Well that was one Hell of a shakeup of the college football hierarchy. Both Miami (FL) and Alabama went down over the weekend and the landscape of the college football playoff is suddenly entirely different than it was just a week ago. Here’s how the CFP rankings went vs what I had. I will remind you that I did not post a traditional Playoff rankings last week because I didn’t expect any change from week to week:
2.Miami (FL) Oklahoma
4.Oklahoma Miami (FL)
The CFP did change things up a little bit, swapping Miami’s and Clemson’s spots, which came as a little bit of a surprise to me, but in all, there really is no advantage in the playoff between #2 and #3 except #2 gets to decide which jersey to wear. Now unless you were living under a rock this weekend, you saw that both Bama and the U went down this weekend, the Tide losing to in-state rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl and Miami getting upset by Pittsburgh. Those losses change EVERYTHING as far as potential seeding goes. I’ll get into that a little bit more as I delve into my top 6 teams. A reminder once again that these aren’t my predictions on what I think the committee is going to do, but it’s what I would do if it came down to me.
#1. Oklahoma Sooners
Record: 11-1 (8-1)
Loss: Iowa State 38-31 on October 7
Notable Wins: #2 Ohio State, #11 Oklahoma State, #6 TCU
Conference Title Game: Against #12 TCU
I do fully expect the CFP to disagree with me on the top ranking, as I think they will give that honor to Clemson. While that does make a lot of sense to me, I’m also all aboard the Baker Mayfield train and I think at this stage in the season, he is completely unstoppable right now. The man has only thrown 5 interceptions on the season and they all came in a four-game stretch from Texas-Oklahoma State. He hasn’t thrown a pick since that famed Bedlam game four weeks ago, which was when he threw for nearly 600 yards. The one concern I do have with Oklahoma is their defense, but they have shown some flashes at times. For example, they did hold Kansas to only 3 points. That’s not saying much because Kansas is about as bad a Power 5 football program as I’ve ever seen since I began following college football in 2007. But holding a Power 5 program to just 3 points is still very impressive, even if it is only Kansas. They also managed to hold a high-flying TCU offense to just 20 points, which if you ask me is even more impressive than holding Kansas to 3. Rookie head coach Lincoln Riley hasn’t missed a beat after the retirement of future Hall of Fame coach Bob Stoops and he has helped Baker Mayfield take the next step from interesting college football quarterback to a potential first round pick in the NFL Draft (I wouldn’t draft Mayfield that high, but I’ll get into that when draft season starts).
#2. Clemson Tigers
Record: 11-1 (7-1)
Loss: Syracuse 27-24 on October 14
Notable Wins: #13 Auburn, #14 Louisville, #12 Virginia Tech, #20 NC State, #24 South Carolina
Conference Title Game: Against #2 Miami (FL)
As I mentioned in my Oklahoma segment, I fully expect the committee to have Clemson in the top spot. But that loss to Syracuse is still just too glaring for me to get over. At the time, Oklahoma’s loss to Iowa State looked pretty bad but we have since learned that the Cyclones are actually pretty good, as they also defeated TCU and spent a few weeks in the rankings. Clemson does not have that benefit with Syracuse despite the fact that 5 of their 11 wins this season are against teams that were ranked at the time of their meetings. But regardless of my feelings about the loss to the Orange, there is no denying Clemson is a deadly team and a legitimate threat to repeat as national champs. They have the fourth best scoring defense in the nation and have allowed the seventh fewest yards. I’m not going to sit here and try and sell to you that this team is better than the one that won the title last year, I actually think the team that lost the title the year before could have beaten last year’s team. But Kelly Bryant has been just good enough to get the job done this season and he’s going to need to basically be Deshaun Watson come playoff time if this team is going to win a championship, which isn’t fair to ask of him since he’s not nearly the passer Watson was or is now. But we will have to see what he does when the lights are brightest and I think how he performs against Miami for the ACC championship will be a huge barometer in my confidence in his ability to take the Tigers to the top.
#3. Wisconsin Badgers
Record: 12-0 (9-0)
Notable Wins: #20 Iowa, #24 Michigan
Conference Title Game: Against #9 Ohio State
Kind of hard to keep the Badgers out now, considering the teams that lost ahead of them. But they’ve also played some of their best football these last three weeks. It started with their demolition of an Iowa team that had just beaten Ohio State by 31 the week prior, then they outlasted Michigan in a battle of two of the best defenses in the country, then embarrassed arch rival Minnesota 31-0 last week. I’m fully confident that if Wisconsin beats Ohio State for the Big Ten title, which I will be in attendance for, they will get into the playoff no questions asked. However if the Buckeyes do manage to beat them, I’m not so sure Wisconsin gets in despite the fact they’d be one of the few 1-loss teams remaining. That strength of schedule really is a pariah on their playoff hopes. But I don’t think that’s totally fair. As a fan of the Big Ten, I’ve gotten the chance to watch Wisconsin quite a bit this year and there is one word that keeps coming back to me whenever I turn on their games: resilience. I’ve seen several instances where it appeared the Badgers were on the brink of an upset or had their backs against the wall and they were able to fight and claw their way back to a victory. Northwestern gave them a scare early in the season (I could technically include that in my notable wins category, since Northwestern has spent time in the rankings). They fell behind Indiana 10-0 early and only held a 24-17 lead entering the fourth quarter before scoring 21 unanswered. Michigan looked like they were going to hold on before the Badgers were able to sneak away with the win. Just like the animal that is their mascot, the Badgers are survivors and I have a feeling that they will get into the playoff.
#4. Auburn Tigers
Record: 10-2 (7-1)
Losses: #3 Clemson 13-6 on September 10, LSU 27-23 on October 16
Notable Wins: #24 Mississippi State, #1 Georgia, #1 Alabama
Conference Title Game: Against #7 Georgia
Welp, Auburn threw a monkey wrench into the whole playoff system. After beating Alabama 26-14 on Saturday, the Auburn Tigers may be in position to become the first 2-loss team to ever make it to the playoff. And quite frankly, I think I’d be okay with that. How many teams can say they knocked off the #1 team in the nation twice in one regular season? I’m genuinely asking, a google search did me no help. But not only did Auburn beat the #1 team twice, they did so in convincing fashion each time, beating Georgia by 23 and Alabama by 12. Watching their performance in the Iron Bowl, you would’ve thought Auburn was the best team in the nation, and they sure as Hell looked like it that night. Kerryon Johnson was sensational in that game and he may need a repeat performance if the Auburn Tigers are going to win the SEC against a vaunted Georgia defense. Kirby Smart is too smart a defensive coach to let Auburn rip them to shreds twice in one season so I have to imagine he will have his Georgia Bulldogs ready for anything the Tigers can throw at them, or at least more-so than the last time these two teams squared off.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Record: 11-1 (7-1)
Loss: Auburn 26-14 on Saturday
Notable Wins: #3 Florida State, #19 LSU, #16 Mississippi State
Alabama’s loss could not have come at much worse a time. Had their one loss been to, say, Florida State in Week 1 (assuming Deondre Francois doesn’t get hurt, torpedoing the Seminoles’ season), then I think they would still sit atop the rankings. But it came in the last week of the regular season which can sour many voters and now, because their loss came against Auburn, they aren’t even playing for the SEC championship. But there’s still hope for the Tide. First off, Auburn has to win the SEC. Not only does that make the Tide’s loss even more impressive, but it effectively knocks out Georgia, who would certainly get in if they were to avenge their loss to the Tigers. They will also need one or two more teams to help them out. The ACC title game is of no help to them, as the winner of that game is certainly getting into the playoff one way or another. But if Oklahoma and Wisconsin both lost, or Hell maybe even just one of them has to lose, then an Alabama team whose only loss was SEC champion Auburn would be hard to leave out. Ohio State made the playoff last year despite not playing for the Big Ten championship so we know that the voters may not necessarily hold it too harshly against you for losing to the wrong team. So really all is not lost for Alabama despite losing to Auburn in the final week of the regular season. But again, the Tide NEED to become fans of TCU, Ohio State, and (this is the hardest one) Auburn.
Record: 11-1 (7-1)
Loss: #10 Auburn 40-17 on November 11
Notable Wins: #24 Notre Dame, #17 Mississippi State, also worth mentioning their performances against Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia Tech
Conference Title Game: Against #6 Auburn
So Georgia gets a chance to exorcise their demons by getting their rematch with Auburn with the SEC title on the line. As you can see, Auburn is Georgia’s lone loss on the season and the Tigers beat the Bulldogs pretty handily 40-17. Since that game, Georgia has faced Kentucky and Georgia Tech, two pretty good teams, by scores of 42-13 and 38-7, respectively. So I’d say they’ve recovered nicely and are in a good position to exact revenge on Auburn. If Georgia wins, then I think they are guaranteed to get in, no matter what the score is. It will essentially erase their lone blemish on the season, which is an opportunity that doesn’t present itself too often in college football. I don’t have a lot more to add on Georgia that I haven’t already said in the past, but they will need to make some adjustments, find out what didn’t work last time, and rectify those mistakes.
Miami (FL) Hurricanes
Loss: Pittsburgh 24-14 on Friday
Notable Wins: #13 Virginia Tech, #3 Notre Dame
Conference Title Game: Against #3 Clemson
I don’t normally do three “just missed” teams, but I would be doing Miami a huge injustice if I didn’t mention them here. Miami lost at a VERY bad time against a mediocre Pitt team and that all but clinched the fact that there will only be one ACC team in the playoff. But it could still yet be Miami. If they beat Clemson in the ACC title game, the CFP committee basically has no choice but to include the U in their final playoff rankings. Miami is another 1-loss team and despite the fact that they will have played one fewer game than all the other teams in the nation due to Hurricane Irma, it was a game they could afford to cancel against Arkansas State. It doesn’t really do anything for their resume if they win and would’ve been a HUGE dent if they lost. But this has been a huge season for the Hurricanes and if they were to make the playoff, that would be a gigantic step towards re-establishing their former glory.
Those are my picks for the college football playoff. You may notice with the photos I am using Getty images with the watermarks that cite the photographer. I think this is better for two reasons: one, I think it’s a more efficient way to give credit to the people who took the picture rather than just list the site the photo appeared on, and two, it allows for me to use the most recent photos which I think is far better than possibly using photos from a year or two ago. I would like to know which method you prefer. Do you want the photos with the watermarks? Or did you prefer the old method? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.