Top 25 College Football Playoff Rankings: Takeaways From Third Release

The third College Football Playoff rankings of the 2016 season have been released. Let’s break down the composition of the selection committee’s work.

The third College Football Playoff rankings of the 2016 season were released on Tuesday night. And, for the third straight week, Nick Saban’s Alabama squad was selected as the top team in the country by the 12-person selection committee.

Of course, that’s no surprise considering the Crimson Tide are now the lone unbeaten Power Five team in the country following the chaotic Saturday that college football fans endured last week.

Saban and the Tide easily disposed of Mississippi State this past week, and it’s to the point now where the Tide could lose to Chattanooga on Saturday and still get into the playoff. All kidding aside, ‘Bama is in great shape, and it’s hard to imagine that it would be pushed to the limit by Auburn in the regular-season finale or by the SEC East champ in the league title game.

Meanwhile, Ohio State is the new No. 2 team this week following the chaotic Saturday we experienced in which Clemson, Michigan and Washington all fell. However, the Tigers and Wolverines both remain in the Top 4 this week.

So what does this all mean moving forward?

Here are some thoughts on the third set of rankings that were released by committee chair Kirby Hocutt and Co. earlier on Tuesday evening.

Life’s a breeze for the Buckeyes

Urban Meyer’s squad is seemingly in a great spot. Or is it? The Buckeyes have just one loss, which came against Penn State in Happy Valley. It was a game in which the Buckeyes slipped up late. It’s very difficult to imagine a one-loss Ohio State squad being left out of the final CFP rankings now after being elevated to No. 2. Its loss was to the Nittany Lions, who check in at No. 8 this week and continue to get respected by the committee. Add in that OSU closes the regular season with No. 3 Michigan, and you’re looking at a CFP member for this season if it takes care of business the rest of the way. The problem is that OSU may not even play for its own league title. Based on what we have seen from the committee this week, though, it would be stunning—as much as the committee values conference champs—if a one-loss Buckeyes team is not invited to the dance with one loss even if they are not Big Ten champs.

Taking care of business

Michigan and Clemson check in at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, in this week’s rankings. If the Wolverines and Tigers win their respective league titles, the committee is going to put each team in its final Top 4. The Wolverines have a loss on the road in a tough battle with Iowa, and their regular-season finale against the Buckeyes would be another quality win (in addition to what they have against Colorado, Wisconsin, Penn State, etc.). And a win in the Big Ten title game would make them conference champs. Meanwhile, Dabo Swinney’s squad holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Louisville, which checks in at No. 5 this week but still loses the head-to-head tiebreaker over Clemson and is unable to get into the ACC title game unless the Tigers slip up again. If Swinney and Co. fall in that conference championship game in Orlando though…Bobby Petrino, Lamar Jackson and Co. are in great shape.

Washington’s woes

The Huskies check in at No. 6 this week following their loss to USC, which is not the worst position to be in. Again, the committee loves itself a conference champion. Despite U-Dub’s home setback, the Huskies have the Apple Cup against Washington State and the Pac-12 title game left to increase their case. Their problem could be in the form of one-loss Louisville and Ohio State. I think the Huskies would pass the ‘Ville as a Pac-12 champ, but Ohio State’s schedule—even without a conference crown—could be Washington’s issue.

Those Badgers and Nittany Lions though…

The Big Ten continues to be well-represented in the CFP Top 25, as Wisconsin checks in at No. 7 and Penn State checks in at No. 8. Both squads have losses to Michigan, while the Badgers have a close loss to Ohio State and the Nittany Lions have a loss to Pitt. If Ohio State can beat Michigan in the regular-season finale, then Penn State would play Wisconsin (if it takes care of business the rest of the way) in the Big Ten title game. In that scenario, would a two-loss B1G champ be able to jump Louisville and Washington to give the conference two teams in the playoff? It’s hard to imagine jumping a one-loss U-Dub. But a one-loss Louisville with a loss to Clemson? That’s more likely. These are the types of decisions that the committee could face in just a few weeks. Further, can the committee take an Ohio State team that does not win its division and lost to Penn State if you do not take a Nittany Lions squad that wins the Big Ten East division and overall conference crown but has two losses? Decisions, decisions…

Other notes

* Of course, there is no reason to freak out about these standings because there is still some football left to be played. But I can’t understand how Oklahoma checks in at No.9 while West Virginia checks in at No. 14. Sure, the one-loss Mountaineers have not played the toughest schedule in the world, but the Sooners have two losses. These Big 12 squads will meet this week, so the point will be moot. But this indicates that the committee is rewarding OU for its win streak. Additionally, Hocutt told the media after the rankings were released that WVU has been unable to move higher because it has only played one Top 25 team (Oklahoma State) and lost. Still, the Mountaineers have been strong on both sides of the ball all season, so I would have expected a higher placing. Two-loss Oklahoma State at No. 11 is understandable because the Cowboys beat the ‘Neers, but I just feel that Dana Holgorsen’s squad is getting a bit of a raw deal this week.

* Hocutt said that Western Michigan (No. 21) having only one win over an FBS team with a winning record is why it is behind Boise State (No. 20). This, in my opinion, is another head-scratcher. I love rewarding good wins and a strong schedule, but WMU is unbeaten and beat the two Power Five schools (Northwestern and Illinois) that were on its schedule. Bryan Harsin and Co. deserve the respect because they have just the one loss to Wyoming, but anyone that has watched WMU this year knows how dominant P.J. Fleck’s squad has been.

* Perhaps the most likely scenario for Jim Delany’s Big Ten to get two teams into the CFP is if Ohio State wins out and Wisconsin beats Penn State in the league title game. The Buckeyes would love to have Oklahoma win the Big 12, too, as they would have road wins over two Power Five conference champs, while the Nittany Lions would have wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin.

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