clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Peavler: Breaking down the College Football Playoff Top 25


The College Football Playoff Rankings were released Tuesday night, and these rankings give a good idea of what the committee is thinking.

While only the final rankings truly matter, it seems the playoff committee is not impressed with the Big 12 or Pac-12. We can also safely conclude that whoever wins the SEC and Big Ten is safely in. The ACC could get interesting if Clemson falls.

All told, about 12 teams have at least a road to the playoff should they win out. Here's how the Top 25's playoff chances look this week:

No. 1 Alabama

Record: 8-0 (5-0 SEC)

The Tide continues to Roll under Nick Saban, as Alabama is once again in prime position to win the national championship.

The Crimson Tide plays two bad teams (Miss. St. and Chattanooga of the FCS) and two ranked teams (No. 13 LSU and arch-rival No. 9 Auburn). Alabama clearly controls its destiny. While wins over LSU and Auburn aren't guaranteed, the Crimson Tide are in great shape to get the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff.

No. 2 Clemson

Record: 8-0 (5-0 ACC)

Clemson has been a team on the edge of losing in several games this season. The Tigers were lucky to escape NC State with a win and beat four teams by seven points or less.

The team has some middle of the pack ACC games to take care of and the season finale against a mediocre South Carolina team. They'll probably play Virginia Tech in the ACC Title game. The Tigers appear to have the easiest road to the playoff at this point of the four Power 5 unbeatens, but the Wolfpack showed this team is not invulnerable, by any means.

No. 3 Michigan

Record: 8-0 (5-0 Big Ten)

Michigan finds itself on top of the Big Ten, and it should remain on top as it faces Maryland, Iowa and Indiana over the next three weeks. It all comes down to the big rivalry game against Ohio State at the end of the season. Should Michigan run the table and beat whoever wins the Big Ten West, it will punch its ticket to the playoff.

Even if Michigan does not run the table, there's a good chance the Big Ten could sneak two teams into the playoff. That's particularly true if Washington falls.

No. 4 Texas A&M

Record: 7-1 (4-1 SEC)

The biggest surprise in these rankings is that Texas A&M is ranked above unbeaten Washington. While there's a lot of football yet to be played, this shows the SEC has an excellent chance of getting two teams into the playoff.

If Texas A&M and Washington both run the table, the Huskies will probably jump the Aggies and get the golden ticket to the playoff. The fact that Texas A&M is ranked here shows the selection committee is serious about strength of schedule, which is bad news for some teams on this list.

No. 5 Washington

Record: 8-0 (5-0 Pac-12)

Chris Petersen and the Huskies have torn through the Pac-12 North, and the team is the rising star of the likely playoff candidates. They have Cal and USC up next, which are both decent games. The next game against Arizona State should be an easy win. The Apple Cup game against Washington State could well determine which team is the Pac-12 North champ, if both teams keep winning.

Who saw that coming?

While Washington is outside the Top 4, it's unlikely things will stay that way should the Huskies win out. Still, this ranking seems to send the message that the committee is not impressed with the Pac-12 this year. A one-loss Pac-12 team probably doesn't make the cut.

No. 6 Ohio State

Record: 7-1 (4-1 Big Ten)

The Buckeyes looked almost unstoppable as they stomped Oklahoma earlier this season. Now they look vulnerable, as they lost to Penn State and had a scare against Northwestern.

There's no doubt Ohio State can still play its way back into the playoff. However, the Buckeyes need to cheer for Michigan in every game up to that big rivalry game. Should the Wolverines lose two games before the end, Penn State would gain the upper hand in the division.

It's not like running the table is an easy thing. Ohio State hosts No. 10 Nebraska this week.

No. 7 Louisville

Record: 7-1 (5-1 ACC)

Louisville's chances of making the playoff don't look good at this point. It's too bad Houston didn't remain hot, as that game could have helped the Cardinals pick up a second playoff bid for the ACC. The rest of Louisville's schedule isn't terribly impressive, and their weak non-conference slate outside of Houston (Charlotte, Marshall and Kentucky) may come back to haunt the Cardinals.

The only hope Louisville has of moving up is if Clemson were to lose twice and Louisville makes it to the ACC Championship game. That would greatly weaken Louisville's strength of schedule. Louisville is likely headed to the Orange Bowl and not the playoff. A Heisman Trophy winner and a New Year's Six bowl are some great consolation prizes, though.

No. 8 Wisconsin

Record: 6-2 (3-2 Big Ten)

There's still a chance for the Badgers to rise to playoff glory. All they need is Nebraska to lose a game. That would put them in the driver's seat in the Big Ten West. If Wisconsin wins the Big Ten's championship game, they'll almost certainly get a playoff bid.

It's not the safest bet, but stranger things have happened in college football history. After all, Wisconsin lost to Ohio State and Michigan by a combined 14 points.

No. 9 Auburn

Record: 6-2 (4-1 SEC)

After two early tough losses to Clemson and Texas A&M, Auburn remains in striking distance of the college football playoff.

The Tigers would need the Aggies to lose a game, and they'd need to beat No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. It's not the easiest road to the playoff by any stretch, but it's a possible one.

No. 10 Nebraska

Record: 7-1 (4-1 Big Ten)

Nebraska is off to a better start after so many close losses last season. While the Huskers are no longer unbeaten, they still control their destiny in the Big Ten West. If they get past No. 6 Ohio State this week, they'll be three games away from a division title and a shot at the Big Ten championship.

It sure looks like whoever wins the Big Ten will go to the playoff at this point. Even if Nebraska doesn't make it to the playoff, Huskers fans can be encouraged by this team's progress.

No. 11 Florida

Record: 6-1 (4-1 SEC)

While the SEC West has three teams in the Top 10, don't sleep on Florida of the SEC East. The Gators have some games that could improve their resume, including at LSU and Florida State.

If Florida can remain a one-loss team in the SEC title game and pull off the upset over whoever wins the West, the Gators will be a playoff team. That's an awfully big if, but the path remains open.

No. 12 Penn State

Record: 6-2 (4-1 Big Ten)

If you want proof of how much the committee respects the Big Ten, look no further. The Nittany Lions lost to a three-loss Pitt team and they are still this high in the rankings.

In fact, Penn State remains technically in the hunt for a playoff bid. It needs Michigan to lose two games, but they hold the tie-breaker over Ohio State. Would the committee hold the Nittany Lions out if they win the Big Ten? With the Big 12 likely out and the Pac-12 down, Penn State still stands a chance.

No. 13 LSU

Record: 5-2 (3-1 SEC)

LSU may have already fired Les Miles, but the Tigers remain in the playoff hunt.

Yes, you read that correctly.

LSU's toughest challengers include No. 1 Alabama, No. 11 Florida and No. 4 Texas A&M. There's no question, if LSU wins out, they'll be a Top 4 team. If they can't beat Alabama this week, any hopes at a playoff bid probably fade.

No. 14 Oklahoma

Record: 6-2 (5-0 Big 12)

The Sooners are in good position for a New Year's six bowl, but it's hard to see how Oklahoma could rise up to the playoff at this point. That Houston loss is looking worse by the week, and the rest of the conference isn't helping. Oklahoma needs Washington to lose and chaos to break out in the ACC. As it stands, the Big Ten and SEC have a better chance at getting two teams in than the Big 12 getting one.

No wonder many view this as a doomed conference.

No. 15 Colorado and No. 16 Utah

Colorado record: 6-2 (4-1 Pac-12)

Utah record: 7-1 (4-2 Pac-12)

It sure looks like the Colorado vs. Utah game will decide the Pac-12 South. I'm not sure if this is more a reflection of how far the Utes and Buffaloes have come or how far teams like USC and UCLA have fallen.

Regardless, Washington checking in at No. 5 instead of No. 4 in the rankings is not good news for either Pac-12 South hopeful. The Pac-12 isn't getting much respect from the committee, thanks in part to disappointing seasons for Stanford, Oregon and UCLA. Still, the winner of the Utes and Buffaloes has a good shot at the Rose Bowl if Washington wins out.

No. 17 Baylor, No. 18 Oklahoma State and No. 20 West Virginia

Baylor record: 6-1 (3-1 Big 12)

Oklahoma State record: 6-2 (4-1 Big 12)

West Virginia record: 6-1 (3-1 Big 12)

Clearly, the committee does not respect the Big 12.

Baylor and West Virginia were both unbeaten teams last week, and both had at least an outside chance of busting into the playoff picture. That's probably not happening now. Weak non-conference schedules and the lack of a title game will probably hold the Big 12 out.

It also doesn't help that Baylor's off-the-field issues continue to make headlines. The committee probably had a collective sigh of relief when the Bears lost to Texas.

No. 19 Virginia Tech, No. 21 North Carolina and No. 22 Florida State

Virginia Tech record: 6-2 (4-1 ACC)

North Carolina record: 6-2 (4-1 ACC)

Florida State record: 5-3 (2-3 ACC)

All three of these teams had chances to be in the playoff hunt, but some big losses appear too big to overcome. The Hokies lost to Tennessee and Syracuse. North Carolina lost to Georgia and got blasted by Virginia Tech. The Seminoles are fortunate to be ranked at all with three losses.

All of these teams will wonder what might have been had those games gone differently.

No. 23 Western Michigan

Record: 9-0 (5-0 MAC)

Did anybody see Western Michigan becoming the favorite to pick up the Group of 5's automatic bid to the New Year's six?

With Houston dropping off the map and Boise State losing in Laramie, Western Michigan is in control. The Broncos in brown probably don't want the Broncos in blue to win the Mountain West, just to be sure Boise State doesn't leapfrog them. If Western Michigan wins its conference and Boise State doesn't, Western Michigan will get the big bowl bid even if Boise State is ranked higher.

By the way, Western Michigan has won just one bowl game in its history, and that happened last year.

No. 24 Boise State

Record: 7-1 (3-1 Mountain West)

Speaking of the Broncos in blue, that loss to Wyoming badly hurt their New Year's six bowl chances. Boise State needs the Cowboys to lose at least once to even have a shot at the Mountain Division of the Mountain West.

If Boise State doesn't win the Mountain West, they don't get to go to a big-time bowl.

There's still plenty of football to play, but this could be the second year in a row the Broncos have failed to make the New Year's six.

No. 25 Washington State

Record: 6-2 (5-0 Pac-12)

Want to know how crazy things are in the Pac-12 this season? Washington State lost to Eastern Washington of the FCS to start the season, and yet they're the only unbeaten team in Pac-12 play other than Washington.

That's crazy.

Plenty of teams will be cheering for the Cougars over the Huskies on Nov. 25 as they hope to make it into the playoff. While Washington State has no chance of making the playoff themselves, they'll have a big impact on who will get in.

Lafe Peavler is a sports strategist for the Deseret News and Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.