Three of the teams ranked in the top six in the initial college football playoff standings lost on Saturday, a reminder of just how much things change between the first and last unveiling of the selection committee’s top 25 teams.
It also creates an interesting opportunity to see what the committee does on Tuesday night with the three losing teams. One will likely remain in contention for the PCP, perhaps even still in the top four. The other two could be completely out of the CFP picture.
This week’s ranking is the second of five rankings for the season, which are released every Tuesday until the end of November. They provide a window into the thinking of this year’s selection committee, an understanding of what it values and how it views these top teams. As a reminder, this is an incomplete evaluation. But it’s a start, and it could be a signal.
Here are the four most pressing questions ahead of this week’s rankings.
1. How low will Tennessee fall?
The Vols are to be No. 1 for four days, and they will give up first place to the team that beat them on Saturday. Tennessee’s 27-13 loss to Georgia was as lopsided as a 14-point game could get. The Bulldogs’ defense dominated what many considered an unstoppable offense, and they were explosive and efficient with their own offense. As my colleague Seth Emerson said, Georgia is now the preeminent power in the SEC, until further notice.
So where does that leave Tennessee? The Vols have wins over Alabama, now on the road with two losses, and LSU, which just beat Bama. LSU’s win looks better, but Alabama’s may have lost some shine. The Vols will stay in the top four because they’re still very good and the committee loves them, but they definitely won’t play in the SEC championship game and will need help elsewhere in the country to make the field. .
The selection committee could keep Tennessee in the top four this week. Some of the teams that could have pushed the Vols a bit lower in the standings (Clemson, Alabama) also lost, and it’s a pretty drastic drop to drop from No. 1 to No. 5 or lower. Also, last week, the committee told us they didn’t like the way TCU demands comebacks to win games. This leads me to believe that the Vols may not fall further than #4, with the undefeated Horned Frogs right behind them.
2. Are Clemson and Alabama really out of the playoff picture?
I tweeted Saturday night we may have just seen Alabama and Clemson knocked out of playoff contention on the same night, and over 15,000 people loved it. While I’d like to attribute that engagement to my online persona, I guess it has more to do with the Alabama-Clemson fatigue than anything else. One or both teams have made the top four in each year of the CFP’s existence. And one or both teams have played in the national championship game in each of the past seven years.
Dueling dynasties were built and sustained in different ways. Even those who miss their dominance may grudgingly respect it; it’s not easy to reach the top and stay there that long. But the fans are fed up. One of the main reasons for wanting to expand the CFP to a 12-team field before the current contract ends in 2026 is this match fatigue.
Now, barring a meteor strike, it’s safe to say the Crimson Tide won’t be making CFP this year. Alabama has two losses and will need significant help to even play for the SEC championship, and no team with two losses has ever made the CFP. You should think the first two-game losing streak to break that streak will be a conference champion (which is why LSU controls its own destiny). Did Clemson also come out? The beating the Tigers suffered at the hands of an up-and-down Notre Dame team should give the committee pause. The committee gave Clemson his top-four spot last week because he was undefeated and had three Top 25 wins. Clemson is no longer undefeated, and it could be just one win in the Top 25 after losses to Syracuse and Wake Forest last weekend. The Tigers should be left out of the CFP mix, but we won’t know until we see how much their first loss cost them.
I think the distribution of votes this week in Athleticism The Staff CFP’s top four predictions show the kind of division that exists in the committee room regarding the Big Ten’s top two teams. Ohio State received 17 second-place votes, and Michigan was not far behind with 11 second-place votes.
I argued that Michigan is the best team right now, and I stand by that. Forward metrics still love the Buckeyes despite struggling in the running game and general unease from Saturday’s 21-7 win over Northwestern. They would be favored over the Wolverines by 3.5 points according to ESPN’s FPI and 3.3 points according to Bill Connolly’s SP+. Ohio State also leads the nation in net points per ride. It’s safe to assume that the committee’s preferred metrics will also favor Ohio State.
But Michigan has been the most consistent and dominant team, especially if you compare the two teams’ performances against common adversary Penn State. Or the way both teams handled inferior opponents on Saturday after the challengers fought to stay in the game in the first half. Wolverines beat Rutgers 38-0 in the second half, winning the game in the trenches as we are used to seeing them do. Ohio State battled their way to a shocking 14-point victory over the one-win Wildcats, who passed the Buckeyes and pushed them to the line of scrimmage. In bad weather, Ohio State should have been able to field and raze a team like Northwestern, and it didn’t.
But what does the committee think? That group had Ohio State three spots ahead of Michigan last week, knocking the Wolverines out for their weak non-conference schedule. Is that going to be what keeps the order the same? Or will the committee penalize the Buckeyes for the weaknesses they have exhibited over the past three games?
4. How did Oregon benefit from the Week 10 results?
Georgia was the big winner on Saturday, for obvious reasons, but Oregon could have been the second biggest winner of the day because every opponent the Bulldogs crush makes the Ducks’ Week 1 loss at Atlanta lopsided. a little easier to swallow. Perhaps that 49-3 final score spoke more to Georgia’s talent level than Oregon’s.
Losses to Tennessee, Alabama and Clemson made room near the top of the standings. If the Tide and Tigers are truly out of contention for the CFP, they will fall below Oregon in this week’s standings. So it’s a top-six spot at worst for the Ducks. Additionally, Tennessee will not have the chance to play for a conference championship, and Michigan and Ohio State have yet to face off. It’s too early to know for sure, but you can argue that Oregon controls its playoff destiny. A one-loss Pac-12 champion whose only loss came to the No. 1 team in the nation would have a pretty solid case.
The Ducks remain the most intriguing team in the top 10. Oregon has scored 40 or more points in every game since Game 1 and earned a big win over UCLA. Offensively, they are very good and sometimes electric. Defensively, well, they have issues…so does Tennessee. And TCU. And USC. And UCLA.
We’ve also never really seen the committee forced to deal with a situation in which a No. 4 prospect lost so badly against the presumed No. 1 team outside of the conference throughout Week 1. The Does the fact that there has ever been a blowout involving these two teams matter at all? How could he not? I’m fascinated by the layers of Oregon’s resume, and there’s no way of knowing how much the Ducks would have to make from Week 2 to completely make up for what they did in Week 1. If the Ducks keep winning, we’ll find out. soon.
(Photo: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)