We’re still a week away from the initial release of the College Football Playoff rankings, which will come out Nov. 5, just days before Alabama hosts LSU as a potential No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.
Most of the teams near the top have a bye this week, so not much movement is expected in next week’s polls, although they have little influence on the committee and its process for ranking its own top 25.
Regardless, the path to the playoff this year is already pretty clear cut. Three of the four slots can be claimed by teams looking at win-and-in scenarios:
Ohio State/Penn State/Minnesota
All are undefeated, and there’s no possible way for the committee to justify keeping them out. Baylor and SMU are also undefeated, but need some serious help to move into the top four.
Here are those teams’ schedules, not including conference championships.
Alabama: No. 1 LSU, at Mississippi State, Western Carolina, at No. 11 Auburn
LSU: at No. 2 Alabama, at Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M
Ohio State: Maryland, at Rutgers, No. 5 Penn State, at No. 14 Michigan
Penn State: at No. 13 Minnesota, Indiana, at No. 3 Ohio State, Rutgers
Minnesota: No. 5 Penn State, at No. 19 Iowa, at Northwestern, No. 18 Wisconsin
Clemson: Wofford, at NC State, No. 23 Wake Forrest, at South Carolina
Look for three things to happen.
1] The loser of Alabama-LSU will be in very good shape to still make the playoff. The tricky part for the committee could be avoiding a remain in the semifinal.
2] Clemson’s schedule is about to catch up to it in a big way. Like Alabama, its biggest win is Texas A&M, but the Tigers only have one ranked opponent on its remaining schedule, No. 23 Wake Forrest.
3] Don’t expect Alabama-LSU to be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the CFP rankings. Ohio State has played a tougher schedule so far – and the key words are “so far” – and arguably been as impressive as anyone. Look for the committee to silence some of the complaining stemming from Big Ten territory, while leaving itself an out to subsequently move the winner of the SEC showdown into the top spot.