With two weeks left in the regular season for most teams, and conference championships lurking on the first Saturday in December, it’s getting down to crunch time in the race to make the first College Football Playoff. After Saturday’s action, which saw a couple of upsets, the field of teams with a realistic shot to make the playoff without having a lot of help from the teams above them is down to seven teams. The seven could be ordered in just about any combination you could derive, but here’s how I have ordered them…
The Seven Contenders
1. Alabama (9-1, Last Week: 3rd, CFP Ranking: 1st)
The Crimson Tide beat previously undefeated Mississippi State, 25-20, although the win was more convincing than the score. The Tide defense intercepted Bulldogs QB Dak Prescott three times in the win, leading 19-0 before holding on for the 5-point win. This week the nation’s 2nd-ranking scoring defense plays Western Carolina, a week ahead of the Iron Bowl against Auburn, which this year will be in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban is very good in “payback” games.
2. Florida State (10-0, 2nd, 3rd)
The Seminoles once again (somehow) avoided a loss, this time coming back to beat Miami, 30-26. The last time the ‘Noles beat rival Miami five straight years (1995-99), the streak ended with a national title, as they try to repeat history this year. The nation’s longest winning streak now stands at 26 games, with four of their 10 wins this year coming in the form of fourth quarter comebacks. Boston College, who already has one big upset this year, comes to Tallahassee on Saturday, before the Seminoles host rival Florida and head to the ACC title game (they clinched the Atlantic on Saturday).
3. Oregon (9-1. 4th, 2nd)
The Ducks enjoyed a bye week after their 51-27 win at Utah a week ago, and held their ground despite some movement around them in the CFP rankings (they actually moved up in these rankings). QB Marcus Mariota finds himself in the thick of the Heisman chase, having thrown for 2,780 yards and 29 touchdowns on the season, with only a pair of interceptions. This week Oregon hosts Colorado, before heading to Oregon State (who just upset Arizona State) for their regular season finale.
4. TCU (9-1, 5th, 5th)
The Horned Frogs avoided Kansas’s upset bid Saturday, coming from behind to beat the Jayhawks 34-30 to stay in the CFP race. TCU continues to have one of the nation’s best offenses, ranking fourth in the nation in points per game, with Trevone Boykin now having thrown for over 3,000 yards on the season. This week the Horned Frogs get a bye, before a Thanksgiving night game at Texas before a home game with Iowa State on December 6, as they try to make enough of an impression on the CFP committee to work their way back into the top four.
5. Mississippi State (9-1, 1st, 4th)
The Bulldogs lost their first game on Saturday at Alabama, although they came back from down 19 to within five points. Dak Prescott’s three interceptions likely ended his Heisman chances, but this team’s playoff chances are far from over, as the committee kept them in the top four (at least for now). That means that, even though the Bulldogs need some help to even win their division, they should be in control of their own destiny to make the playoff, as they host Vanderbilt before heading to Oxford for the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss.
6. Baylor (8-1, 7th, 7th)
The Bears had a bye, fresh off of their 48-14 win over Oklahoma, and heading into a three-game stretch of Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Kansas State. Earlier in the season the Bears beat TCU, 61-58, coming back from a late 21-point deficit for the win, but Baylor still finds themselves behind the Horned Frogs, both here and in the CFP rankings. Therefore, while it is the Bears who can win out for a Big 12 title, they find themselves stuck behind TCU as the Horned Frogs appear to have the better résumé. This has been a big point of contention on ESPN the last couple of weeks.
7. Ohio State (9-1, 8th, 6th)
The Buckeyes picked up a quality road win Saturday, beating Minnesota, 31-24. The season has to be considered a success for the Buckeyes, who are in the race, even without their QB Braxton Miller, who they lost before the season to injury. They have an undefeated Big Ten record, although they are last (in my rankings) in the group of seven at the top because they have the worst loss of any of the seven teams, losing on September 6 at home to Virginia Tech, who is 5-5 out of the ACC.
The Best of the Rest
8. Ole Miss (8-2, 10th, 8th)
After a bye this week, the Rebels head to Arkansas, with the Hogs fresh off their upset of LSU. The Egg Bowl against Mississippi State is looming on the horizon.
9. Michigan State (8-2, 11th, 11th)
The Spartans took care of Maryland, 37-15, ahead of a home bout with Rutgers and a trip to Penn State. They need help to win the Big Ten East.
10. Georgia (8-2, 17th, 10th)
After last year’s heartbreaking loss to Auburn, the Bulldogs surprisingly blew out Auburn, 34-7, although they lost RB Todd Gurley for the year with an ACL injury. Charleston Southern comes to Athens before next week’s battle with Georgia Tech.
11. UCLA (8-2, 16th, 9th)
12. Wisconsin (8-2, 22nd, 16th)
13. Kansas State (8-2, 15th, 12th)
14. Arizona State (8-2, 6th, 13th)
15. Auburn (7-3, 9th, 14th)
16. Marshall (10-0, 19th, unranked)
17. Georgia Tech (9-2, 24th, 18th)
18. Missouri (8-2, 25th, 20th)
19. Arizona (8-2, 21st, 15th)
20. Oklahoma (7-3, 23rd, 21st)
21. Nebraska (8-2, 12th, 23rd)
22. Utah (7-3, unranked, 17th)
23. USC (7-3, unranked, 19th)
24. Colorado State (9-1, unranked, unranked)
25. Clemson (7-3, 18th, 22nd)
Also ranked in CFP Rankings: Louisville (7-3, unranked, 24th), Minnesota (7-3, unranked, 25th)
Fell from Rankings: LSU (6-4, 13th, unranked), Notre Dame (7-3, 14th, unranked), Duke (8-2, 20th, unranked)