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Playoff Picture: Week 13

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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: Coastal Carolina at Kansas
Coastal Carolina scored a dramatic win in an impromptu showdown with BYU and has the No. 8 strength of record. Is there a scenario where the Playoff committee would give the Chanticleers consideration?
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

A win by Coastal Carolina in its monumental game against BYU resulted in ... the committee swapping the two teams’ spots in the rankings. The committee’s laziness truly knows no bounds. It’s a shame too, because there’s really no massive difference between Coastal’s resume and, say, Cincinnati’s. Heck, the committee has a two-loss Iowa State team that lost at home by 17 to Louisiana (who Coastal beat on the road!) six full spots ahead of the upstart Chanticleers. So this is simply a quick ode to Coastal. They have had a remarkable season, and while we’re not saying they are one of the four best teams in the country, a more critical look by the committee in their direction certainly was and is warranted.

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 (9-0; SOR: 1; SOS: 30)

As long as Alabama takes care of Arkansas this weekend, we’re starting to wonder if the Tide may be guaranteed to make the Playoff field even with a loss to Florida in the SEC Championship Game. The only way they could seemingly drop out would be if Florida won big and Clemson beat Notre Dame in extremely close fashion, causing the committee to slot Notre Dame at No. 4 and drop Alabama out entirely. It’s hard to see anyone blowing this team off the field, however.

2. Notre Dame (10-0; SOR: 2; SOS: 42)

The Irish were treading water early but eventually pulled away from ACC bottom-feeder Syracuse to set up the long-awaited rematch with Clemson in the conference title game. Much like Alabama, it seems like Notre Dame would still be in pretty good shape even with a reasonably competitive loss to the Tigers, as long as Alabama handles business against Florida. If the Irish and Crimson Tide both lose by similar margins, however, that would be an unenviable situation to be stuck in from a Notre Dame standpoint.

3. Clemson (9-1; SOR: 9; SOS: 39)

The calculus is pretty simple for the Tigers. Beat Notre Dame and you’re comfortably in the Playoff. Lose to Notre Dame? It’s hard to see how Clemson could stake a realistic claim for a spot, perhaps barring a shocking Ohio State loss to Northwestern in the Big Ten title game and the committee having no other choice.

4. Ohio State (5-0; SOR: 5; SOS: 72)

Once the Buckeyes’ game with Michigan was cancelled, it was only a matter of time before the Big Ten scrapped its preseason rule for minimum games to participate in the conference title game. But it is what it is, and the committee has spoken. The Buckeyes will be all but guaranteed a Playoff spot if they can take care of Northwestern in next week’s conference championship game.

5. Texas A&M (7-1; SOR: 3; SOS: 6)

The Aggies game this week with Ole Miss has been cancelled, so they now have just next week’s game with Tennessee to add a final bullet point to their resume. If they win that game, they would simply need Alabama and Notre Dame (or perhaps Northwestern) to win their conference championship games to be in good position to sneak into the Playoff. Things could change between now and selection day in such a strange season of course, but that seems to be conventional wisdom at this juncture. As much as we are not fans of teams that don’t participate in conference championship games making the field at the expense of ones that do, that may be the committee’s best option.

6. Florida (8-1; SOR: 6; SOS: 33)

Florida can work their way into the field by beating LSU this weekend and knocking off Alabama in the SEC Championship. Anything less than that would likely not be enough to sneak in.

7. Iowa State (8-2; SOR: 14; SOS: 19)

Don’t get us wrong, beating West Virginia 42-6 is a nice accomplishment, and Iowa State has played well of late. But I’m not sure how you explain the sudden leap for the Cyclones, especially with relation to Cincinnati. Now, we will grant that rewarding the Bearcats for sitting idly by as they cancel their last two regular-season games due to Covid while teams like Iowa State play and win impressively is not a great message to send, so maybe that’s part of what’s going on here. That said, we would posit that the Bearcats’ overall body of work is still superior to that of Iowa State. But we aren’t in the committee room.

8. Cincinnati (8-0; SOR: 7; SOS: 77)

Well, any thought we had that the Bearcats were in serious contention went completely by the wayside when the committee decided to slot two-loss Iowa State (of all teams) ahead of them. They still have a conference championship date with a ranked Tulsa team on the docket next week, but it seems unlikely that would be a win that could propel them into the field.

9. Georgia (6-2; SOR: 15; SOS: 5)
10. Miami (8-1; SOR: 10; SOS: 31)
11. Oklahoma (7-2; SOR: 17; SOS: 40)
12. Indiana (6-1; SOR: 4; SOS: 10)
13. Coastal Carolina (10-0; SOR: 8; SOS: 78)
14. Northwestern (5-1; SOR: 13; SOS: 45)
15. USC (4-0; SOR: 11; SOS: 89)
16. Iowa (5-2; SOR: 24; SOS: 59)
17. North Carolina (7-3; SOR: 39; SOS: 49)
18. BYU (9-1; SOR: 20; SOS: 79)
19. Louisiana (9-1; SOR: 16; SOS: 53)
20. Texas (6-3; SOR: 23; SOS: 36)
21. Colorado (4-0; SOR: 12; SOS: 91)
22. Oklahoma State (6-3; SOR: 21; SOS: 26)
23. NC State (8-3; SOR: 31; SOS: 47)
24. Tulsa (6-1; SOR: 18; SOS: 63)
25. Missouri (5-3; SOR: 25; SOS: 11)

GAMES TO WATCH:

No. 9 Georgia @ No. 25 Missouri - Noon
No. 1 Alabama @ Arkansas - Noon
No. 17 North Carolina @ No. 10 Miami - 3:30 p.m.
LSU @ No. 6 Florida - 7 p.m.
No. 15 USC @ UCLA - 7:30 p.m.