The College Football Playoff rankings have welcomed back Ohio State to the equation as the bowl projections see a formidable top four entering Week 9.
With the Big Ten coming back, the College Football Playoff picture has been impacted by it.
All 14 Big Ten teams played this weekend. While some teams looked especially dominant like the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Wisconsin Badgers, the Penn State Nittany Lions were upset on the road by the Indiana Hoosiers. But hey, it could be worse. You could be the Michigan State Spartans losing your home opener to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Either way, welcome back, Big Ten!
College Football Playoff teams through Week 8
The Clemson Tigers would have already achieved bowl eligibility in a normal college football season. Even if 2020 isn’t normal, what is normal is Clemson’s brand of dominance in the ACC. Though they did get a game out of the Syracuse Orange for a while, the levees broke in the Tigers’ favor and Clemson scored 21 unanswered points en route to an easy 47-21 home victory.
What gives Clemson the edge for the top spot this week is the Tigers don’t even have to play well for big stretches of ball games and they’ll still find ways to blow out the opposition. It was only a matter of time before self-inflicted mistakes would plague Syracuse on Saturday. Clemson is not going to lose a game heading into the College Football Playoff, so they are No. 1 with a bullet.
Death, taxes and the Alabama Crimson Tide beating the snot out of the Tennessee Volunteers on the Third Saturday in October. There are kids out there in the United States of America who are freshman in high school who have never been alive to see the Vols beat the Crimson Tide in a football game. It last occurred in the latter years of the Second Bush Administration.
Alabama may have lost its star wide receiver and return specialist Jaylen Waddle for the season due to a broken ankle, but the Crimson Tide have the most explosive offense in the Power 5. Quarterback Mac Jones is a serious Heisman Trophy contender, as is running back Najee Harris to take home the Doak Walker to Tuscaloosa. This is the best team the SEC has to offer at this time.
The Big Ten returns and Ohio State is back where the Buckeyes belong in the College Football Playoff picture. Quarterback Justin Fields was near-perfect vs. the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday afternoon. It didn’t matter that Ohio State may or may not have run up the score on the ‘Huskers. What did matter though is that the Buckeyes dominated throughout to get to 1-0.
Assuming they can defeat Penn State in State College next weekend in primetime, Ohio State may not be challenged by anyone until the Michigan Wolverines come to win in the eighth week of the Big Ten season. It’s still too early to have an accurate gauge on the rest of its Power 5 conference, but we know Ohio State is clearly the best team in the Big Ten and belongs in the playoff picture.
Who cares if the Notre Dame Fighting Irish haven’t beaten anyone good yet? They’ve defeated every team they’ve played this season with punishing defense, competent quarterback play and the guidance of its great head coach Brian Kelly. All the haters out there in the world of Notre Dame football just need to accept this is one of the better teams in the Power 5 this season.
Like Clemson, Notre Dame will not be challenged until their regular-season meeting in two weeks up in South Bend. Even if the Golden Domers are massive home dogs vs. the Tigers, it will be interesting to see how these two teams match up in what may very well be a precursor to the 2020 ACC Championship game in Charlotte. Notre Dame did enough to crack the top four again.
First two teams out
The Georgia Bulldogs are the only team on bye this week to crack the top six. Coming in at No. 5, this is familiar territory for Kirby Smart‘s team. While the tough road loss to Alabama two weeks ago still stings, again, this was a loss everybody expected the Dawgs would have at the start of the season. However, they look like the best team in the SEC East this year and may get to Atlanta.
Even though the Crimson Tide offense put up points on them, this is still one of the best defenses in the Power 5. The only really tough game left on Georgia’s schedule is the neutral-site affair vs. the arch rival Florida Gators in two weeks. The winner of that game down in Jacksonville will win the division. Georgia may not beat Alabama in a rematch, but it has time to get better as a team.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys got their most impressive win of the season. Even though the Pokes had been off for three weeks, they went out and handled one of the better teams in the Big 12 in the Iowa State Cyclones. While Oklahoma State has star power offensively, it is the defense that will get the Cowboys to Arlington this December and possibly get them into the playoff.
Simply put, if the Cowboys go undefeated, they are making the playoff. If they win the Big 12 with one loss, they stand a decent chance to get in as the fourth team. However, the Big 12’s perceived lack of high-end teams gives the Pokes very little wiggle room to navigate their season schedule. Mike Gundy seems to have his best team since 2011, but will that be good enough to get in?
Overall, this is about what we’d expect to see out of the College Football Playoff picture. Clemson and the best SEC team at the top, Ohio State right behind them, and another SEC team and the best Big 12 team still in the mix. While two, three or even four of these six teams might make the playoff, we still have plenty of football left for the Selection Committee to sink its teeth into.
Getting Ohio State back into the fold paints a clearer picture of what the playoff might look like.