This is a weekly series that will rank the best teams in the country based on their chances to make the College Football Playoff, or, if they fall short, the likeliness that they would reach one of the other major bowl games in the New Year’s Six. Here’s how things stack up heading into Week Four.
The Honorable 8
20. Houston Losing to Oklahoma and Washington State doesn’t totally ruin the Cougars’ chances of earning a NY6 slot, but they need help from UCF and Boise State, and they’ll definitely have to win out. This might be their last week on this list.
19. Washington Great bounce back there, Huskies. Never gave a tricky Hawai’i team a chance. They’ll be back on the rise in the coming weeks, so long as blowing a team out isn’t followed up the week after with a disappointing loss each time COUGH COUGH AT BYU THIS WEEK COUGH COUGH.
18. Penn State That…that was not pretty, Nittany Lions. Not that I expected it to be, but still, there’s a lot of ugly from the Pitt game that CANNOT carry over into Big Ten play.
17. Florida It gets uglier every time the Gators go out there, with the latest escape versus Kentucky also costing them staring quarterback Feleipe Franks for the rest of the season. But they’re also 3-0. If they keep winning, especially with such a loaded schedule, they’ll be moving inside the NY6.
16. Utah Consistency has them inside the AP top 10 this week, and they’ll absolutely still be the favorites to win the Pac-12 South. But winning the whole league and getting to the Rose Bowl means beating teams that will, still with no question, be more talented than the Utes (that includes USC this Friday night, IMO). I don’t buy just yet that it happens.
15. Central Florida That was some flex for UCF in a whoopin’ of a win versus Stanford. They’re the American’s unquestioned favorite right now, and it’s hard to not see them going unbeaten again. But they’ve still got competition for a NY6 spot for now, and we’ve been down this road before if you’re still shouting that they should be in the playoff (if you haven’t: yes they should have in 2017, no to last year).
14. Wisconsin The nation’s best defense? Hard to deny it at this point, and QB Jack Coan looks much better than anyone could have anticipated. But it’s only 2 games. Michigan this week is the first clue of how truly great the Badgers are.
13. Oregon Justin Herbert’s good at this, huh? Starting to make believers out of folks like yours truly in both the Heisman conversation and the race to number one in a loaded QB draft class.
The Terrific 12
12. Boise State A slow start against Portland State at home is not great, but you probably didn’t stay up to even see that and just saw the box score for a 45-10 win. The Broncos are fine either way, but they must absolutely be ready for an Air Force team fresh off the upset at Colorado.
11. Notre Dame New Mexico’s not very good, and thus the Irish did their job. The playoff question starts to take shape with Saturday night’s trip to Georgia, but losing that and only one other high-profile game is going to earn them an Orange Bowl invite over the absolute wasteland that is the non-Clemson ACC.
10. Auburn Texas A&M on the road is the second test in an increasingly demanding schedule. But if they can finish with at least the same record as Florida (especially if they win in The Swamp in 2 weeks), they should get a NY6 nod over the Gators and an Oregon team they’ve already beaten head-to-head.
9. Michigan The offense stinks. Let’s just be real. Wisconsin’s not going to be a week where improvement would really show up, but if they don’t at least show a little something, it really doesn’t matter long term if they proceed to gut out a close, ugly win. This team will still be sitting firmly in second in the Big Ten, and they’ll only get a Rose Bowl trip out of circumstance.
8. Washington State Coooooooooooooougs (because I guess this is how we’re going to spell it now to appease fans in both Pullman and Houston). Still marching on, still one of the better bets to win the Pac-12. Brilliant second half for Anthony Gordon & Co. in Houston, and they’ve been basically gifted a win by playing the current version of UCLA, but Utah in 2 weeks is when things really get interesting.
7. Texas Name a 2-1 team with a better loss. Hard to do, right? They hammered Rice the way a great team is supposed to do. Dispatching a solid Oklahoma State team with the same vigor would be quite the statement.
6. LSU Some sloppy, sleepy moments against an FCS school I didn’t even know existed means a small drop-off this week. Also, they have the most to lose with a trip to 0-2 Vanderbilt.
5. Georgia They haven’t shown a serious weakness. Can Notre Dame find it?
The Playoff 4
4. Oklahoma Off week means they’re not moving, but we weren’t going to be moving the Sooners down unless something drastic happened. Only downside of no opponent means no new chance for Jalen Hurts to pad his early Heisman lead.
3. Ohio State Even if Oklahoma had played a better team than UCLA, they’re not moving past the Buckeyes after this weekend, as plenty of good teams have struggled traveling from Columbus to Bloomington. These Bucks responded by thrashing Indiana. The defense is the most talented in the nation and it might not be close.
2. Alabama The good news for the youth on defense that showed its holes against South Carolina is they have plenty of time to grow and come into their own before the toughest part of the Crimson Tide’s schedule.
1. Clemson Trevor Lawrence keeps making poor throws that just never showed up as a freshman. The ACC is such a dumpster fire right now that the Tigers don’t need him to be great, and it’s still really early, but Lawrence better get back to taking care of the football before December. But yeah, the rest of the team, well…
— SportSource Analytics (@SportSourceA) September 15, 2019