With No. 3 (Auburn), No. 7 (Kansas State), No. 8 (Michigan State), and No. 10 (Notre Dame) all losing last week, there was some major reshuffling when the new College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night. Some random thoughts about where we are with four Saturdays left in the regular season:
The biggest debate of the week was how to evaluate TCU and Baylor of the Big 12. Baylor (8-1) won the head-to-head matchup 61-58 at home on Oct. 11 and had an impressive 48-14 win at Oklahoma on Saturday. Baylor made a good jump from No. 12 to No. 7.
But the committee rewarded TCU (8-1), which had a dominating 41-20 win over Kansas State, by moving it from No. 6 to No. 4. It’s clear the committee believes the Horned Frogs have a better body of work to date, which includes a 30-7 non-conference win over Minnesota (7-2) of the Big Ten. TCU won at West Virginia (31-30) while Baylor lost at West Virginia (41-27).
TCU has games remaining with Kansas (3-6), Texas (5-5), and Iowa State (2-7). Baylor’s final three games will be with Oklahoma State (5-4) Texas Tech (3-6), and Kansas State (7-2). Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said this week that if the two teams finish in a tie, they will be declared co-champions. So how does the committee factor that in?
Mississippi State (9-0) remained No. 1 for the third straight week. And yet the Bulldogs have a tough finishing stretch, starting Saturday at No. 5 Alabama and finishing with a trip to No. 10 Ole Miss.
Florida State (9-0), which had been No. 2 in the first two sets of CFP rankings, dropped to No. 3. After a less than impressive 34-20 win over Virginia in Tallahassee, the Seminoles, the defending national champions, have had a bunch of close calls this season and it finally caught up with them. They go to Miami on Saturday where they are only a one-point favorite. Oregon (9-1), which won impressively at Utah, moved from No. 4 to No. 2. Still, if Florida State wins out and takes the ACC championship, it will be in the playoff.
Ohio State (8-1) jumped from No. 14 to No. 8 after a 49-37 win over previous No. 8 Michigan State. But it just doesn’t look like the Buckeyes have the schedule to get into the top four with games remaining at Minnesota (7-2), Indiana (3-6), and Michigan (5-5). Ohio State’s best shot is if No. 16 Nebraska (8-1) wins its remaining games at Wisconsin (7-2), Minnesota (7-2) and at Iowa (6-3) and makes the Big Ten championship game between two highly ranked teams. Ohio State’s only loss this season was to Virginia Tech (4-5) on Sept. 6.
Alabama stayed at No. 5 after a 17-10 overtime win at LSU. It really doesn’t matter where the Crimson Tide are ranked because they control their destiny with home games remaining against No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 9 Auburn and a non-conference game against Western Carolina on Nov. 22.
Looking for a dark horse? Try Arizona State (8-1). The Sun Devils soundly beat Notre Dame 55-31 last Saturday and jumped from No. 9 to No. 6 after being 14th in the first rankings. The Sun Devils have games remaining at Oregon State (4-5), Washington State (3-7) and at Arizona (7-2). Win them all and Arizona State will have a showdown with No. 2 Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. Oregon (9-1) has already clinched the Pac-12’s North Division and has only two games left with Colorado (2-8) and Oregon State. The winner of that game, if it happens, would surely make the playoffs.
Bottom line: Each of the top six teams controls their destiny.