There are just two weeks left in the college football regular season, and we are in the midst of an incredible race to reach College Football Playoff. In my estimation, there are 19 teams that still have a chance to make the four-team tournament, if things fall their way, and as many as 12 have a realistic shot if they win out, particularly since several of these teams still have games left against each other. That being said, here’s how the contenders stack up in this week’s power rankings:
1. Clemson (10-0, Last Week: 1st, College Football Playoff Ranking: 1st)
It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest win, but the Tigers got out of the Carrier Dome at Syracuse (3-7) still undefeated, on the strength of Deshaun Watson throwing for 368 yards and rushing for 105 yards, accounting for three touchdowns. This week, the Tigers host Wake Forest (3-7), who hasn’t won in Death Valley since 1998, a week before their rivalry game against South Carolina (3-7).
2. Alabama (9-1, LW: 3rd, CFP: 2nd)
The Crimson Tide faced a road test Saturday at Mississippi State (7-3), and passed it with flying colors, beating the Bulldogs, 31-6. Derrick Henry, who according to some analysts has now become the Heisman frontrunner, ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns in Starkville, and now totals 1,458 yards for the season. This week the Tide host Charleston Southern (9-1), a top 10 team in FCS, before traveling to Auburn (5-5) for the Iron Bowl next week.
3. Ohio State (10-0, LW: 2nd, CFP: 3rd)
The Buckeyes extended their record Big Ten winning streak on Saturday, winning their 30th straight conference game, 28-3, over Illinois (5-5). Ezekiel Elliott, who is a Heisman contender, rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the win. This week, the Buckeyes (finally) play a ranked opponent, beginning a stretch of potentially three straight such games, as they host Michigan State (9-1) in a huge game for both Big Ten and CFP implications.
4. Notre Dame (9-1, LW: 6th, CFP: 4th)
While the Irish did win Saturday’s game against Wake Forest (3-7), 28-7, they certainly could have played better against such a struggling team. The Demon Deacons outgained the Irish 340-282, and if not for a couple breaks that went Notre Dame’s way, this game could have been much closer. One bright spot for Notre Dame was running back Josh Adams, who in the absence of starter C.J. Prosise fan for 141 yards and a touchdown. This week the Irish play Boston College (3-7) at Fenway Park, before traveling to Stanford (8-2) for a huge game next week.
5. Oklahoma State (10-0, LW: 5th, CFP: 6th)
History nearly repeated itself Saturday, as Iowa State (3-7), who ended the Cowboys’ chance at a national title in 2011 in a monumental upset, nearly did it again. But this time, the Cowboys survived, 35-31, led by sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph, who threw for 327 yards and a touchdown, and is somewhat quietly having a solid season. There are two regular season games left for the Cowboys, and both are huge, but both are at home, as they will face Baylor (9-1) on Saturday and Oklahoma (9-1) next week in the “Bedlam” rivalry. If the Cowboys win both, or even lose one and get some help, they will win the Big 12.
6. Oklahoma (9-1, LW: 13th, CFP: 7th)
The Sooners looked dead after an October 10 loss to Texas, but have rebounded nicely since then to get back into the Playoff race, and made big strides towards that goal Saturday by beating Baylor (9-1) in Waco, 44-34. Quarterback Baker Mayfield may have thrust himself into Heisman contention with an excellent performance, one in which the statline of 270 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception don’t tell the full story of how well he played. The Sooners now have a tough two weeks ahead which will define their season, starting this week at home against TCU (9-1), before traveling next week to rival Oklahoma State (10-0).
7. Iowa (10-0, LW: 9th, CFP: 5th)
While Iowa fans are probably concerned their team only won 40-35 against Minnesota (4-6), keep in mind that the Gophers have played a close game this year against not just the Hawkeyes, but also Ohio State, Michigan, and TCU. In the meantime, the Iowa offense had one of their best performances, scoring 40 points and gaining 506 yards, including 195 yards and three touchdowns on the ground from LeShun Daniels. The Hawkeyes, who need one win to clinch the Big Ten West, host Purdue (2-8) on Saturday, and travel to Nebraska (5-6) the day after Thanksgiving, before likely playing Ohio State, Michigan State, or Michigan in the Big Ten title game.
8. Florida (9-1, LW: 10th, CFP: 8th)
The Gators didn’t necessarily play their best offensive game Saturday at South Carolina (3-7), but held the struggling Gamecocks offense scoreless for three quarters in a 24-14 win. It was the second straight week the Gators haven’t looked good offensively, as although Treon Harris did throw for 256 yards and a touchdown, he also threw two interceptions. A tune-up game against Florida Atlantic (2-8) is next, before a rivalry game against Florida State (8-2), and the SEC Championship Game, likely against Alabama (9-1).
9. Baylor (8-1, LW: 4th, CFP: 10th)
The Bears suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday, at the hands of Oklahoma (9-1), 44-34. The Sooners held the Bears to their second lowest offensive output of the season at 34 points (they scored “only” 31 against Kansas State), and Jarrett Stidham didn’t play as well in his second game as a starter as he did in his first, as he threw two interceptions. There’s still plenty for the Bears to play for, as they could still win the Big 12 and, if things fall right, make the Playoff, but they must win out to do so. The next two weeks won’t be easy though, as they travel to Oklahoma State (10-0) and TCU (9-1).
10. Michigan State (9-1, LW: 11th, CFP: 9th)
The Spartans defeated Maryland (2-8), 24-7, on Saturday, despite being outgained by the Terrapins, 289-262. Quarterback Connor Cook suffered a shoulder injury in the game, causing the Spartans to lean on their run game, which gained 141 of their yards in the game, but Cook says he’ll be ready to play this Saturday. That certainly is good news for Sparty, as they head into a huge game at Ohio State (10-0).
11. Houston (10-0, LW: 16th, CFP: 19th)
12. Michigan (8-2, LW: 12th, CFP: 12th)
13. TCU (9-1, LW: 14th, CFP: 18th)
14. Stanford (8-2, LW: 7th, CFP: 11th)
15. LSU (7-2, LW: 8th, CFP: 15th)
16. North Carolina (9-1, LW: 18th, CFP: 17th)
17. Florida State (8-2, LW: 21st, CFP: 14th)
18. Navy (8-1, LW: 22nd, CFP: 16th)
19. Northwestern (8-2, LW: 23rd, CFP: 20th)
20. Oregon (7-3, LW: unranked, CFP: 23rd)
21. Wisconsin (8-2, LW: 25th, CFP: 25th)
22. Utah (8-2, LW: 15th, CFP: 13th)
23. Washington State (7-3, LW: unranked, CFP: unranked)
24. Mississippi State (7-3, LW: 20th, CFP: unranked)
25. USC (7-3, LW: unranked, CFP: 24th)
Fell from Rankings: Temple (8-2, LW: 17th), UCLA (7-3, LW: 19th), Memphis (8-2, LW: 24th)
Also ranked in CFP rankings: Memphis (8-2, LW: 24th, CFP: 21st), Ole Miss (7-3, CFP: 22nd)