Projected College Football Playoff rankings after Week 9: No. 18-17
18. North Carolina Tar Heels
Drake Maye deserves more credit in the Heisman Trophy race than he’s getting and he put every reason why on display against Pitt on Saturday night as it was homecoming for the UNC Tar Heels. Maye threw for 388 yards and five touchdowns while also leading the team with 61 rushing yards as the redshirt freshman quarterback propelled the Heels to a 42-24 victory to move to 7-1 and stay undefeated in ACC play this season.
Make no mistake, Maye has to be as good as he has been this season with how porous North Carolina’s defense has been throughout the year. At the same time, though, he’s proven in every game that he will hold up his end of the bargain and that has led UNC to a ton of early success. They might be the quietest one-loss team in college football but they are creeping up the rankings.
17. Penn State Nittany Lions
If you look at the final score, it might look like James Franklin and Penn State laid an egg against a top-tier opponent yet again, but that was not the case on Saturday as they hosted Ohio State. They had a lead at halftime and, if not for a late pick-six, they might’ve had a chance to be in a one-score game coming down to the final moments.
Sean Clifford undoubtedly has his limitations because of the mistakes he makes against the best defenses in the Big Ten, but he also gives the Nittany Lions a high floor as well. Penn State looks the part as the primary example of a good-not-great team in college football this season, but they can ride that to several more wins this season if that is indeed the way things play out moving forward.