1. Alabama (11-0, previously #1)
A date with Auburn is all that stands in between Nick Saban and an undefeated regular season. The Tide will be heavily favored in the Iron Bowl as well as the SEC Championship game — and likely any playoff game or games they play in. Rightfully so.
2.Ohio State (10-1, previously #2)
The Buckeyes had to grind out an old-school Big Ten battle with one of the few teams in the country, Michigan State, that has been a thorn in head coach Urban Meyer’s side since joining the Big Ten. A 17-16 win over the 8-loss Spartans wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring, but it makes no difference. Barring a loss at home to Michigan, Ohio State will be in the playoff. With just the one loss on a flukey blocked field goal return, I can’t see the Bucks getting passed over.
3. Clemson (10-1, previously #3)
It’s simple for Clemson — win out, win the ACC Championship game, and they are in. I will argue all day long that the Tigers are one of the only 3 teams in the country that show up big in big games — despite looking out of sync at times this year, Clemson is still a team that should seriously be seen as a national title contender.
4. Michigan (10-1, previously #5)
To say the Wolverines’ offense has been struggling as of late would be a major understatement. Through a six-quarter stretch, Michigan managed just 16 points against the likes of Iowa and Indiana, before De’Veon Smith got loose for 2 long touchdown runs against the Hoosiers to cement that 20-10 victory. Jim Harbaugh has a week to get the offense humming like it had been for the first 9 games of the season or else it’s going to be a difficult task expecting to beat OSU in Columbus.
5. Washington (10-1, previously #6)
The talk around the Pac-12 has ratcheted up a lot over the last week. The confusing thing is that people are talking about the wrong teams — USC and Colorado. Washington can shut everyone up if they take care of Wazzu for the Apple Cup and then win the conference championship game a week later.
6. Wisconsin (9-2, previously #7)
Wisconsin is, perhaps, playing the best football of any Big Ten team right now. They are sitting in the cat bird’s seat as it stands right now — win the Big Ten Championship game and they can’t be kept out out the top-4. And if Penn State’s their opponent in Indianapolis, the Badgers will be the well-deserved favorites.
7. Houston (9-2, previously unranked)
The early season darlings, the Houston Cougars, could not capitalize on their opening weekend victory over Oklahoma after dropping 2 of 3 games to Navy and SMU a month ago. But they leapt right back into the picture with a dominant 36-10 win over the Cardinals on Thursday night.
8. Louisville (9-2, previously #4)
After weeks of up and down, impressive then unimpressive performances, Louisville finally ran into an opponent who was up for the challenge and got up early and didn’t let up. Where does Louisville go from here, now that they’ve dropped 2 games? Well, they’re certainly all but eliminated from getting back into the top-4; a runner up finish behind Clemson in the ACC will still probably land Louisville in a New Year’s Six bowl game — especially taking into account that Lamar Jackson is still the clear favorite for the Heisman.
9. Penn State (9-2, previously #8)
Everything went the way PSU needed it to go this past weekend — beat Rutgers and remain tied in a three-way logjam with U-M and OSU atop the Big Ten East. Now the Nitany Lions just need to put down Michigan State and hope that the favored Buckeyes handle Michigan in Columbus — neither of which seem unrealistic in the least. Those things happen — PSU and Wisconsin meet for the conference title in Indy with the winner staking a huge claim to one of the top-4 spots.
10. Oklahoma (9-2, previously #9)
“The Sooners don’t have any big, memorable wins on their resume this year” — that’s from last week’s BGPR. Well, a week later, the Sooners have added that big resume-enhancing win, as they went into Morgantown on Saturday night and hung 56 on the previously 8-1 Mountaineers. As well as they’re playing right now, OU has a low ceiling and will only be able to move up the rankings so far. Probably not going to be able to break through into the top-4.
Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.