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 Eleven.
Almost Famous: SMU, Iowa, Boise St, Virginia, Kansas St
The Honorable 8
20. Michigan Even with a loss at the end of the season to Ohio State, the Wolverines at 9-3 are pretty tantalizing to a New Year’s Six bowl.
19. Navy SMU’s defense showed its holes in a way that drops them off the list entirely this week. But, should they knock off the Mustangs, the Midshipmen are staring at a very real chance at going 10-2 without winning their division. Just shows how deep the American has been this season.
18. Wisconsin Minnesota might have the head start in the Big Ten West, but the winner between the Badgers and Iowa this week can still catch them and keep hope alive for 10 wins.
17. Auburn Few 2-loss teams look quite as good as the the Tigers. Splitting the Georgia-Alabama home games to wrap the regular season makes War Eagle a very appetizing 9-3 candidate for a New Year’s bowl.
16. Cincinnati Not ranked this high because of their playoff chances, but because it’s essentially down to a dead heat between the Bearcats and Memphis for the American championship and the Group of 5’s spot in the big bowls. They’ll play it out on the field, barring Cincy doesn’t collapse, as they nearly did Saturday against East Carolina.
15. Minnesota Even just a good showing against Penn State at least makes the Gophers seem more like a worthy Rose Bowl team, let alone playoff contender.
14. Utah The most interesting aspect of Tuesday’s first playoff-committee rankings will be where the Utes fall. Are they seen on the same plain as Oregon, and thus need only to win out and get a little bit of help to get in, or are they far back enough that even Pasadena will be a tough get?
13. Baylor Until such time as the Bears actually beat either Texas or Oklahoma twice in one month, they’ll be on the outside looking in of the both the playoff and the NY6.
The Terrific 12
12. Memphis The Tigers have been terrific, and the hard part of their schedule is behind them. But there’s a wrench thrown into the proceedings, one that also hurts SMU and Navy’s chances at a New Year’s bowl: they’ll likely have to play Cincinnati in back-to-back weeks. Even a split opens the door for a one-loss Mountain West champion like Boise State or San Diego State to swoop in and take the Group of 5 bid. While I think the Tigers can win both games with Cincy, they should root hard for another loss by their conference brethren and losses for the top Go5 teams out west.
11. Wake Forest Again, a reminder that these are not purely playoff rankings. The Demon Deacons might still have an outside shot, especially if they beat Clemson. But all that upset likely does is secure their Orange Bowl berth, and the Deacs are in the lead for that slot anyways.
10. Notre Dame Another 2-loss team with a solid resume. Chaos is the only way the playoff door opens wide, but a 10-win Irish team will be hard for a big bowl to turn down.
9. Florida Like Auburn and Notre Dame, they’d be a strong 2-loss candidate if chaos ensued at the top. But the NY6 is still in sight.
8. Georgia Beat Florida ensured that the ‘Dawgs could drop a tough road game at Auburn and, barring a collapse, still win 10 games. That’s going to be enough to get them to the Sugar Bowl again, though their sights are set higher.
7. Oklahoma The Kansas State loss looks better as the Wildcats continue to play well. But there’s still going to need to be a loss or two in front of the Sooners to get in.
6. Penn State Playing Ohio State close would possibly get the Nittany Lions the same deference that the LSU-Alabama loser is likely to get. They’re really close and could end up in the committee’s initial top four. But I just don’t trust them enough. The Buckeyes either blow them out, or they lose a game they shouldn’t on top of the OSU loss.
5. Oregon You can yell all you want that the Pac-12 is down, the Ducks are crushing their competition. One more high-quality win is all that awaits them, however, and Utah has to win out for that to occur.
The Playoff 4
4. LSU I’m not tipping my hand on the pick for this weekend. I’m just saying: we’ll move the Tigers up when they actually do the damn thing, and I think they’re going to be competitive regardless of the outcome.
3. Clemson If the Tigers lose at any point and we get a great game in Columbus in a couple weeks…let’s just say there’s going to be a lot angry people.
2. Alabama Tua’s currently a game-time decision for LSU. I read that as he plays, but he’s not completely healthy. So how does that change things?
1. Ohio State Hammering Penn State on November 23rd would pretty much wrap up the number-one seed for the Bucks.