- Alabama is the new No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff ranking.
- The committee is seemingly ignoring Clemson’s loss to Syracuse.
- As many as seven teams still control their own destinies and Notre Dame fell one spot too far.
There are only three weeks left in the college football regular season and we still don’t know who will be in the College Football Playoff.
While upsets can — and probably will — throw a wrench into any projections, as of now, it looks like two of the playoff spots will go to the SEC and ACC champions and two spots will most likely come from a pool of five teams. Another 3-4 teams are still hoping for help to get back in the mix.
On Tuesday night the third playoff ranking was released, with Alabama now on top. Here is what we learned about what the committee was thinking.
1. The committee has seemingly ignored Clemson’s loss to Syracuse.
Clemson is ranked second, despite a loss to 4-6 Syracuse, and despite being in the same conference as undefeated Miami. The Hurricanes are coming off back-to-back big wins and are ranked third.
Kirby Hocutt, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee Chair, was a guest on ESPN and described Clemson and Miami as “very similar,” suggesting that the two teams might more accurately be described as “2a and 2b.” However, Hocutt also said there are reasons to put Clemson ahead of Miami, most notably their wins on the road over ranked teams (Louisville, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina State) and their win over No. 6 Auburn.
“Miami has not faced a winning team on the road yet,” Hocutt said.
By focusing solely on the more impressive wins and performance on the road, it seems as if the committee has dismissed Clemson’s loss to Syracuse. Of course, the two teams will eventually settle it themselves in the ACC title game, but for now, the committee still believes more in Clemson than undefeated Miami.
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2. Wisconsin finally controls their own destiny.
Many debated whether a potentially undefeated Wisconsin might be left out of the playoff. However, their win over Iowa has finally swayed the committee, and Iowa’s manhandling of Ohio State the week before seemingly was a factor.
“We were impressed with the win over an Iowa team who defeated Ohio State the week before,” Hocutt said.
The Badgers are still behind Oklahoma and on the outside of the top four, ranked fifth. However, if they win out — which would mean adding wins over Michigan and likely Ohio State to their resume — Wisconsin would almost certainly jump ahead of whichever team loses the ACC title game, and possibly Oklahoma.
3. Auburn appears to control their own destiny despite two losses.
Many looked at Auburn as the school that could become the first two-loss team to make the playoff. It seemed like a long shot as they needed two wins over Georgia, including the SEC title game, and a win over Alabama.
But then Auburn blew out Georgia at home and will soon face an Alabama team at home that appears to be Nick Saban’s most vulnerable squad in years. That long shot suddenly started to feel possible.
Auburn two losses — both on the road by a total of 12 points to Clemson and LSU — are still a big negative, and they might need to leap-frog multiple one-loss teams. But at this point, if Auburn wins out, it looks like they would jump from No. 6 to No. 4 and past Alabama and the loser of the ACC title game.
4. Georgia may also still control their own destiny despite falling to No. 7.
Georgia’s shot at the playoff was certainly hurt by their 40-17 drubbing at the hands of Auburn. Late-season blowouts are usually a death card. But their path back into the playoff is almost identical to the road Auburn faces.
If Georgia wins out, they would add a win against, and leap-frog over, either Alabama or Auburn in the SEC title game. The other would have already fallen when those two teams play each other. That means Georgia would need only leap-frog over the loser of the ACC title game to get back into the top four.
5. Notre Dame fell one spot too many.
There is a case to be made for Notre Dame jumping back in to the playoff mix despite their blowout loss to Miami. But that case would have been easier from the seventh spot in the ranking. Instead, the Irish fell to No. 8.
There is a realistic chance of Georgia and Auburn both losing another game and Notre Dame could jump ahead of them. But after that, they would likely need multiple upsets to get back into the top four.
What hurts the Irish the most is the lack of a conference championship game. While most of the top teams have an extra shot at adding an impressive win, Notre Dame will not, and they are the one team that might need it the most.
6. We can ignore the other two-loss teams for now.
Teams like Ohio State (No. 9), Penn State (No. 10), USC (No. 11), and TCU (No. 12) are all still on life-support for now. If upsets happen in front of them and any of these teams win their conference championship, they will be part of the conversation. But for now, they are just too far back and there are two-loss teams with more compelling arguments.
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