in the running for the Big XII, but that conference’s only Playoff shot is a one-loss Oklahoma or TCU.

16. Mississippi State (7-2; SOR: 15; SOS: 57)

The Bulldogs don’t have a realistic chance at the four-team field, but they have a chance to affect it when they host Alabama this Saturday.

17. Virginia Tech (7-2; SOR: 18; SOS: 62)

The Hokies didn’t put up nearly the fight I expected against Miami, and now their ACC Championship and Playoff hopes are dashed.

18. UCF (8-0; SOR: 11; SOS: 93)

The Knights got their toughest test of the season from Chad Morris’ SMU squad, but the 31-24 win kept them in great position for a New Year’s Six bowl. UCF should still be ranked higher, as they actually possess a better resume than Wisconsin.

19. Washington State (8-2; SOR: 19; SOS: 50)

The Cougars bounced back nicely with a win over Stanford.

20. Iowa (6-3; SOR: 26; SOS: 26)

The Hawkeyes vault into the rankings after pulling the biggest stunner of the weekend. They can finish their sabotage of their own conference by following that up with an upset of Wisconsin this weekend.

21. Iowa State (6-3; SOR: 24; SOS: 20)

The Cyclones’ loss to West Virginia ended any outside shot they had at a CFP berth.

22. Memphis (8-1; SOR: 20; SOS: 87)

Memphis may be on a crash course with UCF for a de facto New Year’s Six eliminator in the AAC Championship Game.

23. NC State (6-3; SOR: 21; SOS: 9)

The Wolfpack gave Clemson all they wanted but didn’t have enough to edge the Tigers.

24. LSU (6-3; SOR: 23; SOS: 33)

Really no business being ranked.

25. Northwestern (6-3; SOR: 27; SOS: 25)

Gotta love capping off the poll with a team that lost to Duke!