A few spots in the rankings can make all the difference in a sport like college football.
Clemson, Michigan and Washington each suffered devastating losses on Saturday, and while all three of them still lie in the top seven of the Week 12 AP Poll, their tumbles are troubling.
FULL RANKINGS: Week 12 AP Poll
Here’s what we know: After the first seven, the rankings kind of fall off a cliff. No disrespect Oklahoma fans, your team has been outstanding lately. But while these teams’ drops are slight, all are significant. There’s no need to bed wet just yet -- the Tigers, Wolverines and Huskies can still make the College Football Playoff; in fact, Clemson and Michigan control their respective destinies.
These teams played so well at the beginning of the season that they could afford to drop a game against an unheralded opponent and still seek a national championship. Good on them, but their margins for error just evaporated. Washington, meanwhile, will need to root for chaos at the top just like the other schools on the outside looking in; of the three big losses last night, UW’s appears to be the most damaging.
And that’s enough negativity for this column. Welcome to the top four, Ohio State Buckeyes and Louisville Cardinals! And, of course, this guy:The Cardinals absolutely exploded on Wake Forest in the fourth quarter Saturday after a sluggish start, and they find themselves ranked third in the Week 12 poll. We’ll see what the College Football Playoff rankings look like on Tuesday – Clemson and Louisville each have one loss, but the Tigers hold the head-to-head edge, and they’ll likely earn the right to play in the ACC title game. But make no mistake: the team that benefits most from Saturday’s roller-coaster is Louisville. There’s a good chance we see two ACC teams make the Playoff this season. Outside of the ACC, the Big Ten finds itself in a really interesting spot, as it has three teams ranked in the top six and four inside of the top nine. Wisconsin might even control its own destiny now; granted, knocking off the Buckeyes or the Wolverines in the Big Ten title game would be no easy task, but don’t put it past the No. 6 Badgers.
Meanwhile, with Michigan’s loss in Iowa City on Saturday night, the battle between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines two days after Thanksgiving takes on a different dynamic.
Assuming Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State take care of business next week, a Wolverines win in Columbus would send them to the Big Ten championship game. An Ohio State win would clinch an appearance for… Penn State?
Yep. Both Penn State and Ohio State sit at 6-1 in conference play right now, and the Nittany Lions hold the tiebreaker thanks to their head-to-head triumph. Here are their remaining schedules.
|Penn State||@Rutgers, vs. Michigan State|
|Ohio State||@Michigan State, Michigan|
If Ohio State beats Michigan, Penn State will be doing cartwheels. And you’d have to think the Buckeyes still get in a semifinal game with this scenario; there’s a reasonable chance the Big Ten sends multiple teams to the College Football Playoff, and Michigan might not be one of them. That was hard to imagine as recently as Friday.
A bit further down the rankings, Oklahoma continues to impress; the Sooners don’t have a real path to the top four that doesn’t include complete chaos, but stranger things have happened. No. 11 Utah continues to be the best team that nobody talks about. No. 15 USC could crack the top 10 before all is said and done, and No. 12 Colorado deserves major props for its massive turnaround as a program.
College football is many things, but boring is not one of them. It feels like we’re in for a wild finish.