With the first College Football Playoff Rankings due out Tuesday evening, here’s what we could expect to see — although these are not designed to be a prediction of any sort. These rankings are simply my thoughts based on what has transpired to this point in the college football season.
1. Alabama (8-0)
Nick Saban’s team looks like the total package week-in and week-out. With teams falling around them, the Tide just keeps the pedal to the floor. Doesn’t hurt when you have the top-ranked rush defense and the number 1 scoring defense in the land.
2. Georgia (8-0)
With each passing week, we get closer and closer to a #1 versus #2 battle for the SEC title in Alabama and Georgia. The Bulldogs defense has been exceptional, but their redzone offense is as efficient as it can be — 31 trips in their opponents’ 20-yard line and 31 times they’ve cashed in (25 TDs and 6 field goals).
3. Notre Dame (7-1)
No team seems better at beating ranked teams than the Irish. And they’re doing it handily. A few reasons could be their ability to run the ball and play stellar defense. Notre Dame ranks 6th in the nation in rushing while their defense is ranked in the top 10 in scoring. Turnovers are another big factor with the Golden Domers — 7th in the country in turnover differential.
4. Ohio State (7-1)
What a comeback against Penn State. You wouldn’t think much good could be said about the Buckeye defense after giving up 38 in that Big Ten showdown; but they made big stops when they needed to and corralled Saquon Barkley about as good as any team can hope to. J.T. Barrett thrust himself into the Heisman conversation with a remarkable performance.
5. Penn State (7-1)
It might be tough for Penn State (and their fans, mostly) to get over that loss to OSU. It looked like the game was in hand on a number of occasions, late. How the Nittany Lions respond will say a lot about what kind of team this is, as we inch closer to the Big Ten Championship. No rest for the weary — Michigan State is up next on the schedule. And despite their loss at Northwestern, head coach Mark Dantonio will have the Spartans relishing their role as the underdog on Saturday.
6. Clemson (7-1)
A methodical victory over Georgia Tech in primetime was just what the Tigers needed after they got tripped up 2 weeks earlier at Syracuse. While everyone talks about their offense and quarterback Kelly Bryant, it’s the Clemson defense that leads the nation in sacks.
7. Wisconsin (8-0)
We can knock Wisconsin all we like because of their weak schedule. They’re 8-0 but haven’t played a single team with a winning record. Hey, they can’t control that, I know. But it’s fair to ask how the Badgers would stack up against a formidable opponent. By the looks of the rest of their schedule, that really isn’t happening until they go to Indy for the Big Ten Championship Game against OSU or Penn St. Until then, Wisconsin just keeps playing Wisconsin football — top 10 in the country in redzone defense, second overall in time of possession, and first in 3rd down efficiency.
8. Miami (7-0)
A lot like Wisconsin, the Hurricanes will need to start beating teams with a pulse for people to start really taking them seriously. And that begins this weekend as they host Virginia Tech. If that’s not enough, the ‘Canes get the Fighting Irish in South Florida the following weekend. After those two games, Miami will either be in the top 5 or they’ll be out of the top 10 altogether. A couple of “Prove It” games upcoming.
9. Iowa State (6-2)
The Cyclones have, arguably, been the hottest team in college football over the past month with top-5 wins over Oklahoma and TCU coupled with dominating performances against Kansas and Texas Tech. It’d be easy to say ISU is just a flash in the pan and will fizzle out before December, but they play smart, efficient football — they’re the 5th least penalized team in the nation and they are 8th in turnover margin. Create turnovers and don’t shoot yourself in the foot is a classic formula for winning football games.
10. Oklahoma (7-1)
With the TCU loss, Oklahoma could catapult themselves back into playoff talk, but it won’t be easy. Baker Mayfield mans the most efficient passing offense in the country, but the Sooners will need a balanced attack to claw back into the top 4. It starts this Saturday in Stillwater with Bedlam.
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