The college football playoff race this weekend has taken a turn after Tennessee’s loss in South Carolina and near whiffs from TCU and Michigan, lending credence to the idea that this year’s postseason remains unpredictable ahead of rivalry week. In our latest top 25 selection committee prediction, the top four remain the same, but there’s a lot of noise behind the undefeated TCU.
At this point in the season, the selection committee is looking at overall resumes, quality wins, and potential conference championships won. Several playoff contenders have already locked in their title games but can’t afford another loss until Qualifier Sunday. LSU aims to be the first two-loss team to appear in the Final Four if the Tigers win against Texas A&M and Georgia.
There is even a scenario in which Alabama with two losses is mentioned again in a couple of weeks, but this is so far in the future that it is not worth detailing unless massive chaos occurs this week.
Here’s our look at what this week’s College Football Playoff Ranking 4 will look like, and each contender’s path to the final four spots.
25. Gamecox of South Carolina (7-4) – Last week’s rating: NR
24. Knights UCF (8-3) – Last week’s ranking: No. 20
23. Texas Longhorns (7-4) – Last week’s rating: NR
22. Cincinnati Bearcats (8-3) – Last week’s ranking: No. 25
21. Oregon Beavers (8-3) – Last week’s ranking: No. 23
20. UCLA (8-3) – Last week’s ranking: No. 16
South Carolina finished third in the AP poll this week, and there’s a chance the selection committee will go one step further and place the Gamecocks in the top 25 playoffs for the first time since Tennessee lost. South Carolina became the first SEC team ever to score 63 points as an unranked team against a ranked opponent. The UCF is one of the biggest drops this week after losing to the Navy.
19. Ole Miss Rebels (8-3)
Playoff rankings last week: No. 14
Many have questioned the general direction of the rebels in recent weeks, given the rumors of Lane Kiffin’s move to Auburn. During three quarters against Arkansas, Ole Miss looked completely out of his element and was 36 points behind at one point in the second half. This team has gone from top 10 unbeaten to three losses in the last four games. It looks like Ole Miss will be playing in the Citrus Bowl outside of New Year’s Six, depending on Thursday night’s game against Mississippi State.
18. North Carolina Tar Hills (9-2)
Playoff rankings last week: No. 13
Mac Brown said this week that he watches all of his team’s games three times before going to bed on game days to try and figure out what was right and wrong for four quarters. There is much to discuss with his coaches and players after Saturday’s 21:17 loss to Georgia Institute of Technology. At one point, the Tar Heels led 17-0 before leveling and squandering any outside chance of being in playoff talk, entering the ACC Championship two weeks later.
17. Tulane Green Wave (9-2)
Playoff rankings last week: No. 21
A week after a 38-31 home loss to UCF, Green Wave returned to the top five after the elimination of SMU. Combined with the UCF loss to the Navy, we expect Tulane to jump over the Knights in the fourth playoff rankings. Remember, the top 5 ranked team will play in the Cotton Bowl. The American Athletic Conference winner gets the nod, and this week Tulane will take on Cincinnati in the national rankings.
16. Utah Utes (8-3)
Playoff rankings last week: No. 10
Utah didn’t expect to flip it four times during Saturday’s loss in Oregon, a discouraging setback that will likely keep the reigning Pac-12 champions from a title game and a possible return to the Rose Bowl. Utah can bowl all over the place with nine wins in a season, including Las Vegas or San Diego. It’s not what the Youts were expecting after losing to Florida in Game 1. Most assumed they would return for the conference title game and possibly win it.
15. Florida State Seminoles (8-3)
Playoff rankings last week: No. 19
The state of Florida continued its offensive against rivals this season, defeating Louisiana on Saturday. The Seminoles advance to the regular season finals against Florida with great confidence, winning the winning streak as one of the top three-losing teams in the country. A win over the Gators will raise the chance that Florida State will also make it to one of the best ACC games. It was a notable campaign for Mike Norvell and his players.
14. Irish fight Notre Dame (8-3)
Playoff rankings last week: No. 18
Notre Dame continues to impress in Marcus Freeman’s first season, as a midseason loss to Stanford dampened expectations a bit. The Fighting Irish have a chance to ruin USC’s eventual playoff run during the rival weekend in Los Angeles, where they will mount a methodical ball-control attack on the Coliseum to try and cut down on the Trojans’ powerful offense. Expect Notre Dame to land softly during bowl season, no matter the outcome. Notre Dame is always attractive.
13. Washington Huskies (9-2)
Playoff rankings last week: No. 17
Washington is rooting for Oregon State and California this week against Oregon and UCLA, respectively. The Huskies need help to play in the Pac-12 Championship against USC and will do everything they can against Washington State to give them a chance. Michael Penix Jr plays quarterback at the elite level after a big game against Oregon. He is one of the biggest transfers of the season as the Washingtons look to win their 10th game.
12. Kansas State Wildcats (8-3)
Playoff rankings last week: No. 15
We expect Kansas State to be the top ranked team this week, ahead of Notre Dame and Florida State after a convincing win over West Virginia. If the Wildcats beat the Kansas this weekend, they’re looking at a likely New Year’s Six Sugar Bowl spot if TCU wins and makes the playoffs. This would be quite a feat for Chris Klieman & Co. However, they are thinking about the conference championship. Why stop now?
11. Oregon Ducks (9-2)
Playoff rankings last week: No. 12
An injury-limbed Bo Nicks battled pain to help the Ducks beat the Utah at the weekend and maintain control of the Pac-12 title race. If Oregon can beat Oregon State this week, the Ducks will play USC next Friday night with a chance to win the Rose Bowl on the line. USC could play for more as West Coast’s last remaining playoff hope. Dan Lanning will be thinking about his fourth loss against Washington this offseason.
10. Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2)
Playoff rankings last week: No. 11
Penn State will be in the top 10 this week and could be a 10-win New Year’s Six contender if the Nittany Lions finish strong. Thanks to James Franklin for motivating this team to finish the straight despite losses to Michigan and Ohio State that could derail the season. Instead, Penn State has done well lately, and Rutgers’ beating on Saturday was their latest runaway victory.
9. Tennessee Volunteers (9-2)
Playoff rankings last week: No. 5
Expect the Volunteers to stumble four spots in this week’s playoff poll after being wiped out by a South Carolina team that had earlier trouble scoring this season. In a game in which Tennessee, previously ranked fifth, was most expected to win, it was the Gamecocks who were the aggressors, scoring 63 points, the most ever surrendered…