The New College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday, and while there were many significant shake ups, plenty kept still.
With Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Iowa all winning their games Saturday, there were no changes in the top five. But outside of #21 Memphis and #25 Wisconsin staying still, no team held the same position they had last week. Oklahoma State was the only team in the bottom half of the top 10 to move up from from last week, from #8 to #6 after winning at Iowa State. Baylor dropped from #6 to #10 after a tough loss at home against Oklahoma.
After suffering their own tough losses, Stanford, Utah and LSU all dropped out of the top 10, and possibly playoff contention. Losing for the second time in two weeks, at home to Arkansas, dashed LSU’s dreams of a playoff spot, dropping the former #1 team in the nation from #9 to #15.
Utah and Stanford, however, still can dream. If Stanford wins out they will secure a spot in the Pac-12 championship game. Utah needs to win out and #22 USC needs to lose to either #23 Oregon or UCLA. If both teams make it, the winner will be a two loss PAC-12 champion with quality wins against ranked teams, something the playoff committee can’t easily ignore.
Returning to the top 10 are #8 Florida, up from #11, #9 Michigan State, up from #13, and #7 Oklahoma, up from #12. If Michigan State can win out the season, including a win against #3 Ohio State, and go to the Big 10 championship against #5 Iowa (presuming they also win out), the winner of that game in every likelihood to be headed to the playoffs.
Oklahoma is in a similar position; if it can notch wins against Oklahoma State and Baylor, it will be a one-loss Big 12 champ, though the committee has shown it prefers an official championship game when deciding playoff spots, having left out Baylor and TCU from the playoffs last year despite impressive seasons. Both of those teams can also make a case for a playoff spot if they win out, but they face the same challenge as Oklahoma as one loss teams without an official championship. Oklahoma State can make a better case for inclusion if it wins out against Oklahoma and #18 TCU, becoming an undefeated Big 12 champ.
Florida has already secured a place in the SEC Championship game, but it still has FAU and #14 Florida State standing in its way. If Florida wins those games, and manages to beat Alabama for the championship, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the committee leaves out a one loss SEC champ. If enough teams are left undefeated at the end of the season, however, we could see just the seventh time the SEC is left out of the championships since the BCS era began in 1998.
Number one Clemson has its fate in its own hands; the only real challenge left is the ACC Championship game, which will most likely be against a blazing #19 North Carolina, which is on a nine game winning streak. If Clemson wins they will surely be headed to the playoffs. But if North Carolina can pull of an impressive upset, the playoff committee will have a tough decision on its hands.
As it stands now, however, Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama and some combination of the top six teams are more than likely making their way to the playoffs, barring any stunning upset. But as this season has taught us, anyone can win at any time, and these next few weeks have plenty of chances to blow the lid off the playoff race.