Last week’s Tuesday paper was too busy for a look at more College Football Playoff projections, but they’re back after a telling couple of weeks in some pivotal matchups. With the tail end of the season coming and crucial matchups approaching, here’s where I’d rank the teams heading into the penultimate week of the regular season:
1. LSU (10-0)
Last week: Won at Ole Miss, 58-37
This week: Hosts Arkansas, 7 p.m.
Ed Orgeron’s team has the best resume in the nation at this point, winning a road game at college football’s Death Star two weeks ago and blowing by Ole Miss on Saturday. Their matchup with Georgia in the SEC title game just needs to be relatively close for the Tigers to find themselves in the Playoff, and even then LSU should be prohibitive favorites.
The bigger question to me is how Orgeron handles Joe Burrow’s playing time with important games left on the schedule. After seeing Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s injury against Mississippi State at the weekend, I wonder if Orgeron may play it safe with his QB with 2-8 Arkansas in town. Burrow may have played himself into the No. 1 pick in recent weeks.
2. Ohio State (10-0)
Last week: Won vs. Rutgers, 56-21
This week: At Penn State, 12 p.m.
The Buckeyes are probably the nation’s best team, but their biggest test of the season will come in State College this weekend. Penn State continues to plod along despite their loss to Minnesota two weeks ago and are the team with the most talent OSU has faced to date.
We haven’t learned too much about the Buckeyes in the last two weeks, but time to play a what-if game on Ryan Day’s team: Which team is better suited for the Playoff, a 1-loss Ohio State team that has just lost the Big Ten title game to Minnesota, or a 1-loss Gophers team that hasn’t looked nearly as convincing all year long? I’d still give the nod to OSU; a team this good doesn’t come along every year.
3. Clemson (11-0)
Last week: Won vs. Wake Forest, 52-3
This week: Bye
Clemson’s November margins of victory so far: 45, 45, 49. That’s proving a point to the committee and more for Dabo Swinney’s team. There’s little doubt that they’ll be in the Playoff itself, but it’s now a matter of if they can match up with teams as talented as OSU or LSU. Unless LSU loses the SEC title game to Georgia, odds are that Clemson will be locked into a semifinal against a team better than them.
After the Tigers travel to South Carolina on Nov. 30, they really shouldn’t play the ACC title game on television. The leader in the clubhouse out of the ACC Coastal? 7-3 Virginia, with Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech a half-game behind. Yikes.
4. Alabama (9-1)
Last week: Won vs. Mississippi State, 38-7
This week: Hosts Western Carolina, 12 p.m.
I really hate doing this, especially since I have the typical Midwestern anti-SEC bias. Who else is left? Oregon has lost its only high-profile game, while Georgia has the worse loss of the two other SEC contenders.
Let’s take space here to complain about the SEC’s scheduling of conference games. The Playoff committee enables it by continuing to rank teams highly for playing what amounts to 11 and a half games a year with this week’s Western Carolina matchup serving as little more than a stay-afloat payment to an FCS athletic program.
The SEC doesn’t have much of a motive to do it, but switching to 9 games in a conference schedule and fixing the way it schedules divisional matchups would make for more convincing resumes and would avoid a situation like this, where Alabama has zero impressive wins on its schedule this late in the season.
5. Oregon (9-1)
Last week: Won vs. Arizona, 34-6
This week: At Arizona State, 7:30 p.m.
Two blowouts in two weeks for the Ducks, who still need that Pac-12 conference title to have a say in the Playoff discussion. My only worry for them at this point is SEC shenanigans causing trouble. A Georgia win in Atlanta really becomes problematic for the committee.
6. Georgia (9-1)
Last week: Won at Auburn, 21-14
This week: At Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m.
Kirby Smart’s team had an impressive first three quarters at Auburn, but had to hold on and survive to win on the road and clinch the SEC East. I don’t think they’re very good, definitely not on the level of the current top four. That said, this year’s Bulldogs team is good at staying in games and wearing opponents down.
Just missed the cut: Utah, Oklahoma, Penn State
Contact Kyle Turk at email@example.com or on Twitter @KyleTurkGHT.