Top 10: Shakeups Abound After Rivalry Week

Publish date:

From the Iron Bowl madness to Wisconsin’s upset of the Golden Gophers, there were shakeups abound in our Top 10, the final of the regular season. Let’s take a look.

Of note: A Quality Win is a home victory over a top 30 team or a road victory over a top 50 team (using Sagarin ratings). Strength of schedule is the Sagarin SOS rank entering this weekend.


1. LSU
Last week: 1
Last game: Beat Texas A&M 50-7
Next game: Saturday vs. Georgia
Record: 12–0
Average margin of result: 26.5
Quality wins: 6
Strength of schedule: 40
Hang your hat on… holding a 20-point halftime lead at Alabama and winning 46–41.
Forget about… a defense that has allowed at least 28 points in five games including more than 30 to two of the SEC’s worst, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.
They’ll make the playoff if… they beat Georgia or they… lose to Georgia? For yet another year, the SEC championship game feels like a playoff quarterfinal, but the loser, if it were LSU, might not be eliminated. The Tigers have one of the strongest resumes in football, despite their tumble to No. 2 in last week’s College Football Playoff committee’s rankings.

2. Ohio State
Last week: 2
Last game: Beat Michigan 56–27
Next game: Saturday vs. Wisconsin
Record: 12–0
Average margin of result: 38
Quality wins: 6
Strength of schedule: 46
Hang your hat on… whipping virtually everyone except Penn State.
Forget about… those two second-half lost fumbles to let the Nittany Lions in a game you controlled.
They’ll make the playoff if… they win the Big Ten. The Buckeyes can punch their ticket to the big dance with a win in the conference championship game next week. What if they lose? Their resume might be better than several other contenders, including the team to which they lost. Would a 12–1 Ohio State get left out for a 12–1 conference champions Oklahoma, Baylor or Utah?

3. Clemson
Last week: 3
Last game: Beat South Carolina 38­–3
Next game: Saturday vs. Virginia
Record: 12–0
Average margin of result: 31.5
Quality wins: 3
Strength of schedule: 62
Hang your hat on… completing two perfect 12–0 regular seasons. Sure, the committee’s not supposed to look to last year, but you know they’re thinking about it.
Forget about… that awful schedule. Clemson can’t really control the weakness of its conference mates, but the Tigers’ best win is a scheduled non-conference game over Texas A&M.
They’ll make the playoff if… they beat Virginia in the ACC championship game. There is little room for error for the Tigers because of their strength of schedule. The ACC is the weakest conference in America, a detriment to the Tigers’ chances if they are to lose against the 9–3 Cavaliers, however unlikely.

4. Georgia
Last week: 4
Last game: Beat Georgia Tech 52–7
Next game: Saturday vs. LSU
Record: 11–1
Average margin of result: 22.5
Quality wins: 5
Strength of schedule: 26
Hang your hat on… three real, real good wins, against Florida, Notre Dame and Auburn and two more against good competition for an impressive five quality wins.
Forget about… that egg the Bulldogs laid at home against South Carolina, a 20–17 defeat.
They’ll make the playoff if… they win the SEC championship game. The CFP committee really likes the Bulldogs, and there’s no way, with an SEC title game win over CFP No. 2 LSU, that they’d tumble out of the top four. However, a second loss would likely end all playoff hope.

5. Oklahoma
Last week: 5
Last game: Beat Oklahoma State 34–16
Next game: Saturday vs. Baylor
Record: 11–1
Average margin of result: 19.6
Quality wins: 5
Strength of schedule: 27
Hang your hat on… an explosive offense that entered this weekend leading the nation averaging more than 570 yards a game.
Forget about… the loss at Kansas State in which the Sooners had two critical turnovers.
They’ll make the playoff if… Utah stumbles in the Pac-12 title game and LSU takes care of Georgia in Atlanta. The Sooners are behind the Utes in the CFP committee’s rankings, and that might mean they’ll need Oregon on Friday night to beat Utah in order to complete the leap. There’s something else that could spoil Lincoln Riley’s playoff hopes: two SEC teams advancing to the CFP. That could happen if UGA upsets the Tigers.

6. Utah
Last week: 7
Last game: Beat Colorado 45–15
Next game: Friday vs. Oregon
Record: 11–1
Average margin of result: 24.3
Quality wins: 3
Strength of schedule: 51
Hang your hat on… that defense. The Utes have held five of the last seven opponents to single digits.
Forget about… the 30–23 loss at USC. Hey, it was on a Friday night and Utah had 16 penalties!
They’ll make the playoff if… they find a way to beat Oregon in the Pac-12 championship to reach 12–1. The Utes would seem to have the inside track on the four-seed with a title game victory. Could they be left out with a win over the Ducks? Maybe. The Big 12 champion, especially if it’s 12–1 Oklahoma, is a worthy contender.

7. Baylor
Last week: 9
Last game: Beat Kansas 61–6
Next game: Saturday vs. Oklahoma
Record: 11–1
Average margin of result: 17.7
Quality wins: 5
Strength of schedule: 31
Hang your hat on… those quality wins. The Bears get heavily criticized for their schedule, but they’ve got the same number of quality wins as Georgia.
Forget about… needing overtimes to beat TCU and Texas Tech and fourth-quarter field goals to beat West Virginia and Iowa State. The Bears haven’t necessarily been… dominant.
They’ll make the playoff if… if they beat Oklahoma and Utah loses to Oregon. The Bears’ non-conference schedule is so weak—their non-Big 12 opponents have a combined 10 wins—that that Utes are sure to stay ahead of them with a Pac-12 title win.

8. Wisconsin
Last week: NR
Last game: Beat Minnesota 38–17
Next game: Saturday vs. Ohio State
Record: 10–2
Average margin of result: 21
Quality wins: 4
Strength of schedule: 44
Hang your hat on… a defense that’s pitched four—four—shutouts this season.
Forget about… two bad weeks. The Badgers lost by one at Illinois and then by 31 at Ohio State the very next week.
They’ll make the playoff if… you live in some fantasy land. Yes, could get a marquee win over Ohio State, but any two-loss team seems a long shot to advance to the CFP this year. Also, a reminder that Wisconsin lost 38–7 in a game against the Buckeyes earlier this year.

9. Florida
Last week: 10
Last game: Beat Florida State 40–17
Record: 10-2
Average margin of result: 20.2
Quality wins: 2
Strength of schedule: 19
Hang your hat on… your two… losses? They came against the No. 1 and No. 4 teams in our Top 10. The Gators might be undefeated this year if they were, you know, in the ACC.
Forget about… some not-so-great early-season performances. The Gators looked rough at times in escaping victories at Kentucky and against Miami.
They’ll make the playoff if… it suddenly expands to eight teams. A two-loss non-conference champion isn’t getting into the dance this year—or maybe ever, as long as it’s four teams.

10. Auburn
Last week: NR
Last game: Beat Alabama 48–45
Record: 9–3
Average margin of result: 15.4
Quality wins: 4
Strength of schedule: 6
Hang your hat on… your losses. They’re all “good.” They include No. 1 LSU, No. 4 Georgia and No. 8 Florida.
Forget about… your offense being held below 21 points four times this season.
They’ll make the playoff if… it expands to 10 teams. A three-loss Auburn is obviously not making the playoffs. End of story.