In his teleconference after the rankings were released Committee Chair Kirby Hocutt talked about what separated Georgia from Alabama. “The committee discussed at great length the strengths of Georgia and Alabama. While both teams are currently undefeated, the committee gave a slight edge to Georgia because of their win on the road against a very strong Notre Dame, which today we ranked as the No. 3 team in the nation.”
Notre Dame’s selection at No. 3 was mainly due to their slight loss to the Bulldogs and the three victories over teams in the Top 25.
Clemson could be viewed as the controversial pick in the top four with their lone loss coming against unranked Syracuse. However, Hocutt said that game is seen a little differently in their eyes. “Clemson has a solid résumé. Clemson’s six wins against teams with winning records, two of those six coming against CFP top-25 teams. Their one loss occurred when their quarterback got injured and taken out of the game. He was returned to the next game full speed.”
Rankings No. 5 – No. 7 is where head-to-head came into play. Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12), Ohio State (7-1, 5-0 B1G) and Penn State (7-1, 4-1) fill those spots respectively. The Sooners win over the Buckeyes took precedent in the discussion for No. 5, while No. 6 Ohio State’s recent victory over the No. 7 Nittany Lions gave them the edge.
The next surprise came at the end of the top 10. No. 8 TCU (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) were given a slight edge over a pair of undefeated teams, No. 9 Wisconsin (8-0, 5-0 B1G) and No. 10 Miami (7-0, 4-0 ACC). Strength-of-schedule played into the rankings of the two undefeated teams.
“Their best win in the eyes of the Selection Committee is against a 5-3 Northwestern team, so the Selection Committee looks forward to watching Wisconsin continue to play, and look forward to them playing quality opponents in the weeks ahead,” Hocutt said of the Badgers.
He said the same mindset came into play for the Hurricanes. “Selection Committee spent time talking about how two of their wins have come on last plays against Florida State and Georgia Tech, only two of their wins against teams with a winning record. Impressed with their undefeated record, but still, want to see Miami a few more times.”
In the next group, we see three one-loss teams that have a chance to play their way into the discussion of the Top 4. No. 11 Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1 Big 12), No. 12 Washington (7-1, 4-1 PAC 12) and No. 13 Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1 ACC). Washington has the most work due to their SOS. However another PAC 12 title and losses by other one-loss teams will at least put them in the discussion. If the Hokies can win out and beat avenge their lone loss to Clemson for the ACC title, they have as good of a shot as any of reaching the Top 4. Oklahoma State has similar circumstances if they can beat Oklahoma this week, and avenge their loss to TCU in a Big 12 Championship the Cowboys will be right there alongside Virginia Tech in the conversation.
At No. 18 UCF (7-0, 4-0 AAC) is the highest-ranked Group of Five team and the committee seems to be impressed by what they have accomplished this season but also take into account who they have played.
“We talked today specifically about how impressed we’ve been with their scoring offense. This season they’re putting up some incredible offensive performances. That being said, right now the best win is against a Memphis team, a Memphis team that is in our top-25 ranking this week, so the Selection Committee has been very impressed with Central Florida and have definitely taken note of their performance up to this point in the season,” Hocutt said of the Knights.
Surrounding UCF in the ranking are two-loss teams that need chaos to happen to get a chance at the Top 4. No. 14 Auburn (6-2, 4-1 SEC), No. 15 Iowa State (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) No. 16 Mississippi State (6-2, 3-2 SEC) and No. 17 USC (7-2, 5-1 PAC 12)form the group ahead of the Knights.
The Tigers, Cyclones and Trojans each control their destiny for conference titles. Auburn has the most significant hurdles with No. 2 Alabama and possibly No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship in their way. Iowa State is arguably the hottest team in the country with victories over Oklahoma and TCU under their belt; they still have to face Oklahoma State and the possibility of a revenge game with the Horned Frogs or Sooners in the Big 12 Championship. USC can again win out and grab the PAC 12 championship, but the likely hood of a Top 4 nod is very low.
The final six teams in the rankings all have a chance to upset the apple cart along the way. No. 19 LSU (6-2, 3-1 SEC) can knock Alabama down a few pegs with an upset this weekend. While, No. 20 NC State (6-2, 4-0 ACC) could eliminate Clemson out of the discussion and take control of the ACC Atlantic division.
No. 21 Stanford (6-2, 5-1 PAC 12) can shake things up with No. 25 Washing State (6-2, 4-2), Washington and Notre Dame on the schedule. Wins against those three and a rematch against USC in the conference title could undoubtedly put the Cardinal in the discussion if other upsets occur. No. 22 Arizona (6-2, 4-1) can close the door on USC’s conference title hopes this weekend. While Mike Leach and the Cougars still have the chance to beat Stanford, Huskies and whoever is left standing in the PAC 12 South.
If No. 23 Memphis (7-1, 4-1 AAC) can win their remaining regular season games, a possible Peach Bowl bid could be on the line against UCF in the AAC Championship. While, No. 24 Michigan State (6-2, 4-1) has opportunities to take down Penn State and Ohio State in the next two weeks.
The College Football Playoff selection committee will be releasing a new set of rankings every Tuesday until the final on Sunday, Dec. 3. That will determine the Top 4 teams to play in the College Football Playoff semifinals.