1. Alabama (12-0, previously #1)
Beat Florida for the SEC crown and the Tide will be in the playoffs as the top seed. Lose to Florida and the Tide is still in — probably as the 1 or 2. On a side note, Jalen Hurts has quietly polished up his freshman resume quite nicely and might have earned himself an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
2.Ohio State (11-1, previously #2)
The Buckeyes were victorious over Michigan in the best college football game I’ve seen this year — going back to last January’s National Championship Game. It backs up what I’ve said about OSU all year — they may not be impressive every week, but in the big games and the biggest stages, Urban Meyer’s teams never disappoint. Alabama has been outstanding this year, but Ohio State is one of just a couple teams that I think is capable of posing a serious threat to Tide’s title hopes.
3. Clemson (11-1, previously #3)
Clemson had the advantage of seeing all the events unfold in front of them before taking the field Saturday night against rival South Carolina. Yes, ‘Bama and OSU all but sealed their playoff bids, but Clemson responded in a big way, too; and the Tigers are now an ACC championship away from securing their playoff fate.
4. Michigan (10-2, previously #4)
I’ve said all season that the game against OSU would say all we need to know about Michigan and the progress head coach Jim Harbaugh has made in Ann Arbor. And it said a lot. Long story short — you can’t convince me that U-M is not one of the top 4 teams in college football. The Game — version 2016 — was outstanding and evidence that those two teams are two of the very best in the country right now. Selfishly, I want to see them both in. Realistically, I understand people arguing for Washington. But I do believe Michigan is better and has a better resume than the Huskies.
5. Washington (11-1, previously #5)
After pounding rival Washington State for the Apple Cup on Friday, it looked like the Huskies were free sailing into the playoff — knowing the Ohio State-Michigan loser would have 2 losses. But then “The Game” was played and people saw just how good both those Big 10 teams are. Many will argue for Washington, but a large number of folks will say Michigan is still better, despite the 2 losses.
6. Wisconsin (10-2, previously #6)
Wisconsin is playing the best football they’ve played all season. Beat PSU in Indy on Saturday and they’re going to make a serious claim for a top-4 spot. The reality is, even with a Big Ten title, the Badgers are still not getting past Ohio State or Michigan, having lost both those head-to-head games during the season. They’ll losses from Washington and Clemson somewhere along the way to break into the party.
7. Penn State (10-2, previously #9)
No one expected Penn State to be playing in the conference championship this Saturday. Few think they’ll beat Wisconsin. And fewer think they have any shot at making the playoff, even if they win the Big Ten championship. But that’s been the story of the Nitany Lions’ season — doing everything people say they can’t do. Seriously, though, they’d need some major help to find their way into the top-4.
8. Oklahoma (9-2, previously #10)
All that’s left for the Sooners is the Bedlam game against in-state rival Oklahoma State. Winner takes the Big 12 championship, but any hopes for either team to crash the playoff party is incredibly unlikely.
9. Western Michigan (12-0, previously unranked)
You have to give respect to the turnaround that head coach P.J. Fleck and his staff have engineered in Kalamazoo. A win away from a MAC title and, likely, a birth in the Cotton Bowl.
10. Colorado (10-2, previously unranked)
The Buffs have returned to top-10 status with a 6-game win streak and a Pac-12 South division title. Colorado has only stumbled twice this year — on the road both times against Michigan and, the very much improved, USC. The Buffaloes face their biggest and most important test of the season next Saturday when they face Washington for the Pac-12 championship and spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.