It was a relatively low key weekend of college football. No top 10 teams lost, which means the College Football Playoff rankings will have little to no movement near the top when they are released at 7 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN.
Before the rankings come out, here’s a look at the cases for and against eight teams in playoff contention, ordered by their likelihood of appearing in the top four this week. (We’re using this week’s AP poll for rankings of opponents.)
Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 45
Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 37
Last Week: Won 24-0 vs. No. 25 Mississippi State
This Week: vs. Citadel
Best Wins: at No. 10 LSU, vs. No. 25 Mississippi State
Case For: At this stage in the season, it’s hard to say there’s a single team in the country that could compete with Bama.
Case Against: There’s no case against Alabama, but it’s an absolute joke it plays Citadel this week instead of a conference opponent or at least an FBS school. It’s hard to see any way this team doesn’t make the playoff, even if it loses.
Consensus: Alabama will remain No. 1 when the rankings are released.
Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 83
Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 46
Last Week: Won 27-7 at No. 22 Boston College
This Week: vs. Duke
Best Wins: vs. No. 12 Syracuse, at No. 22 Boston College, vs. NC State
Case For: Clemson knocked off Boston College with relative ease, which should keep them in the No. 2 spot. The Tigers have no reason not to finish undefeated.
Case Against: The schedule isn’t great, and Clemson doesn’t have any ranked teams remaining which means the resume essentially is what it is. A loss would likely knock the team out of the top four.
Consensus: The Tigers will stay at No. 2.
Notre Dame (10-0)
Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 59
Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 49
Last Week: Won 42-13 vs. Florida State
This Week: vs. No. 12 Syracuse
Best Wins: vs. No. 4 Michigan, at No. 24 Northwestern
Case For: Notre Dame keeps chugging along, dismantling Florida State. The win over Michigan continues to keep the Irish in the third spot, which they should claim again this week.
Case Against: The strength of schedule is a concern, but as long as the Irish stay undefeated they will have a spot in the playoff. Don’t be shocked if they end up at No. 4 behind Michigan at the end of the year if U-M beats Ohio State even though they have the head to head win. We’ll talk more about that in a couple weeks, though.
Consensus: Notre Dame should be ranked No. 3.
Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 32
Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 36
Last Week: Won 42-7 at Rutgers
This Week: vs. Indiana
Best Wins: at Michigan State, vs. No. 16 Penn State, at No. 24 Northwestern
Losses: at No. 3 Notre Dame
Case For: Michigan continued its hot streak, taking care of business at Rutgers. The Wolverines have looked fantastic ever since blowing out Wisconsin and are on a collision course to a winner-take-all game against Ohio State. There are questions about whether a one-loss Alabama team could get in over U-M, but I have a hard time seeing a 12-1 Big Ten Champion Michigan being left out.
Case Against: Just to be safe, Michigan fans should continue to root against Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia and Oklahoma (and obviously hope U-M wins out). The Big Ten as a whole is slightly down from a year ago and doesn’t have the top teams its had in prior years. That hurts Michigan, but going undefeated in conference play with the difficult schedule it has would still be pretty remarkable. Critics would say this team doesn’t have any true top tier wins yet, but that opportunity will come against the Buckeyes. Fans should also hope Northwestern wins its next two games before the Big Ten title game.
Consensus: Michigan should be No. 4 this week.
Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 42
Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 21
Last Week: Won 27-10 vs. Auburn
This Week: vs. UMass
Best Wins: vs. No. 15 Florida, at No. 20 Kentucky
Losses: at No. 10 LSU
Case For: Georgia has already clinched the SEC East and will play Alabama in the SEC Championship. The Bulldogs looked strong against a solid Auburn team and continue to be the first team out.
Case Against: Like Michigan, Georgia really doesn’t have any top tier wins. The schedule is solid, but gets considerably weaker in its final two regular season games (UMass and Georgia Tech). That should hurt the Bulldogs. Without a win over Bama, Georgia will remain out.
Consensus: Expect to see Georgia at No. 5.
Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 68
Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 34
Last Week: Won 48-47 vs. Oklahoma State
This Week: vs. Kansas
Best Wins: at No. 18 Iowa State
Losses: vs. No. 13 Texas
Case For: The Sooners continue to show off an elite offense and lead the Big 12.
Case Against: While Oklahoma has an amazing offense, the defense is incredibly weak and would get shredded by any of the current top five teams. That kind of play on defense simply isn’t good enough and will hurt the Sooners playoff chances, which are already slim. The schedule gets tougher, with West Virginia and a Big 12 title game left to go, but Oklahoma needs multiple teams ahead of it to lose, and some (Alabama, potentially Clemson) would need to lose twice. Oklahoma has struggled mightily in each of its past two games, it needs to perform better against Kansas.
Consensus: Oklahoma will likely stay at No. 6.
Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 1
Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 3
Last Week: Won 24-17 at Arkansas
This Week: vs. Rice
Best Wins: vs. No. 5 Georgia, vs. No. 25 Mississippi State, at Auburn
Losses: at No. 15 Florida, vs. No. 1 Alabama
Case For: LSU has the nation’s best strength of schedule, and given the edge SEC teams get in the rankings, the Tigers will be the country’s top ranked two-loss team. People were surprised when LSU was No. 7 last week, but they shouldn’t have been. The resume’s just aren’t there for teams like West Virginia, Washington State, Ohio State and frankly even Oklahoma. I don’t see the Tigers slipping this week either, although Ohio State could make some noise after it picked up a ranked win.
Case Against: LSU didn’t look good against a terrible Arkansas team, which may give the committee a reason to drop the team. The Tigers being ranked in the top eight is based on the strength of their schedule and their top wins, but if teams like Auburn and Mississippi State fall out of the rankings, that damages LSU’s resume. Add in the fact that it has already lost twice, and LSU fans should be nervous about dropping to eight, nine or even 10 in the rankings.
Consensus: LSU gets the benefit of the doubt because of the committee’s love affair with the SEC. Expect it to stay at No. 7, but watch out for Ohio State.
Washington State (9-1)
Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 78
Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 58
Last Week: Won 31-7 at Colorado
This Week: vs. Arizona
Best Wins: vs. No. 21 Utah, vs. Oregon, at Stanford
Losses: at USC
Case For: The committee continues to love Washington State. After a solid road win at Colorado, there aren’t many reasons for the committee to stop loving the Cougars.
Case Against: Washington State’s strength of schedule is still poor, and the good wins are lacking, but outside of a road slip-up against USC, Washington State has taken care of business. I chickened out and decided not to move Ohio State ahead of Washington State, but that doesn’t mean the committee will. OSU picked up another ranked road victory at MSU, giving it two. West Virginia and Washington State simply don’t have that. Based on pure resume, Ohio State should be No. 8, not Washington State, but based on the eye test, the Buckeyes just don’t belong.
Consensus: Washington State has a chance to both move up to No. 7 or fall to No. 9 or 10, but we’ll take the middle ground and put it back at No. 8.