College Football Playoff rankings: Alabama, Clemson entrenched at the top; Washington joins the fray
Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington lead the second College Football Playoff rankings of 2016, and Ohio State and Louisville are the next two looking in. The final College Football Playoff poll will be released on Dec. 4 and the top four will qualify to play for the national championship in Tampa.
FULL RANKINGS: Nov. 8 College Football Playoff poll
Washington fans can exhale. For now, anyway. When ESPN showed its graphic illustrating the differences between UW, Ohio State and Louisville, it may have been a bit daunting for Husky faithful.
Sure, Washington boasts an undefeated record and has befuddled its opponents at just about every turn. But the Buckeyes are fresh off of a 59-point trouncing of Nebraska, are 3-1 against top-25 teams (compared to the Huskies’ 1-0 mark), and hold the strength of schedule edge by more than 20 spots.
On Tuesday night, it didn’t matter. Obviously, there is still a ton of football left to play; Ohio State-Michigan on Nov. 26 is setting up to be the biggest matchup between the two rivals in years, and that will play a huge role in the final Playoff field. But the Huskies should feel good about themselves. If they run the table, they control their own destiny. Tonight proved it.
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Moving down the rankings, Texas A&M only dropping four spots to No. 8 sticks out. The Aggies lost to a below-.500 Mississippi State squad, while the committee dropped LSU (which fell to No. 1 Alabama in a competitive bout) a whopping 11 pegs. What gives?
You can see the argument both ways. On one hand, it doesn’t appear to make much sense to lower an SEC school that lost to a below-.500 team four spots, while dropping an SEC school that fell to the No. 1 team in the land 11.
That’s a valid critique. On the other hand, the Aggies are No. 8 and sit one slot ahead of No. 9 Auburn, which it beat on the road. Keep on going down the list, and what other two-loss teams have the caliber of wins Texas A&M does?
Most of the two-loss schools have one good-to-great win, but none have multiple noteworthy triumphs. The truth is, there’s a pretty sizable drop off after No. 7 Wisconsin; the Aggies sit at No. 8, and that’s swell for them, but it looks like there’s a large disparity between those two spots. Meanwhile, there is hardly a difference between teams eight and, like, 17.
With that in mind, it’s a helpful exercise to break these teams into tiers. Let’s give it a shot.
If you examine this in tiers, slotting Texas A&M at No. 8 seems far less egregious. Some serious dominoes need to fall for Tier III teams to make the College Football Playoff, and those scenarios are entirely possible. That doesn’t mean they’re likely.
Elsewhere, here’s a random conference tidbit: the Big 12 is a longshot to send a school to the CFP, but it has a glut of teams in the 11-16 range that are intriguing. Oklahoma (No. 11), Oklahoma State (No. 13) and West Virginia (No. 16) are each hovering around relevancy. And the Mountaineers may be ranked the lowest of the three, but they have the best chance of the trio to snag a few more quality wins. WVU takes on Texas this weekend, and then will look forward to dates against Baylor and Oklahoma.
Again, the Big 12 probably won’t be represented. But if we start to see some chaos at the top, don’t count the the league out.
Lastly, USC is ranked No. 20 in the second edition of the College Football Playoff poll, which should add some juice to its matchup against Washington this weekend. Sam Darnold is the best quarterback at a blueblood program that not enough people are talking about, and the Trojans are rolling; USC has reeled off five wins in a row after a 1-3 start.
Nobody should be happier about the Trojans’ recent rise than the Huskies. Jake Browning and company still need to notch a signature win, and USC gives them that chance in what’s probably the best game of Week 11.
A Washington win legitimizes its Playoff candidacy. A USC win throws everything into mayhem. That’s what college football in November is all about, and we can’t wait to see how all of this unfolds.