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Teddy Greenstein | Chicago Tribune | October 31, 2018

College Football Playoff rankings: Michigan, Ohio State should remain hopeful

The first batch of College Football Playoff rankings came in Tuesday evening and here are three takeaways from Notre Dame coming in at No. 4 after Alabama, Clemson and LSU:

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1. Notre Dame fans should be a little bummed.

The CFP committee rated the Irish one spot lower than most expected. LSU, blemished at 7-1 but with a dominant victory over Georgia, got the third slot.

But LSU faces Darth Vader's crew this weekend: No. 1 Alabama is coming to Baton Rouge.

Notre Dame is 8-0 and will make the playoff it if dodges defeat in its final four -- at Northwestern, against Florida State, versus Syracuse at Yankee Stadium and at USC.

But Notre Dame's placement behind LSU is a bit concerning because it reflects a slight lack of respect from the committee. And the Irish will need all the committee muscle it can get if they finish 11-1.

2. Michigan fans should be thrilled.

The Wolverines are ranked fifth, as high as anyone projected them. Michigan lost to Notre Dame 24-17 in its opener but it still landed just one spot behind the Irish.

Michigan played no other teams of note in its non-conference games (Western Michigan and SMU), so the committee is basing the ranking on its Big Ten victories -- dominant wins over Nebraska, Maryland and Wisconsin, a squeaker past Northwestern and a two-touchdown defeat of Michigan State.

If the Wolverines win out, there are few scenarios that could keep them out of the playoff.

Here's one: No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 LSU and No. 4 Notre Dame win out. Alabama finishes 11-1.

Also lurking: No. 7 Oklahoma. The Sooners are scoring 48.9 points per game and could score a meaningful victory at West Virginia on Nov. 23.

But Michigan can do the same in the final week of the regular season by beating Ohio State. And the Wolverines would get extra credit because the game is in Columbus.

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3. Ohio State is in a precarious spot.

The Buckeyes are 10th after getting crushed by Purdue, which then lost to Michigan State. Oy.

This means, as suspected, that the Buckeyes could win the Big Ten at 12-1 and not make the playoff. Last year they got denied as the 11-2 conference champion. (Alabama got the nod and won it all.)

The Buckeyes not only need to beat Nebraska, Michigan State, Maryland, Michigan and the Big Ten West champ, they need to look good doing it. And then they need some help.

If Northwestern can beat Notre Dame, for example, and make the Big Ten title game at 9-3, that would be huge. As ESPN's Joey Galloway put it on the air: "Ohio State and Michigan will be the biggest Northwestern fans on the planet. If they knock off Notre Dame and get to the Big Ten championship game, that would be a resume builder."

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This article is written by Teddy Greenstein from Chicago Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.