The College Football Playoff selection committee unveiled their latest set of rankings and we’ve seen another change at the top. Here’s our latest takeaways from the Week 14 College Football Playoffs rankings.
Ohio State back on top for second time
In an interesting turn of events, the committee has placed Ohio State back at number one, moving LSU down to number two with Clemson and Georgia still among the top four.
Ohio State moving back up to number one now is very interesting. There’s no doubt they beat a good Penn State, who is still in the top ten. The Buckeyes currently hold three wins over teams currently ranked in the top 25, having also defeated Wisconsin and Cincinnati. LSU also has three wins against the current top 25 (Alabama, Florida, Auburn).
Rob Mullens made note of Ohio State grabbing a third ranked victory with the Penn State win, but that only equals LSU, which makes that an interesting argument. Perhaps having one of those wins be out of the conference resonates with the committee, especially against a Cincinnati team that could earn the automatic bid into the New Year’s Six from the Group of Five.
Mullens also made note of Ohio State being a more complete team than LSU. While Joe Burrow and the LSU offense ranks higher than Ohio State’s (Tigers at two, Buckeyes at six), Ohio State ranks much higher in total defense with the number one defense in the nation, while the Tigers rank 43rd.
With all that said, Ohio State can push their case even further by picking up a fourth win over a top-25 team with a win over Michigan Saturday and then one more against either Minnesota or Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. LSU cannot get one this week as they face Texas A&M, but they will see Georgia a week later in the SEC Championship.
Knowing now the committee is leaning Ohio State and seeing what lies ahead, the Buckeyes look to have the edge for the number one seed and getting to choose which bowl game they get to play in. Having the top seed also likely means avoiding Clemson until the National Championship.
Oregon tumbles well out of the picture, Utah the only hope for the Pac-12
We knew Oregon was going to be out of the playoff conversation but that was quite the drop for the Ducks. They fell all the way to 14 and sit as the fifth-highest ranked two-loss team. But remember, the Ducks only have the one top-25 win over USC, so it’s understandable the committee seemed to punish Oregon for losing to a middling team like Arizona State.
That leaves Utah as the only hope for the playoffs from the Pac-12. And the Utes are still without a ranked win (Arizona State was ranked in the AP Poll at the time of Utah’s win, but it no longer counts). Utah was dominant again in their 35-7 win over Arizona and now have their sights set on Colorado. Win that and the Utes are headed for a clash with Oregon for the Pac-12 title. That might be enough to send Utah to the playoffs, but it still feels like a long shot, with teams like Oklahoma, Baylor, Minnesota and even Alabama still hanging around and holding, or potentially holding, more and better wins than Utah. Most likely, Oregon/Utah will be for a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Is Baylor back in the mix?
One team movement that really stood out at the top of the Week 14 College Football Playoffs rankings, besides the Ohio State/LSU swap, was Baylor moving up five spots after their 24-10 win against Texas. Even when they were undefeated, Baylor was sitting at just 13 going into the Oklahoma game. The loss only knocked them down one spot. But now they shoot up five spots for a win over Texas? That’s an interesting move, especially it seems the committee is still knocking LSU for also beating Texas, and that was in Austin.
The end result at this point is that Baylor may have worked their way back into consideration in the committee’s eyes, despite still having a weak non-conference schedule hanging over their head, though Rice has won two straight after an 0-9 start.
Baylor wraps up the regular season at Kansas before the big rematch with Oklahoma (who finishes with Oklahoma State Saturday) in the Big 12 championship game. That would give Baylor three top-25 wins if they can defeat the Sooners, thanks to Oklahoma State and Iowa State also being ranked. Baylor’s chances might not be dead yet.
The ACC has another ranked team again!
It had been a couple of weeks, but Clemson is finally joined by another team in the top 25. Fresh off their 28-0 shutout of Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech has joined the party at number 24. The Hokies take on Virginia Saturday, with the winner to meet Clemson for the ACC championship. The winner might also punch their ticket to the Orange Bowl, with Clemson steamrolling toward the playoffs and the Orange Bowl needing to find and ACC replacement. It’s no doubt been a down year for the ACC, but at least either the Hokies or the Cavaliers will head into the ACC Championship Game with nine wins (Wake Forest will also if they defeat Syracuse).
Memphis, Cincinnati set for huge Group of Five battle (and maybe an encore)
Memphis and Cincinnati, at 17 and 18, respectively, are still the leaders in the clubhouse for the Group of Five spot in the New Year’s Six. Memphis easily took care of South Florida, 49-10, while Cincinnati just got past Temple, 15-13. The two teams now meet in Memphis on Friday. Cincinnati is already locked into the American Championship Game. Memphis is tied with Navy in the West division and hold the tiebreaker. Therefore, a Memphis win Friday would mean the Tigers and Bearcats will lock horns for a second week in a row for the American championship, and in all likelihood, a spot in the Cotton Bowl. A Cincinnati win opens the door for Navy to climb back into the picture. The Midshipmen visit Houston Saturday and would claim the West division if they win and Memphis loses. Keep in mind, the bowls will already be set before Navy plays Army, so that game would have no effect on the final rankings, since they will have already been released.
Boise State at number 20 are still doing all they can to stay in the hunt. The Broncos close out the regular season at Colorado State, before a date with Hawaii in the Mountain West championship game. At this point, it’s all about continuing to impress the committee for Boise State if they’re going to jump Cincinnati and Memphis. That is exactly what they did this past Saturday, beating Utah State by 35.
Current New Year’s Six Bowls
As always, we’ll wrap things up by looking at what the New Year’s Six bowls would like with the current Week 14 College Football Playoffs rankings and projecting the end of the season.
Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs Georgia
Peach Bowl: LSU vs Clemson
Rose Bowl: Minnesota vs Utah
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs Oklahoma
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs Penn State
Cotton Bowl: Baylor vs Cincinnati
The thought process behind Ohio State and Georgia in the Fiesta Bowl instead of the Peach Bowl is that Ohio State might choose to avoid playing in Atlanta in what could be a very pro-Georgia crowd for the national semifinal. The Buckeyes will draw well in either bowl, so that’s not an issue. And who knows, if it is them and Georgia, maybe they’ll welcome the challenge of basically playing a road game for a shot at the national title.
As for what the bowls might look like down the line:
Peach Bowl: Ohio State vs Oklahoma
Fiesta Bowl: LSU vs Clemson
Rose Bowl: Minnesota vs Oregon
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs Baylor
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs Georgia
Cotton Bowl: Utah vs Cincinnati
With Oregon now out of the way, we’re moving Oklahoma in, over the likes of Alabama and Utah. In fact, these bowls project Oregon to win the Pac-12 and make the Rose Bowl. Oklahoma will have four top-25 wins in this scenario, including two over Baylor, and a conference championship, something Alabama will not have. It’s going to be tough to argue Alabama over Oklahoma.