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College Football Playoff Watch: Oklahoma Or Ohio State?

With Michigan out, what team should take its place?

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NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan has lost, and will not make the College Football Playoff. However, there is still much to debate when it comes to which team should take over the No. 4 and No. 5 spot in the rankings. Georgia seems like a lock for No. 4, but it plays Alabama next week. Should Oklahoma or Ohio State be ranked higher? We take a closer look.

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.)

Alabama (12-0)

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 35

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 55

Last Week: Won 52-21 vs. Auburn

This Week: vs. No. 4 Georgia

Best Wins: at No. 12 LSU, vs. No. 20 Mississippi State, vs. No. 22 Texas A&M

Losses: None

Case For: Alabama is a lock. With Michigan losing, Bama should be in the playoff regardless of whether they beat Georgia this week. A win keeps the Tide at No. 1, a loss puts them at No. 4.

Case Against: The schedule hasn’t been great, but Alabama has cruised. There’s really nothing bad you can say here.

Consensus: Alabama will remain No. 1 when the rankings are released.

Clemson (12-0)

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 79

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 48

Last Week: Won 56-35 vs. South Carolina

This Week: vs. Pittsburgh

Best Wins: vs. No. 18 Syracuse, at No. 22 Texas A&M

Losses: None

Case For: Clemson seems to have solidified itself as the No. 2 team in the country, and should clinch that spot with a win this week in the ACC Championship.

Case Against: Clemson doesn’t have any real marquee wins, which could put the Tigers in danger of missing the playoff with a loss, but there’s no reason they shouldn’t spank Pitt.

Consensus: The Tigers will stay at No. 2.

Notre Dame (12-0)

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 61

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 44

Last Week: Won 24-17 at USC

This Week: Bye

Best Wins: vs. No. 8 Michigan, at No. 21 Northwestern, vs. No. 18 Syracuse

Losses: None

Case For: Notre Dame is the other team that has locked up its playoff spot. With a 12-0 record and no games remaining, the Irish should at worst be the No. 3 seed in the playoff.

Case Against: With no conference title game, there’s a very outside shot the committee leaves Notre Dame out, but that would be stunning. Michigan losing hurts, but overall, Notre Dame fans should have nothing to worry about.

Consensus: Notre Dame should be ranked No. 3.

Georgia (11-1)

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 33

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 28

Last Week: Won 45-21 vs. Georgia Tech

This Week: vs. No. 1 Alabama

Best Wins: vs. No. 11 Florida, at No. 16 Kentucky

Losses: at No. 12 LSU

Case For: Georgia has already clinched the SEC East and will play Alabama in the SEC Championship. Win and the Bulldogs will be in. Lose and they’ll get a trip to the Sugar Bowl. The SEC has proven to be the strongest conference this year, meaning a win over Alabama could land two SEC teams in the playoff.

Case Against: While not as flashy as last year’s team, Georgia is still a force. It’s cut and dry here — win and Georgia’s resume is fantastic, lose and the Dogs are out.

Consensus: Expect to see Georgia at No. 4.

Ohio State (11-1)

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 49

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 43

Last Week: Won 62-39 vs No. 8 Michigan

This Week: vs. No. 21 Northwestern

Best Wins: vs. No. 8 Michigan, at No. 14 Penn State

Losses: at Purdue

Case For: This is where things get interesting. The margin between Ohio State and Oklahoma is very thin, but I’d give the edge to Ohio State. Ohio State has a better strength of schedule by 22 spots (49-71), has two wins better than any of Oklahoma’s (Michigan and at Penn State are greater than at West Virginia and at Iowa State) and OSU plays in a better conference. What this team did against Michigan was impressive and will go a long way with the committee.

Case Against: Proponents of Oklahoma will argue Ohio State’s loss is much worse than a neutral site loss to Texas, which is true. Getting blown out by a mediocre Purdue team is a bad look and will be the reason OSU is No. 6 if the committee goes that way. However, I prefer to look at strength of schedule and best wins instead of which team’s loss was worse.

Consensus: Ohio State should be No. 5, but if committee continues to be infatuated with Oklahoma, the Buckeyes will be No. 6.

Oklahoma (11-1)

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 71

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 37

Last Week: Won 59-56 at No. 15 West Virginia

This Week: vs. No. 9 Texas

Best Wins: at No. 24 Iowa State, at No. 15 West Virginia

Losses: vs. No. 9 Texas

Case For: The committee loves Oklahoma. I don’t know why, but they do. If the Sooners stay ahead of Ohio State and move to No. 5, it’ll be because of OSU’s loss to Purdue being worse than Oklahoma’s loss to Texas. The Sooners have two top 25 road wins, which is nice but nobody really believes Iowa State is any good and West Virginia is an Oklahoma wannabe with its good offense and terrible defense. The committee did rank UCF ahead of Ohio State last week, which shows at least as of then, they weren’t believers of the Buckeyes. This becomes much more of a debate if Oklahoma beats Texas this week.

Case Against: Ohio State has two wins that are better than any of Oklahoma’s. Ohio State also has a better strength of schedule. Not only that, but Oklahoma’s defense is putrid and has no business being near the playoff. It’ll be a shame, but my gut tells me Oklahoma will move up to No. 5, even though they don’t deserve it.

Consensus: Oklahoma should be No. 6, but has a great chance to move to No. 5.

Michigan (10-2)

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 27

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 29

Last Week: Lost 62-39 to No. 6 Ohio State

This Week: Bye

Best Wins: vs. No. 14 Penn State, at No. 21 Northwestern

Losses: at No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 6 Ohio State

Case For: Michigan lost out on its chance to make the playoff, but is still a lock for a New Year’s Six bowl. The Wolverines have a slew of quality wins and have the best set of losses in the country. The only other teams that could challenge for the No. 7 spot are UCF, Texas and Washington, but I don’t see any of those teams jumping U-M.

Case Against: It was a dismal performance against Ohio State, which could stick in the mind of the committee. UCF is still undefeated and could jump up to No. 7, but I don’t see it.

Consensus: Michigan should be No. 7 this week.

UCF (11-0)

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 95

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 94

Last Week: Won 38-10 at South Florida

This Week: vs. Memphis

Best Wins: vs. Cincinnati, vs. Pittsburgh

Losses: None

Case For: UCF has easily taken care of every team on its schedule, and have proven it is more than a one-year wonder. It is one of four unbeaten teams remaining.

Case Against: The strength of schedule is awful. UCF currently doesn’t have any top 25 wins and won’t have the chance to pick up any. That will keep the Knights from rising higher than the No. 8 spot. Losing star quarterback McKenzie Milton is a huge loss for them as well.

Consensus: UCF will move up to No. 8.