We’re three weeks away from finding out which four teams are going to play in the College Football Playoff, and I can’t remember a year where I had less idea who those four teams are going to actually be. There are only eight or nine teams left with an even remotely plausible path to football’s Final Four, but which figuring out which combination of those teams is going to actually make the cut is impossible right now.
College football has never been more entertaining. It’s funny to think that when we expanded the field from two to four, people thought it would ruin the regular season. All it’s done is improve it. More teams are still in the hunt, and it would be insane to pick just two of these top seven or eight teams to play for a title. There’s just not much separation among them. The Playoff era has certainly devalued the regular season — losing a game is not as calamitous as it used to be — but it hasn’t hurt the entertainment value of the games one bit. While the NFL deals with a new scandal almost weekly, college football is thriving. The final few weeks are going to be incredible.
Here are the top 10 CFB Playoff resumes right now. Remember, my Boxing Card System (or as I like to call it, the BCS) matches each team’s resumes up side-by-side and scores them just like a boxing match. If you have a bone to pick about any of my rankings and you’d like to see the BCS comparison between two teams, tweet me @JoshParcell.
(Records and national championship odds, per Bovada, in parentheses)
1. Alabama (10-0; -110)
Alabama’s best win of the season was also its closest. The Tide needed a last-minute touchdown to escape Starkville, 31-24. Mississippi State is the best team Alabama has faced this season, and also the only team that’s made the Tide look, well, human. The injury list is getting longer for ‘Bama, and that’s closed the gap between them and the rest of the field. If I’m betting Alabama or the field for the national title, for the first time all year I’d bet the field.
2. Miami (9-0; +800)
Was I wrong about Miami? Yes and no. For seven weeks these ‘Canes showed NO sign of being a top-10 football team. Yet over the past two weeks they look like the U of old. The Turnover Chain has become a cult symbol, and for good reason – Miami is second in the nation in turnover margin! That should also concern you going forward if you’re backing their chances at a national title run. Teams that rely too much on takeaways can struggle when those turnovers suddenly dry up. Still, damn they look good.
3. Oklahoma (9-1; +400)
Oklahoma just about locked up a spot in the Big 12 title game by beating TCU, but Baker Mayfield completely locked up the Heisman race with 383 yards of total offense and three passing touchdowns — oh, and no turnovers. His Heisman odds are now 1/20. It’s over.
The Sooners’ trio of wins against TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State are as good as anyone’s in college football. They get the Kansas
Bye Weeks Jayhawks this week before traveling to Morgantown in a tricky, tricky game to end the regular season. Between West Virginia and the Big 12 Championship Game, the Sooners are far from a Playoff lock…but Miami’s the only team playing better football right now.
4. Clemson (9-1; +800)
It’s a tight tussle for the No. 3 spot between the Tigers and Oklahoma, but here’s how the BCS sees it:
|BEST||W 14-6 vs Auburn||W 31-16 @ Ohio St||10-9 Oklahoma|
|W 31-17 @ VT||W 38-20 vs TCU||10-9 Oklahoma|
|W 47-21 @ Lou||W 62-52 at Oklahoma St||Draw|
|W 34-7 vs BC||W 29-24 vs Texas||10-9 Clemson|
|W 38-31 at NC State||W 49-27 vs Texas Tech||Draw|
|W 24-10 vs Ga Tech||W 42-35 @K State||Draw|
|W 31-14 vs Florida State||W 49-41 @ Baylor||10-9 Clemson|
|W 28-14 vs Wake||W 56-7 vs UTEP||Draw|
|W 56-3 vs Kent St||W 56-14 vs Tulane||Draw|
|WORST||L 27-24 vs Syr||L 38-31 vs Iowa St||10-9 Oklahoma|
|TOTAL||Oklahoma 88 Clemson 87|
The Sooners’ win over Ohio State looks better than Clemson’s Virginia Tech win, now that the Hokies have lost two straight and Ohio State has beaten Penn State and annihilated Michigan State in two of the past three weeks. With slightly stronger wins and an unquestionably stronger loss, Oklahoma’s got the edge on Clemson for now. If both teams win out, a Clemson win over a 12-0 Miami could lift the Tigers back ahead, but it wouldn’t really matter as both teams would probably finish #2 and #3 in that scenario and play each other in Pasadena.
5. Auburn (8-2; +1000)
If you dug into the nitty-gritty numbers ahead of Auburn’s game with Georgia, you would have seen the Tigers were very very very nearly on par with the Bulldogs in almost every relevant measurement. Couple that with home-field advantage, the backs-against-the-wall mentality, and Georgia knowing that it shouldn’t lose, but it could lose and still make the Playoff….and well, 40-17 happens.
Auburn’s resume is quietly REALLY good. The Tigers blew the doors off Mississippi State, who just nearly knocked off Alabama. Even with two losses, how can you say Auburn’s resume is worse than Wisconsin’s? Here’s the BCS comparison:
|BEST||W 40-17 vs Georgia||W 38-14 vs Iowa||10-8 Auburn|
|W 49-10 vs Miss State||W 45-17 @ Indiana||10-8 Auburn|
|W 42-27 @ Texas A&M||W 33-24 @ Northwestern||Draw|
|W 51-14 @ Missouri||W 38-17 @ Nebraska||10-9 Auburn|
|L 14-6 @ Clemson||W 40-6 @ BYU||10-9 Wisconsin|
|W 44-23 vs Ole Miss||W 38-13 vs Maryland||Draw|
|W 52-20 @ Arkansas||W 17-9 vs Purdue||Draw|
|W 41-7 vs UGA Southern||W 31-14 vs FAU||Draw|
|L 27-23 @ LSU||W 24-10 @ Illinois||Draw|
|WORST||W 24-10 vs Mercer||W 59-10 vs Utah State||10-9 Wisconsin|
|TOTAL||Auburn 88 Wisconsin 85|
It’s not even that close! Auburn’s top two wins are WAY better than Wisconsin’s. The LSU loss isn’t pretty, but neither is a 14-point snoozer against a 2-8 Illinois team. Here are the teams who have beaten Illinois by more than 14 this season:
- South Florida
That’s a bad game for Wisconsin. Between that and a four-point loss to LSU, I’m sticking with a draw in that comparison. There’s zero doubt Auburn makes the Playoff if it wins out; the only question is could they climb all the way up to No. 1? Possibly, but not likely.
6. Georgia (9-1; +1200)
Even if I thought Auburn would catch the Bulldogs on Saturday, no one saw that beatdown coming. It still doesn’t change the fact that Georgia wins out and it’s in the Playoff. With Alabama losing steam over the past few weeks, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched. Be wary of Georgia Tech, though. The Yellow Jackets nearly beat Miami and also shocked Virginia Tech this weekend. That’s not a walkover for the ‘Dawgs in two weeks.
7. Wisconsin (10-0; +1200)
Even with a nice win over Iowa, the Badgers’ resume still leaves a lot to be desired. The Hawkeyes might have throttled Ohio State, but they are still only 6-4. That’s not a super strong win for Wisconsin, and they haven’t been dominant enough in the rest of their weak slate to warrant me ranking them over Auburn and Georgia. Ultimately, a 13-0 Wisconsin team would make the CFB Playoff, I’m just not sold they’d deserve it.
8. Notre Dame (8-2; OFF)
The Irish still have a collection of extremely strong wins, and a good loss to Georgia. It’s hard to manufacture a scenario where the Irish make the Playoff, though. This is where the Irish’s independent status really hurts. Two-loss Auburn and Ohio State still have playoff hopes, while Notre Dame doesn’t have much of a realistic path whatsoever.
9. Ohio State (8-2; +1600)
There hasn’t been a bigger roller coaster of efforts all season than what the Buckeyes have done the past three weeks. The Iowa loss is by FAR the worst loss of any Playoff contender. Even with that blemish, it isn’t at all crazy to think the Buckeyes can still make a late Playoff push. If Alabama goes 13-0, and Oklahoma loses the Big 12 championship game…I think the Buckeyes have a great chance to sneak in.
10. Oklahoma State (8-2; OFF)
The Cowboys need TCU to lose one of its last two to make the Big 12 Championship Game. Considering the Horned Frogs play Texas Tech and Baylor, I wouldn’t count on it. A 10-2 record would almost certainly net Mike Gundy and his mullet in a New Year’s Six Bowl.