It’s almost November, and we have seen enough major upsets and thrilling finishes in the first nine weeks of the football season for us to believe the next few weeks could pack more excitement than we’ve ever seen in the College Football Playoff era.
In back-to-back weeks, we saw the then number two seed lose in blow outs, then in week nine, there were eight ranked teams that lost to unranked opponents. Now, we get the unveiling of the first edition of the CFP rankings. This is where is gets really interesting.
While I don’t have an official vote within the CFP committee (yet), below are my top ten teams heading into Week 10, and their chances to finish in the top four by December.
1. Alabama (8-0)
A powerhouse offense. The leading Heisman candidate. A head coach who does nothing but win and collect trophies. This 2018 Alabama team is as good as you are going to find in college football. They regularly put up 50-points, their defense forces timely turnovers and their starting quarterback has yet to play in the 4th quarter. This weekend they face a very tough LSU team on the road, and still have the Auburn rivalry game on Thanksgiving weekend, but this could be Nick Saban’s most threatening team. He has always had good defenses, but never has he had an offense with this much power. Expect them to win out, all by double digits, as they are as close to a lock to the CFB as any team we’ve ever seen. Oh yeah, and the Tide have made the Playoffs all 4 years of it’s existenance.
2. Clemson (8-0)
Kelly Bryant isn’t walking onto that field any more, but Trevor Lawrence is, and he looks damn good throwing the ball. Granted that Clemson’s biggest win in the Lawrence-era was against then 16thranked NC State, who recently dropped to being unranked after losing to Syracuse this weekend, Dabo Sweeny and company have just one more tough test on their schedule, a week 12 match-up at Alumni Stadium against Boston College. Oh wait, BC? Easy win for Clemson? Not so fast. This Eagles team finally has an offense to brag about, and they might have one of the best homerun hitting running backs in football, AJ Dillon. Clemson will be favored, as they should be, but that is no easy task against BC. They’d likely play Virginia in the ACC title game, against a much-improved Cavaliers team. Clemson has some tough games ahead, but this team is built on toughness. Expect to see them in the big dance.
Oh, LSU! How we love watching Cole Tracy kick 50-yard field goals, listening to Ed Orgeron in his post game press conferences, and believing this is the year that you take over the SEC West! LSU should be guaranteed a top-4 seed this week in the rankings, and deservingly so after big wins against Georgia and Mississippi State, but this will only last five days because on Saturday they run into the Buzzsaw named Tua and the Tide. Yes, the game is in Baton Rouge, but they are also 14-point home underdogs for a reason. Alabama has a seasoned coach, and one who won’t let Joe Burrows beat him. The LSU quarterback has had 4 games without a touchdown, and that simply isn’t enough to keep pace with Alabama. They also have a Thanksgiving weekend match against Texas A&M in College Station, one of the toughest spots to play as a visiting team. LSU is a fun story, but the clock strikes midnight on Cinderalla this weekend in prime time. A loss, their second of the season, drops them out of the top ten, but for this week and these rankings, they are the 3rd best team right now.
4. Notre Dame (8-0)
They beat Michigan in the opener, and now find themselves just one spot above the Wolverines, but not by much. Worst part about where Notre Dame is now, is they don’t have a single ranked team on their schedule aside from the opener. They beat then 7th ranked Stanford, but now the Cardinals have 3 losses. They had a masterful road win in Blacksburg against then ranked 24th Virginia Tech, but those same Hokies also lost to Old Dominion and Georgia Tech. Should they finish 12-0, they should find a spot in the final four, but ironically their toughest tests might just come in 3 of the last 4 weeks of the season. Northwestern is sitting in first in the Big-10 West and are coming off a big momentum giving win against Wisconsin. Then they play Syracuse back in South Bend, with the ‘Cuse ranked 22nd. The same Orange who took Clemson to the wire a few weeks ago. Then, they head to USC, who just lost a shootout to Arizona State to snap the country’s second longest home winning streak. This isn’t the same Trojans’ team of the past decade, but they are tough at home and will give the Irish hell. I’m just not sure this Notre Dame team can get through the final month unscathed, and one loss without a conference championship game would certainly drop them from the top 4.
5. Michigan (7-1)
Let’s get one thing out in the open first, I do not think Michigan is the 5thbest team in the country. I think at this point in the season, they have the 5thbest resume in college football, so they are here at number 5. They do have nice wins over Wisconsin and Michigan State, and made those opposing offenses look like Pee Wee teams, but both of those universities already have three losses and are dropped from the rankings. So now Michigan doesn’t have a ranked win. They have two monster games coming up in November, this weekend in Ann Arbor against Penn State, and the last game of the season in Columbus against Ohio State. Michigan’s defense is scary good, but Trace McSorley and Dwayne Haskins are special talents and will find ways to score. Expect them to drop one, if not both of these games. A 2-loss Michigan team not only doesn’t win the Big-10, but also sits outside the top-4.
6. Georgia (7-1)
These next two spots are tough rankings, because I honestly think they are better than where they are, and ultimetly could get in the top-4. Let’s start with the Dawgs of Georgia. They were crusing through the season until they ran into LSU in the Bayou and lost by 20. In that game Jake Fromm threw 2 picks and had more incompletions than completions. They allowed 275 yards rushing and got demoralized in time of possession. It was an off night for Kirby Smart’s Dawgs, and one they put in the rearview quickly with a classic beatdown on Florida last weekend. They have a tough test this weekend on the road in Kentucky and a home game against Auburn, then it’s smooth sailing the rest of the way out against UMass and Georgia Tech. Expect to see them in the SEC championship against Alabama with a chance of getting back in the CFP picture.
7. Ohio State (7-1)
Is it 2017? Sure feels like it for Buckeyes fans. They were a shoe-in for the CFP last season, had it not been for that miserable night when Iowa hung 55 on them in a loss so bad, that not even the Big-10 crown could get them back into the top-4. Two weeks ago felt like dejavu, with them getting embarrassed in prime time against unranked Purdue. This season should be different though, because this team is different. Dwayne Haskins is a baller, and one of the top players in the country. He is capable of putting up big numbers and will need to in order to get back in the hunt. They have two road games left at Michigan State at Maryland and have Nebraska and Michigan at home. They could, and should, win out. If they can do that, and that beat whoever wins the Big-10 East, they might just get in as the 4th seed. They likely will have jumped Michigan, LSU and Georgia (with one more loss) in the process.
8. Oklahoma (7-1)
This is really where it ends. There are about 8 teams that control their destiny in the CFP. Any team south of here needs help, and likely a lot of it. Oklahoma sits in a position where they have just one lone hiccup on the season, a shoot-out loss to Texas. With Texas Tech, Oregon State and West Virginia in their sights in November, an impressive month of wins could help them lead over any 2-loss teams above. Let’s not forget that in the Big-12, you need to just finish in the top 2 spots to play in the Big-12 title game. Could a rematch against Texas be in the cards? If it plays out like that, and they defeat the Longhorns in round two, Lincoln Riley’s team should be able to get in.
9. Kentucky (7-1)
Kentucky has one loss this season, to Texas A&M, and it’s crazy to think that if they beat Georgia this weekend, they win the SEC-East and play Alabama in the SEC title game. Yes, technically they control their own destiny because a win against both of those teams puts in them in the elite of the elite of the sport, but that is a tall task. Beat the two finalist from last season? Two teams with more athletes combined than other conferences have as a whole? It’s possible, it’s just at this stage of their coming out party, it’s not plausible for the Wildcats. Still, a hell of a season and a ride.
10. Washington State (7-1)
Then there is Washington State. The team making East Coast fans tune into late night Pac-12 football. Gardner Minshew is becoming a legend for the Cougars, and he has his team flying. With wins over Utah, Oregon and Stanford, they write their own ending here in the Pac-12. They still have games against Cal, Colorado, Arizona and Washington on their schedule, and should they finish 11-1 and win the Pac-12, it would be an accomplishment of a lifetime for Mike Leech, however, I just don’t think the Pac-12 gets the credit they deserve. The committee would not put a 1-loss Pac-12 in the final four over any of the following one-loss conference champions: SEC, ACC, Big-10, Big-12. Notre Dame likely throws the wrench into their playoff plans as well.
The SEC is such a strong conference that they have 4 teams in the top 10, and I believe a 5th team just outside in Florida. The Big-12 has had some rough weeks where they have beat up on each other within conference, which is why Texas and West Virginia fall into 12thand 13th place respectively. Then, there is UCF. There is no telling how the committee will rank a Group of 5 team, with no ranked opponents and having played the 125th ranked schedule. I put them in the top 15, and if they run the table and win out, maybe top 12, but I am not committing any further.
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