By Mike Bachini, CBS Connecticut
Connecticut (CBS) – Tonight the College Football Playoff Committee will reveal their penultimate rankings of the 2017 football season. The last coming this Sunday. A lot happened this past weekend, and it will be interesting to see where the committee ranks teams such as Auburn, Alabama and Wisconsin. Not to mention Georgia and Miami.
There are a lot of theories floating around as to which teams will get in after the conference championship games are played this weekend.
First I will predict only the Top-10 and I will go into detail as to why I feel the committee will rank the teams where they are. After that, I will dive in to the possible scenarios that could play out that will affect the final rankings.
1. Clemson (11-1)
Clemson dismantled #24 South Carolina on the road 34-10 on Saturday adding another solid win to their already strong resume. The Tigers now have 7 wins over teams with a record above .500, 4 of them have come on the road and 3 of those 4 were against teams ranked in the committee’s top 25 on game day. Yes, Clemson has by far the worst loss of anyone being considered in the top 4. Syracuse looked like a team on the rise after they took down the Tigers at home on a Friday night, but since then the Orange have lost 5 in a row to finish 4-8. The committee has already said they are taking in to account QB Kelly Bryant’s injury when looking at that game. It’s also become clear that the committee favors good wins over bad losses. A win over Auburn totally erases a fluke loss to a bad team.
2. Oklahoma (11-1)
Oklahoma’s loss to 7-5 Iowa State is a better loss than Clemson’s loss to Syracuse. That’s clear. Oklahoma also has top wins over Ohio State, TCU and Oklahoma State. After that, their resume lacks some punch. They have wins over 0-12 UTEP, 1-11 Kansas, 1-11 Baylor and 5-7 Tulane. Yes they also have wins over bowl eligible 7-5 West Virginia, 7-5 Kansas State and 6-6 Texas and Texas Tech. But those aren’t really needle movers. The Sooners should slide right behind the Tigers.
3. Auburn (10-2)
This is where things will get very interesting. Will I be shocked if Wisconsin is ranked #3? No. But the committee will look past Auburn’s 2 losses verses the Badgers 0 simply because of who they are beating. Auburn’s two losses were both on the road to Clemson and LSU by a total of 12 points and they have now beaten the committee’s #1 ranked team in 2 out of the last 3 weekends. There’s no question Auburn is playing like a Top 4 team right now and you could even argue they are playing the best football in the country.
4. Wisconsin (12-0)
Wisconsin finished off the regular season schedule with a win over Minnesota 31-0. The Badgers have given up more than 17 points only once this season, back in a week 4 win over Northwestern 33-24 which is their best win to date. Since then they’ve beaten up on the lowly Big 10 West with a couple solid wins over Michigan and Iowa thrown in. They are a very very good team, but they’ll have to prove it once more this weekend against Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship game.
5. Alabama (11-1)
Alabama had looked relatively human the past few weeks and it finally caught up to them in a 26-14 loss at Auburn. Why is Alabama ranked higher than Georgia? Well for one, their resume has gotten much better the past couple of weeks. Florida State isn’t the train-wreck they were 4 weeks ago, Fresno State won the Mountain West West division and will play for the conference title this weekend, and their only loss is on the road to the #6 team in the country in one of the biggest rivalries in all of college football.
6. Georgia (11-1)
Georgia will get it’s shot at revenge this Saturday against Auburn in the SEC Championship game. That’s the advantage they have over Alabama. Alabama will be sitting at home and hoping the chips fall in their favor. The Bulldogs actually control their own destiny. Georgia is ranked behind Alabama because Alabama was at least competitive against Auburn in their match up, Georgia wasn’t. Notre Dame has also fallen on hard times lately, so the feather in the cap that Georgia sported for most of the year is now just a 1 point win on the road verses a 9-3 team.
7. Miami (10-1)
Everyone was waiting for it to happen. Miami was barely beating average teams week after week. Everyone thought that Miami wasn’t really that good. Then they absolutely dismantled both Virginia Tech and Notre Dame in back to back weeks and people were starting to believe in the U. Well it seems that the chip on their shoulder was taken away when they were finally recognized last week at #2 as the Hurricanes fell on the road to a 5-7 Pitt team 24-14. They’ll have to get back on track this weekend against Clemson in the ACC Championship game.
8. Ohio State (10-2)
Ohio State beat a good Michigan team on the road to finish off their season. That’s a good Michigan team, not a great one. Ohio State has some blemishes on their resume that will be hard to overlook. A 15 point loss at home to Oklahoma and a terrible 31 point loss at Iowa. Ohio State will have to make a statement against 12-0 Wisconsin to have a chance.
9. Penn State (10-2)
Oh what could have been. From being up 18 at Ohio State, to losing heartbreaking games in back to back weeks by a combined 4 points to end any hope of being in the top 4 at the end. There’s no doubt that Penn State is one of the best teams in the country, but unfortunately for them, they’ll be sitting this one out just as they did last year.
10. USC (10-2)
USC will play Stanford (who should be ranked in the Top-20 tonight) in the Pac-12 Championship game this Friday night. If the Trojans hadn’t been embarrassed by Notre Dame earlier in the season, they might be ranked as high as 8 with an outside shot to get in the top 4. You could argue that a 31 point loss to 7-5 Iowa is worse than a 35 point loss to 9-3 Notre Dame, and I would agree. Ohio State’s other loss is to Oklahoma, whereas USC’s other loss is to Washington State. That’s where the difference lies. A win on Friday night against Stanford will not pack the same kind of punch that a win over Oklahoma (TCU) or Wisconsin (Ohio State) will, so it looks like the Trojans will be left out once again.
Playoff Scenarios For Each Team
It’s pretty simple. Win and they’re in. Lose and they are out.
Alabama doesn’t really have a rooting interest in the SEC championship game. If Georgia wins, they will jump over Alabama. If Auburn wins, they will stay ahead of Alabama. Alabama fans should be rooting hard for TCU. And to a lesser extent, Miami and Ohio State. The reason I say to a lesser extent is because both Miami and Ohio State still have their own shot to jump the Tide in to the Top 4. More on that below. But TCU has such an outside shot, that a win by the Horned Frogs would most likely mean no Big 12 representative (as Oklahoma will fall out) in the Top 4. Since the Pac-12 already has almost no shot to get in, it means more opportunity for a conference, like the SEC, to get 2 teams in to the Top 4. The winner of Georgia/Auburn, and Alabama.
Georgia has entered “win and you’re in” territory. If they knock off one of the hottest teams in the country and get retribution for their earlier loss they will be in and they will take Auburn’s spot. There’s a 0.0% chance the committee leaves out a 1 loss SEC Champion. It’s easier said than done however.
Miami is also in “win and you’re in” territory. If they beat Clemson on a neutral field in the ACC Championship game, they will take the Tigers spot in the top 4. I’d bet they wouldn’t be ranked any higher than 4th, but they’d still be there.
Ohio State still has a shot, but they will need a lot of help. First, they need to make a statement against Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship game. They can’t just win, they need to do so convincingly. Kind of like they did in 2014 when they beat the Badgers 59-0. They need to leave a good impression on the committee to erase some of the stink that still remains from their 55-24 loss at Iowa a few weeks back. They also need to root for TCU like ‘Bama does. If it comes down to 11-2 Big 10 champ Ohio State vs 11-1 non-SEC champ Alabama, who would the committee decide on? This argument worked in the Buckeye’s favor last year when they were selected as an 11-1 non conference champ over 11-2 conference champ Penn State so winning your conference championship doesn’t trump all in certain scenarios. It’s not as easy for the Buckeyes to just slide into the top 4 and take Wisconsin’s slot like it is for Miami and Georgia. Then again, should Ohio State be penalized too much for playing a great team like Oklahoma out of conference? Alabama thought they were doing the same when they scheduled Florida State, but it didn’t work out that way in the end. It will probably come down to whether or not the committee thinks Ohio State is a better team than Alabama. And let me tell you, Alabama would not have lost by 31 at Iowa. So Ohio State needs to leave no doubt this weekend. Unless of course TCU wins. Then there’s room for both the Buckeyes and the Tide.
Disagree with the rankings and analysis? Let Mike know on Twitter HERE.