The first college football playoff rankings were released on Monday, and with just under two months before the college football semifinals, the next three/four weeks are more important than ever.
- Ohio State
- Penn State
Again only the top four teams, and right now, the undefeated and defending champion is on the outside looking in according to the NCAA right now. Two games over the next three weeks have the potential of deciding the entire playoff picture for all of college football, however.
This weekend, AP#1 LSU plays AP#3 Alabama. Winner makes the playoff no questions asked. So there’s one spot filled.
Next, Clemson has a remaining schedule including unranked NC State, current #22 Wake Forest, and unranked South Carolina. Trevor Lawrence could sit in two of those three games and the team still wouldn’t have any concerns. They are currently number 4 according to the week 11 AP top 25, but their fifth place position on the CFP rankings stems from a weak ACC schedule and close call with UNC earlier this year. Since that 21-20 win against UNC, their average margin of victory is over 40 points per game. Two spots filled.
Penn State and Ohio State play each other in three weeks on November 23rd. The winner of that game is also guaranteed a playoff spot, bar Penn State losing to #13 Minnesota this weekend. Three spots somewhat locked in.
Of the current top four teams, two will guaranteed finish the regular season with at least one loss, and even with that loss coming at the hands of another playoff picture team, the CFP ranking committee weighs any loss fairly heavily.
Let’s assume Alabama beats Coach O and the Tigers this weekend. That puts the playoff picture as Alabama, Clemson, OSU/Penn State, and one open spot. Alabama has one of the weakest schedules in the NCAA, but finish their regular season against Auburn. If they were to lose to Auburn in the final week of the regular season, however, that puts two teams in the playoff picture – Auburn (losses to LSU by 3 and #10 Florida by 14) and Oregon, who’s only loss this season was to Auburn in week 1. And if Alabama loses to LSU this weekend, that puts the playoff picture as LSU, Clemson, OSU/Penn State, and one spot for any of Georgia (who plays Auburn this weekend), Oregon, Alabama, Auburn (only if they can win out), and a number of other one loss teams like Florida (only loss to LSU), the loser of OSU vs. Penn State, or Utah (embarrassing loss to USC, but most likely to face Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game). 3 teams in with 7 teams fighting for the fourth spot.
To really jam the entire situation, if Penn State loses to Minnesota this weekend but then beats Ohio State, that leaves the only guaranteed undefeated team at the end of the season as Clemson. If LSU beats Alabama, throw them in that pool as a guaranteed undefeated team taking another one of the four spots, but if Alabama wins, they’re not out of the woods until the clock runs out against Auburn on November 30th.
My prediction for the college football playoff: LSU, Clemson, Ohio State, Oregon.
The way I see it, Ohio State vs Penn State as well as LSU vs Alabama are both pretty close to being toss ups, but I’ll give the edge to Ohio State and LSU. Then, it’s up to Auburn to give Georgia and Alabama close games to send Oregon into that final spot. Besides – who doesn’t like to root against Coach Saban and Alabama. A lot can happen in the next 24 days of college football, but only four teams are making it to the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl.