- “Next Game” rankings reflect previous week’s Selection Committee rankings.
1. GEORGIA BULLDOGS (10-1)
I doubt it’s surprising to see the team from Athens is the top dawg here. Pun intended. Just to put into perspective how dominate this team has been, they gave up more than 13 points for the first time this season on Saturday, when they gave up 17 points to Tennessee. The result of their worst defensive outing of the season? A 24-point victory in front of a hostile crowd at Neyland Stadium. This victory allowed Georgia to finish their conference schedule undefeated, going 8-0 against SEC opponents for the first time in team history. They should be able to coast through their remaining two games against Charleston Southern and in-state rival Georgia Tech, meaning they should enter the SEC Championship game as the #1 team in the nation. This could set up a #1 vs #2 (spoiler alert) matchup in Atlanta.
NEXT GAME: 11/20 vs Charleston Southern
2. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (9-1)
Despite their conference record being blemished by Texas A&M, the Tide have the inside track to Atlanta in the SEC West. They hold the tiebreaker against 2nd place Mississippi, so Alabama just needs to win 1 of their 2 remaining games against Arkansas and Auburn. Now they may only need 1 to get to the SEC title game, but they most likely will need to win both to get into the playoff. The most intimidating of the two is the game against Auburn, who will host the Iron Bowl this year. If Alabama can post impressive performances in these two outings, they could still have a chance at a playoff berth if they drop the SEC Championship to Georgia. Look for Saban & company to try and put up some style points over the next two weeks.
NEXT GAME: 11/20 vs #25 Arkansas
3. OREGON DUCKS (9-1)
Contender or pretender? There is a lot of debate surrounding the legitimacy of this Oregon team and whether or not they are one of the 4 best teams in the nation. Their résumé certainly isn’t going to blow anyone away. There is a glaring loss to Stanford on their record – a game in which the Ducks aided a last second, game tying Stanford drive with 3 costly penalties, including a hold on a 4th down incompletion in the end zone. Stanford would score on the repeated down and Oregon would fail to match them in overtime. They only have 1 win against a ranked foe, a dominating 14-point victory over then #3 Ohio State in Columbus back in Week 2. This win is what lands them in my Top 4. They will have a chance to bolster their résumé this week when they travel to Salt Lake City to take on #24 Utah. An impressive win here would go a long way in strengthening their case for a playoff berth.
NEXT GAME: 11/20 @ #24 Utah
4. CINCINNATI BEARCATS (10-0)
I tried to think of a reason that Cincinnati should be outside of the Top 4, but I just couldn’t. This team began the year in the Top 10 of the AP poll and have done everything that has been asked of them this season – and it’s not like they have gotten to 10-0 by playing a bunch of cupcakes. Their résumé includes a 14-point road win over a P5 opponent in Indiana. They followed that up with the biggest win in program history – an 11-point road victory against #9 Notre Dame in South Bend. Outside of those games, the schedule has been rather easy, but out of the Bearcats’ 10 wins, only two have been by less than 10 points. I know there will be a lot of people out there who feel that, despite being undefeated, Cincy is not a Top 4 team because they are a G5 team who plays a much easier conference schedule than P5 schools. However, this team has taken care of business, done everything that has been asked of them, and they also have NFL-caliber talent, so I am awarding them my 4th and final playoff spot… for now.
NEXT GAME: 11/20 vs SMU
5. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (9-1)
It was incredibly difficult placing this team at #5. After a shaky 1-1 start in which they found themselves trailing at halftime in both games, Ohio State shifted into overdrive. Over their last 7 games, the Buckeyes racked up 50+ points 5 times, they have 2 wins vs Top 20 opponents (Penn State, Purdue), and QB CJ Stroud has inserted himself into the Heisman conversation. The loss to Oregon at home is the only eye sore on their schedule, and the reason I have them outside looking in. I will say this, however. I believe that today’s Ohio State team is much better than the one that lost to Oregon as a 14-point home favorite. If that game were played again tomorrow, I think the Buckeyes would roll to a double-digit victory. The good news is that Ohio State still has time to bolster and improve their résumé and force themselves inside the Top 4. They will host a Top 10 Michigan State team this week, and then conclude their season against a Top 10 Wolverines squad in Ann Arbor next week. Look for Ryan Day to try and run up the score in these games to try and secure some style points.
NEXT GAME: 11/20 vs #7 Michigan State
6. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (9-1)
Mel Tucker’s Spartans have been one of the biggest surprises in college football this season. After lousily going 2-5 last season, Tucker has turned things around in his sophomore campaign. He is 9-1, with the lone loss being in a letdown spot at Purdue, a week after a dramatic come from behind win against hated rival Michigan. That loss certainly stings, but the Spartans can solidly themselves as a playoff contender this week when they travel to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes. They certainly have their work cut out for them there, but a victory at the Horseshoe is certainly possible. The Spartans offense is led by Kenneth Walker III, who is the only RB in the Heisman conversation. With Michigan State’s big play ability, and after seeing Oregon gash the Buckeyes defense on the ground, the Spartans are a live dog that could unseat the Buckeyes from their throne atop the Big Ten if they come in with the right game plan and are able to execute in the big moments of this game.
NEXT GAME: 11/20 @ #4 Ohio State