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Playoff Picture: Week 11

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We take a look at the College Football Playoff poll each week and break down the path to the Playoff.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Boston College
Amari Rodgers and No. 2 Clemson passed their final road test of the season.
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in the history of the College Football Playoff poll, the top 10 remained the exact same as it was the week prior. Alabama and Clemson weren’t quite as dominant as they have been, but both ended up with comfortable wins over top-20 opponents. Most of the remaining contenders won handily over weaker opponents, and thus we end up with a duplicate top 10 from a week ago. This week’s slate isn’t a particularly intriguing one — largely because it’s the SEC’s annual “Schedule a Scrub” week — but there is always a chance the Playoff race could be shaken up at a moment’s notice.

NOTE: We will only provide individual breakdowns for teams that have a reasonable shot to make the Playoff.

***“SOR” denotes strength of record

***“SOS” denotes strength of schedule

1. Alabama (10-0; SOR: 1; SOS: 35)

The Tide hasn’t played anything approaching a competitive game as they have rolled to 10-0 and will presumably continue rolling to 12-0. That leads to one of two primary concerns with Alabama as it pertains to the national championship that has already been awarded them by the media. Be it against Georgia in the SEC title game, the CFP semifinal, or the national title game, presumably this team will face adversity at some point (If they don’t, well then hey, maybe they really are the best team of all time). It’s fair to ask how this team would perform if faced with a tight game in the fourth quarter, because it hasn’t been in that situation this season. The second concern is Tua’s health, because (though he is toughing it out with a gimpy knee) if at any point he goes down for real, the outlook for this team certainly changes.

2. Clemson (10-0; SOR: 2; SOS: 45)

College Gameday and a prime-time kickoff were just cover for a game that proved to be a mismatch as the Tigers won their last road game of the season and tacked on another quality win to a resume that, while solid, is not exactly what it has been in recent years (Thank you, ACC).

3. Notre Dame (10-0; SOR: 3; SOS: 49)

Saturday night’s game against Syracuse may be the last legitimate chance for an Irish loss considering the way Southern Cal has looked lately. It will be the only true litmus test Syracuse has had aside from its close loss to Clemson, so we’ll get a real look at an Orange team that is arguably a bit overrated. But the real story here is whether Notre Dame can stay unbeaten and continue to carve out its place in the Playoff.

4. Michigan: (9-1; SOR: 5; SOS: 30)

It’s pretty much a one-game season at this point for Michigan, with their trip to Columbus next weekend posing the last real obstacle between the Wolverines and a one-loss season. Again, a 12-1 Michigan team would be in very good shape to make the field.

5. Georgia (9-1; SOR: 4; SOS: 16)

Assuming the Bulldogs can take care of Georgia Tech next week, it pretty much comes down to an SEC Championship matchup with Alabama when it comes to Playoff chances. If they win that game, they’re in. If they lose, they’re out barring unforeseen circumstances. Pretty cut and dried.

6. Oklahoma (9-1; SOR: 7; SOS: 33)

Four teams are still alive in the Big XII Championship, and the Sooners are obviously among them, despite a defense that is far and away the worst among the teams competing for a spot in the four-team field. This is to take nothing away from an offense that has scored at least 45 points in six straight games, but the committee purports to like balanced teams and that could certainly prove a detriment to the Sooners as the season comes to its conclusion. Still, a win at West Virginia next weekend would be a very good feather in the cap, and following that up with a Big XII title game win over a top-15 or 20 foe would give Oklahoma a reasonable Playoff case. We still believe they need some help, however.

7. LSU (8-2; SOR: 6; SOS: 4)

LSU is stuck, for all intents and purposes. The teams behind them have upward mobility, and the Tigers don’t really have any opportunity to improve their lot without utter collapse ahead of them.

8. Washington State (9-1; SOR: 10; SOS: 60)

Washington State continues to defy doubters and move through its Pac 12 schedule with just one loss. Imagine if they had pulled out their game against USC (a 39-36 loss) earlier this season? The committee would have a much more problematic situation. But as it sits now, the Cougars need to win out and get a lot of help to have a realistic chance to sneak in the Playoff field.

9. West Virginia (8-1; SOR: 9; SOS: 48)

Very similar position to Oklahoma (aside from actually being able to tout a decent defense), as the Mountaineers have an opportunity to notch a signature win over the Sooners to cap the regular season. This team may have the capacity to leap frog Washington State, LSU, Oklahoma and even Georgia, but they are very much hoping for a stumble by another team in order to get a shot at the Playoff.

10. Ohio State (9-1; SOR: 8; SOS: 58)

Ohio State got the job done against Michigan State, but not in attractive fashion. It didn’t help them at all in the poll as they remain at No. 10, and the committee still has justifiable questions about this team. Finishing with wins over Maryland and especially Michigan would boost the profile, but this team is a ways away from making the field as it sits right now.

11. UCF (9-0; SOR: 11; SOS: 119)

What will be interesting to see this week is whether UCF has any mobility left in the rankings. The Knights finally get a crack at a top-25 team (newly minted No. 24 Cincinnati), and we’ll see if there is any way for them to possibly crack the top 10, provided of course that they beat the Bearcats.

The rest of the poll:

12. Syracuse (8-2; SOR: 21; SOS: 76)

13. Florida (7-3, SOR: 13; SOS: 19)

14. Penn State (7-3; SOR: 14; SOS: 10)

15. Texas (7-3; SOR: 16; SOS: 7)

16. Iowa State (6-3; SOR: 16; SOS: 7)

17. Kentucky (7-3; SOR: 12; SOS: 14)

18. Washington (7-3; SOR: 19; SOS: 23)

19. Utah (7-3; SOR: 17; SOS: 15)

20. Boston College (7-3; SOR: 26; SOS: 55)

21. Mississippi State (6-4; SOR: 31; SOS: 27)

22. Northwestern (6-4; SOR: 25; SOS: 5)

23. Utah State (9-1; SOR: 24; SOS: 122)

24. Cincinnati (9-1; SOR: 23; SOS: 103)

25. Boise State (8-2; SOR: 28; SOS: 72)

BIGGEST WINNERS: Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State

BIGGEST LOSERS: None

GAMES TO WATCH:

No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 Syracuse, 2:30 p.m.
No. 9 West Virginia @ Oklahoma State, 3:30 p.m.
Duke @ No. 2 Clemson
No. 24 Cincinnati @ No. 11 UCF, 8 p.m.
Arizona @ No. 8 Washington State, 10:30 p.m.