Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Michigan were named this week’s top four teams in the new College Football Playoff poll on Tuesday. Here are some takeaways to consider.
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We knew there would be some shakeup in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings heading into the week after Alabama shut out previous No. 3 LSU 29-0. So when the Tigers dropped to No. 7 and Notre Dame and Michigan each rose one spot in this week’s rankings, it didn’t really catch anyone off guard.
However, it’s worth noting why Michigan was the No. 4 team instead of Georgia or Oklahoma, which moved up to No. 5 and No. 6, respectively.
The Wolverines were the easy choice to move into the top four because they were No. 5 last week, but their impressive 42-7 drubbing of Penn State — which dropped six spots to No. 20 — perhaps boosted their resume even more. That might’ve been particularly important given Georgia had a solid 17-point win against then-No. 9 Kentucky on the road. The Wildcats fell back to No. 11.
Oklahoma, like Michigan and Georgia, has one loss and is currently tied with No. 9 West Virginia in the Big 12 regular-season championship race. The Mountaineers had one of the biggest jumps of the week, up four spots after beating No. 19 Texas on the road.
It’s significant that Michigan was given the advantage over the Bulldogs and Sooners this week because the Wolverines, seemingly, control their own destiny in terms of having a shot at the national championship. However, all four teams — West Virginia included — have paths to the Playoff, albeit not as clear as Michigan’s.
Winning out for Georgia would mean it would beat Alabama in the SEC championship game, virtually guaranteeing a spot in the Playoff. And winning out for either Oklahoma or West Virginia means either of those teams likely beats the other twice, once in the season finale and then the following week in the Big 12 title game. Michigan has No. 10 Ohio State at the end of the season followed (with a win) by the Big Ten title game. There are clearly marquee wins out there.
At No. 7, LSU is likely the only team in the top 10 that doesn’t have a definitive path to the College Football Playoff, given its loss against the Crimson Tide eliminated its shot at the SEC title. Washington State and Ohio State stayed put this week at No. 8 and No. 10, respectively, but each should have a chance at the end of the season to have its name in the top four if it wins out.
Despite the intriguing discussion between Michigan, Georgia and Oklahoma of who is more deserving, one of the most significant developments this week likely helped the Buckeyes.
Michigan State jumped from unranked to No. 17 after beating Maryland 24-3. Ohio State plays the Spartans in East Lansing, Michigan, this weekend. Although Ohio State has seemingly underperformed in several games this season, a convincing road win against a top-20 team could certainly boost the Buckeyes’ case for being one of the four best teams in the country, if they run the table and win the Big Ten.
For the Cougars, it helped that Washington jumped into the rankings this week at No. 25. It’s possible neither the Cougars or the Buckeyes face a ranked team in their conference championship games, so Washington State will need Washington to keep winning until the two teams meet in the Apple Cup in the season finale to help strength of schedule. The same can be said for Ohio State in regards to the Wolverines.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention UCF staying put at No. 12, and Syracuse and North Carolina State rising to No. 13 and No. 14. An unlikely CFP berth continues to look more unlikely for the Knights, which didn’t receive any help with future opponent Cincinnati staying outside the top 25 despite being ranked in the AP poll. With the Orange and the Wolfpack in the top 15, more wins from those two will only help Clemson’s strength of schedule.