After a weekend lacking many upsets and including many of the top teams playing easier tests or not playing at all in preparation for all the rivalry games this Thanksgiving weekend. Therefore, the field remains split between the seven most realistic playoff contenders and the rest of the field (although there is a change in the 8th spot).
The Seven Contenders
1. Alabama (10-1, Last Week: 1st, CFP Ranking: 1st)
The Crimson Tide defeated FCS foe Western Carolina 48-14 on Saturday, in their final test before the Iron Bowl against Auburn. The biggest rivalry in college football takes place Saturday in Tuscaloosa, a year after Auburn’s stunning last-second win on the “Kick Six” in (arguably) the greatest football game of this generation. Nick Saban is very good in “payback” games, and the Tide are favored by 9.5 as they try to clinch the SEC West, which this year may be the best division title they’ve ever won.
2. Florida State (11-0, 2nd, 3rd)
Once again, the Seminoles found a way to survive an upset bid, beating Boston College 20-17 on a last second field goal, to stay undefeated. I almost said “to stay perfect,” but this team has been far from perfection, but has played just well enough to squeak out a win each week. This week they will face rival Florida at home in Tallahassee, as the Gators play their final regular season game with coach Will Muschamp. The SEC over ACC upset is a possibility, and is even a trendy upset pick for rivalry weekend.
3. Oregon (10-1, 3rd, 2nd)
The Ducks easily dispatched Pac-12 bottom-feeder Colorado, 44-10, having already clinched the Pac-12 North title. This week they play the “Civil War” against Oregon State, a team that is 5-6 but has a top 10 win over Arizona State. Oregon can win out to reach the College Football Playoff, but it may not be easy, as they have to beat their rivals, then likely UCLA in the Pac-12 title game.
4. TCU (9-1, 4th, 5th)
A week after struggling against Kansas before squeaking by with the win, the Horned Frogs had a bye ahead of a Thanksgiving night game against Texas. TCU currently sits as the first team out of the College Football Playoff, but isn’t even in control of their destiny to win their own conference, as their head-to-head loss to Baylor has the Bears sitting two wins away from a Big 12 title.
5. Mississippi State (10-1, 5th, 4th)
The Bulldogs were lights out against Vanderbilt, beating the Commodores 51-0, as they move into perhaps the biggest ever Egg Bowl game against Ole Miss. The game lost some of its luster with Ole Miss’s loss to Arkansas, but will still have huge implications, as the Bulldogs will be (if Alabama beats Auburn) making their final case to the committee to be in the College Football Playoff (they are as of right now, ranked in 4th)
6. Baylor (9-1, 6th, 7th)
The Bears were very convincing in a 49-28 over Oklahoma State, as they prepare to play Texas Tech at a neutral site. With no title game in the Big 12, instead they will host Kansas State next week in a game with huge playoff and Big 12 title implications for the Bears, whose only blemish came at West Virginia.
7. Ohio State (10-1, 7th, 6th)
A 42-27 win over Indiana came in a game that was too close for comfort for a while for the Buckeye faithful. Additionally, their only loss was to Virginia Tech, so the Hokies’ loss to Wake Forest on Saturday can’t help the Buckeyes playoff case. What will help is if the Buckeyes keep winning, as they face rival Michigan and then either Wisconsin or Minnesota in the Big Ten title game. Even if the Buckeyes win out, they will need some help.
The Best of the Rest
8. Michigan State (9-2, 9th, 10th)
The Spartans defeated Rutgers, 45-3, but were eliminated from Big Ten title contention with Ohio State’s win. This week they travel to Penn State, still in the running for a big bowl bid.
9. Georgia (9-2, 10th, 9th)
The Bulldogs dismantled FCS opponent Charleston Southern, 55-9, ahead of their meeting with rival Georgia Tech. The Dawgs will be big Arkansas fans this week, as a Missouri loss wins Georgia the SEC East.
10. UCLA (9-2, 11th, 8th)
After beating rival USC 38-20, a win over 6-5 Stanford on Friday is all that stands between the Bruins and the Pac-12 title game.
11. Wisconsin (9-2, 12th, 14th)
12. Kansas State (8-2, 13th, 12th)
13. Arizona State (9-2, 14th, 13th)
14. Auburn (8-3, 15th, 15th)
15. Arizona (9-2, 19th, 11th)
16. Marshall (11-0, 16th, 24th)
17. Georgia Tech (9-2, 17th, 16th)
18. Missouri (9-2, 17th, 17th)
19. Ole Miss (8-3, 8th, 19th)
20. Oklahoma (8-3, 20th, 20th)
21. Colorado State (10-1, 24th, unranked)
22. Clemson (8-3, 25th, 21st)
23. Minnesota (8-3, unranked, 18th)
24. Louisville (8-3, unranked, 22nd)
25. Arkansas (6-5, unranked, unranked)*
Fell from rankings: Nebraska (8-3, 21st, unranked), Utah (7-4, 22nd, 25th), USC (7-4, 23rd, unranked)
*Editor’s note: I never thought I’d put a 6-5 team in the top 25 under any circumstances. But with the way Arkansas has played the last two weeks in shutouts of LSU and Ole Miss, and with all five of their losses coming to teams that were in the top 10 at the time, why not rank them? And I don’t see anyone else who has earned that last spot.