The big games we were promised Saturday came and went without a ton of suspense. Alabama was taken to the final minute against Mississippi State — and that was about all we got as far as close games. Georgia forgot to get off the bus at Auburn, Notre Dame missed the flight to Miami, Michigan State — my god — should have stayed in East Lansing, and TCU was never really in it against Oklahoma.
All that said, what we do have is a clearer picture of who’s in position to make the top-4. According to the College Football Playoff rankings, the SEC champ and the ACC champ will be in; and Oklahoma controls their own destiny. That leaves one spot for maybe an SEC “non-champion” or an unbeaten Wisconsin.
But one thing we know about college football is we know nothing about college football.
Here’s a few of my thoughts on what I see as the top 10:
Close calls are not something college football fans have come to expect when watching Alabama football. But quarterback Jalen Hurts performed at his best in the clutch during the game’s final drive on Saturday night. The Tide have the nation’s best defense in yards and scoring.
No team is better at sacking the QB than the Tigers’ defense. I don’t see Clemson tripping up before their December 2 meeting in the ACC Championship Game against Miami, which will put the winner in the playoff.
Put the Canes at 2 or 3 — it will work itself out when they meet Clemson. The win over Notre Dame was more than just a “W”. The defense opened a lot of people’s eyes; and we should start believing that this team’s defense might be just as good as conference rival Clemson’s. But this young team can’t take the next two games for granted — a noon kickoff against Virginia and then a Friday tilt in a half-empty Heinz Field against Pitt will both be easy to overlook.
Ugly showing from the Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare on Saturday. Georgia’s one-dimensional offense proved to be predictable and vulnerable against a good, attacking defense determined to stop the run. A loss is one thing, but a 40-17 defeat at the hands of one of your conference rivals, when you’re supposed to be the best team in the country, is beyond disappointing. But if they win out and win the SEC title game, the loss won’t mean much as far as the playoff goes. Georgia will be there. The question is if they can’t handle Auburn, how is Georgia going to do against Alabama, if indeed it is the Tide in the SEC Championship Game?
There is no doubting Baker Mayfield and OU’s efficient offense. But you’ve got to play some sort of defense — and I haven’t seen the Sooners do it since week 2 against Ohio State. For me, Oklahoma is no lock for the final 4 even if they end up with 1-loss and the Big 12 title — in reality, though, they committee has made it clear that they’ll be in.
Well, Auburn passed task 1 of their 3-pronged strategy of crashing the playoff — beat Georgia. Up next on the To-Do List — just go ahead and beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl in two weeks. Then, of course, the Tigers would have to beat Georgia in a rematch in the SEC Championship Game. I’m not saying they can do it, but the way that defense played against the very efficient Georgia offense, I’m certainly not saying they can’t.
Undefeated still, yet not getting much love. The win over Iowa was good for the Badgers, but it’s their first win over a team with a winning record. They’ll need to win impressively when they host Michigan this Saturday if they want to make a push for the top-4.
8. Notre Dame
ND’s playoff hopes came crashing down in Miami over the weekend in anti-climactic fashion. Just when it looked like everything was lining up for Brian Kelly’s team, the Hurricanes went and handed the Irish their worst defeat since USC beat them 49-14 in 2014. Notre Dame’s strength of schedule is still excellent so barring a stumble in the final couple weeks, the Irish will be in a New Year’s Six bowl
9. Ohio St.
A week after getting embarrassed at Iowa, Urban Meyer had his Buckeyes ready to rebound at home against Michigan State, who had everything to play for. I don’t really see a path to the playoff for OSU, but stranger things have happened. All OSU can do is win out, including the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin, and let the chips then fall where they may.
10. Penn St.
Back-to-back losses really has a way of taking a team off of everyone’s radar. I don’t even know who the Nittany Lions beat Saturday (I’m only kidding — that wasn’t meant to be a slight against Rutgers). James Franklin’s team is stuck is a bad spot — they can win out but still won’t win the division, thus leaving them out of the conference title game. To make matters worse, a New Year’s Six bowl game isn’t even a given right now based on how the conference is playing out.
Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.