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. Georgia (9-0; SOR: 1; SOS: 47)
The Bulldogs’ convincing win over Tennessee helped them supplant the Vols as the No. 1 team in the rankings, and they are now in a great position heading down the home stretch of the season. Georgia has back-to-back potentially tricky road games at Mississippi State and Kentucky upcoming, but if the Bulldogs continue to bring their A-game, they have nothing to worry about until the SEC Championship.
2. Ohio State (9-0; SOR: 3; SOS: 53)
There probably wasn’t a margin of victory the Buckeyes could achieve against Northwestern that would have kept them in front of Georgia this week, but a lackluster 21-7 result certainly wasn’t going to stave of the Bulldogs’ rise. Ohio State’s matchup with the Wildcats took place in insanely windy conditions that tempered the Buckeyes’ ability to move the ball through the air, resulting in a game where neither team even eclipsed 300 yards of offense. It’s hard to take much one way or the other from a game like that, which is why Ohio State stood pat at No. 2.
3. Michigan (9-0; SOR: 5; SOS: 76)
The Wolverines didn’t have to wait long for their top-4 complaints to be quelled as they jumped past Tennessee and Clemson to nab the 3-spot. Their path to the Playoff hasn’t changed, however, as their resume is still too weak to make the four-team field with a loss to Ohio State, barring major carnage elsewhere in the final weeks of the season. Winning out and tacking on a Big Ten title is Michigan’s clearest — and perhaps only — path to the Playoff.
4. TCU (9-0; SOR: 4; SOS: 67)
The Frogs trailed at home to Texas Tech entering the fourth quarter on Saturday but finally pulled away from the Red Raiders with three straight touchdowns in the fourth quarter. They now find themselves slotted in the top four with the losses by Clemson and Tennessee, signifying what we already knew: If TCU finishes undefeated, it will be in the Playoff. Prognosticators still view the odds of that happening as relatively low, but a road win over Texas this week would have the Frogs in a really good spot.
5. Tennessee (8-1; SOR: 2; SOS: 2)
The Vols weren’t able to take down Georgia in Athens and now find themselves boxed out of the SEC Championship in all likelihood. Tennessee’s resume is still one of the stronger ones in the country, as it’s rare to see a top-2 strength of schedule mark for an 8-1 team, and they still clock in at No. 2 in strength of record. So this team is certainly not out of the Playoff race by any means, but it needs to hope that teams like Clemson, Oregon and TCU suffer losses to avoid a scenario where the Vols are having to fend off a bunch of one-loss conference champions for a spot. Their resume looks good right now, but it also won’t improve between now and the final poll, as games with Missouri, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt are unlikely to move the needle at all.
6. Oregon (8-1; SOR: 6; SOS: 27)
The Ducks begin a three-week (potentially four-week) gauntlet this Saturday that features Washington, Utah and Oregon State — and potentially USC or UCLA in a hypothetical Pac 12 Championship Game. If Oregon wins out with that schedule, this team is going to make the Playoff, plain and simple. Easier said than done, of course, but adding that group of wins to an already passable resume would make it nearly impossible to leave the Ducks out of a four-team field with the rest of the current landscape. There is perhaps a scenario or two where it wouldn’t be a given, but the blowout loss to Georgia seems a distant memory at this point and is easy to look past with the way the Bulldogs look currently. A loss in any of those games, however, and the Ducks are likely toast.
7. LSU (7-2; SOR: 7; SOS: 8)
We ranted last week about LSU’s ranking being several spots too high, and now we see the residual effects of that after their dramatic win over Alabama. LSU is playing well right now, and probably deserves to be ranked in the top 10 or 12, but their prior inflated rankings has empowered the committee to slide them up within shouting distance of the top four. Winning out and nabbing an SEC title would make an interesting Playoff case for the two-loss Tigers, but anything short of that and there’s no real hope here.
8. USC (8-1; SOR: 10; SOS: 64)
Southern Cal still remains in a tough position until Utah loses again, because right now the Trojans have no path to the Pac 12 Championship Game. All they can do is keep winning and hope they backdoor their way into that game, because there won’t be enough on the resume to threaten the four-team field without a conference title.
9. Alabama (7-2; SOR: 9; SOS: 6)
The Tide are all but out of the Playoff race now after another heart-breaking loss, though we won’t rule them out entirely until they are officially eliminated from SEC title contention. That can happen pretty simply today, however, if LSU knocks off Arkansas to clinch the SEC West. With two close losses, it’s shaping up as a ““what might have been” type of season for Alabama.
10. Clemson (8-1; SOR: 8; SOS: 55
After we spent time and energy defending the Tigers’ resume a week ago, they promptly went out and delivered one of their worst performances in recent memory in an embarrassing 35-14 loss at Notre Dame. There is still a path to the Playoff for Clemson if it wins out and gets a well-placed loss or two elsewhere, but this team looks nowhere near Playoff-caliber right now.
11. Ole Miss (8-1; SOR: 12; SOS: 68)
The Rebels don’t control their own destiny in the SEC but could take a big step by beating Alabama on Saturday. They simply need one loss from LSU to get back in the mix for the conference title.
12. UCLA (8-1; SOR: 11; SOS: 66)
The Bruins, on the other hand, do control their own destiny in the Pac 12, and perhaps for a Playoff berth with a couple losses by teams ranked ahead of them.
13. Utah (7-2; SOR: 17; SOS: 59)
14. Penn State (7-2; SOR: 13; SOS: 11)
15. North Carolina (8-1; SOR: 14; SOS: 84)
16. NC State (7-2; SOR: 16; SOS: 46)
17. Tulane (8-1; SOR: 15; SOS: 95)
18. Texas (6-3; SOR: 19; SOS: 16)
19. Kansas State (6-3; SOR: 21; SOS: 28)
20. Notre Dame (6-3; SOR: 23; SOS: 13)
21. Illinois (7-2; SOR: 24; SOS: 78)
22. UCF (7-2; SOR: 32; SOS: 97)
23. Florida State (6-3; SOR: 28; SOS: 35)
24. Kentucky (6-3; SOR: 26; SOS: 26)
25. Washington (7-2; SOR: 30; SOS: 86)
GAMES TO WATCH:
Louisville @ No. 10 Clemson - 3:30 p.m.
No. 9 Alabama @ No. 11 Ole Miss - 3:30 p.m.
No. 25 Washington @ No. 6 Oregon - 7 p.m.
No. 4 TCU @ No. 18 Texas - 7:30 p.m.
No. 15 North Carolina @ Wake Forest - 7:30 p.m.