The College Football Playoff Committee has convened for the first time this year and released a Top 25 lacking in any real controversy or surprises. Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide take the number 1 ranking. Familiar foe and opponent for two of the last three CFP Finals Clemson the obvious choice at number 2. Alabama’s opponent this weekend LSU and fellow unbeaten Notre Dame round out the playoff spots in this week’s ranking.
With four more Tuesday rankings to be published before the final, and with multiple ranked programs facing each other this weekend, there is still much to play for. The defining rankings are published on December 2nd and history suggests there will be changes in the rankings.
Who is ‘the Committee’ under-rating?
#10 Ohio State (7-1, 2nd in the BIG 10 East) – Ohio State, the pre-season favourite for the Big 10 and a spot in the college football playoff is still reeling from a shock pounding at the hands of 4-4 Purdue two weeks ago. The Buckeyes are ranked below the Kentucky Wildcats and the Washington State Cougars, both of whom you would back Ohio to handle on a neutral field. I think there is an element of bias given that Ohio State was on a bye last week. A big win over Nebraska this week should see them climb closer to their true ranking. Winning out, with a Big 10 title should see them make the top 4.
#13 West Virginia (6-1, 1st in the BIG 12) – The Mountaineers are in a similar position to the Buckeyes. They had a similarly demoralising loss in conference play against Iowa State, but the Cyclones are above .500 on the year and have some NFL calibre players on the roster. Similarly to the Buckeyes, the bigger tests are to come in the form of #17 Texas and #7 Oklahoma. Win those and they will climb the rankings.
#5 Michigan (7-1, 1st in the BIG 10 East) – Both of these may be a little harsh. However, for both you need to ask the question; who have they beaten? The Wolverines are yet to beat a ranked team yet are ranked above Georgia, who beat #11 Florida last week and have a single defeat against #3 LSU which is slightly more impressive than Michigan’s loss to #4 Notre Dame. This ranking typifies Michigan in the Harbaugh era heaped with praise and promise. It is now time for them to deliver.
#12 UCF (7-0, 1st in the American West) – The UCF schedule this year has had more cupcakes than a bakery. They may be unbeaten, but lack the quality wins that some of the teams around them have. They have beaten a single ‘power 5’ school, Pitt, who are barely .500. An impressive slate of ‘group of 5’ schools will be faced the rest of the way. However they will need to stay unbeaten and hope most of College Football implodes if they are to have any shot at the playoff.
I will be updating my playoff predictions each week as part of these ranking reaction pieces.
Cotton Bowl – #1 Alabama beats #4 Michigan
Orange Bowl – #3 Notre Dame beats #2 Clemson
Championship – #1 Alabama beats #3 Notre Dame
Now you may be thinking, “hang on, you just called Michigan over-rated by the committee and yet you have them in the playoff.” I do think that Michigan’s current wins have been over-rated, their case for inclusion isn’t yet strong. However, if they win out, including in the Big 10 Championship game, they will be in pole position for the number four spot. I imagine that they will be promptly blown away by ‘Bama in the Cotton Bowl, similarly to the way the Tide dealt with the Washington Huskies in 2016.
I think Notre Dame and Clemson win out to take the #3 and #2 spots respectively. This ND team has turned up in big moments this season and Clemson is going into this game with true freshman Trevor Lawrence at quarterback. This would be an upset in a close game.
As for ‘Bama, they are a 14.5 point favourite this weekend against #3 LSU. I just can’t see a team that can beat them.
This guest piece is by Alex Chinery @iamalexchinery.
Above image courtesy ESPN.