Iowa and Notre Dame are in the top four of the latest AP Top 25 poll, with the Hawkeyes passing the Fighting Irish to get to No. 3.
1. Will Iowa’s jump be reflected in the playoff rankings?
Few would have predicted the Hawkeyes would be one of the last two remaining undefeated teams and in contention for a Big Ten title and a College Football Playoff berth. But Kirk Ferentz's squad continues to win—and win easily—each week. Iowa was at No. 5 in the last playoff ranking and No. 6 in last week's AP poll, behind Notre Dame in both. Now the Hawkeyes are ahead of the Fighting Irish in the AP rankings after the Irish's lackluster win over Boston College on Saturday. Iowa will surely move up in the playoff top 25 after the Buckeyes’ loss, but can it jump the Irish, who sit at No. 4 with the selection committee?
The Hawkeyes' resume is compelling. They have a 30-point road win over No. 17 Northwestern, which continues to find ways to win. Notre Dame’s only loss is a two-point defeat at top-ranked Clemson, the least damaging loss of any this season. Regardless of whether Iowa passes the Irish this week, it has the clearest path to the playoff of any Big Ten team. Win next week over Nebraska and then in the Big Ten championship game, and the Hawkeyes are surely in.
2. Oklahoma takes the top spot in the Big 12
The Big 12's contenders continue to beat up on each other in November. Oklahoma handed Baylor its first loss of the season last week, but the Bears rebounded to knock off previously unbeaten Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Sooners, meanwhile squeaked out a one-point win over a Trevone Boykin-less TCU. The Cowboys' defeat makes Oklahoma the top-ranked Big 12 team in this week's AP poll at No. 5. The Sooners have a bad loss to Texas on their resume but benefit from the fact that the loss occurred earlier in the season. They're currently riding a strong wave of momentum on a six-game winning streak, including victories over ranked teams in each of the past two weeks. The Bears and Cowboys are lurking just behind at No. 7 and No. 9, respectively, in the AP poll, and Oklahoma State will get its shot against Oklahoma on Saturday in the Bedlam game. After the conference got shut out of the playoff last season, there's still no guarantee it will get a team in the top four this year. Even determining which team is most likely to do so remains a challenge.
3. Ohio State is not out of the picture—yet
The Buckeyes suffered a brutal loss at the hands of the Spartans, leading for the entire game until Michael Geiger's 41-yard field goal as time expired. Ohio State has looked shaky for most of the season and far from the team that rolled through its final three games to make and win the playoff last year. Amid Saturday loss, Ezekiel Elliott criticized coaches and declared his intention to enter the NFL draft, while quarterback Cardale Jones also looks ready to leave the Buckeyes after the season. Despite the apparent chemistry problems that emerged Saturday, Ohio State isn't out of the playoff conversation just yet. The AP poll has the Buckeyes at No. 8, only two spots behind the Spartans. The Buckeyes still have a chance at the conference title, though they will need some help from a Penn State upset of Michigan State next week. With four Big Ten teams in the AP's top 12 (Michigan rose two spot to No. 12 this week), the conference is far from settled, and the Buckeyes will have a lot more than pride on the line in their matchup with rival Michigan to close the regular season next week.
Here is the complete AP Top 25:
4. Notre Dame
8. Ohio State
9. Oklahoma State
11. North Carolina
14. Florida State
19. Ole Miss
20. Washington State