10. Washington State Cougars 7-1
This is the wild card team in the higher levels of the rankings. The wins over Oregon and Stanford are nice, and beating Utah is fantastic, but there’s nothing on the non-conference slate, and the metric side won’t care that losing at USC by three is losing at USC by three.
– Washington State 41, Stanford 38
9. Florida Gators 6-2
For total College Football Playoff ranking geeks – hand raised – this one will be fascinating. In general, the committee rewards great wins and punishes bad losses more than it forgives acceptable losses.
There’s no beef against losing to Georgia on a neutral site, and losing to Kentucky is more than forgivable. the win over Mississippi State on the road, and handling LSU its only loss, could put the Gators as high as eight. But the two losses could drop them out of the top ten.
– Georgia 36, Florida 17
8. Oklahoma Sooners 7-1
The issue is the overall body of work.
Joker, where’s the weenie?
The best win is over … Army? Iowa State? The eye test is amazing, and the committee will love the offense that’s ripping through everything, but the great wins just aren’t there.
– Oklahoma 51, Kansas State 14
7. Kentucky Wildcats 7-1
There’s a whole lot there the committee won’t like, but the win at Florida will look great, the lone loss coming in overtime at Texas A&M, and beating Mississippi State, South Carolina and Missouri will look excellent on paper. But the committee will have a hard time getting past the style aspect.
– Kentucky 14, Vanderbilt 7
6. Georgia Bulldogs 7-1
The blowout win over Florida will move the Bulldogs close to the top five, and beating South Carolina and Missouri on the road will help. Margin of victory only sort of matters to the committee, but losing at LSU will be forgiven a wee bit.
– Georgia 36, Florida 17
5. Michigan Wolverines 7-1
It’s not just that Michigan beat Wisconsin and Michigan State; it’s that it destroyed both of them.
Beating Northwestern on the road is a plus, and even beating Maryland is decent. The one loss at Notre Dame in the first weekend of the season will be all but totally forgiven.
4. LSU Tigers 7-1
There’s an off-chance that LSU cracks the top three thanks to the wins over Miami and Auburn on the road, and the blowout win over Georgia – for its only loss – along with the 16-point win over Mississippi State. By a mile, the Tigers have the best body of work when it comes to the wins, but the loss at Florida will be just enough to keep them outside of the top three.
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 8-0
Warning … don’t fall off your chair if the Irish start out in the No. 1 spot. They’ll miss out because of the eye test compared to Alabama, and the wins over Stanford and Virginia Tech aren’t quite as strong now, but being the team that handed Michigan its only loss will carry a whole lot of weight.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide 8-0
You might think it’s the slam dunk No. 1 but remember, schedules matter. So far, the good wins are over Texas A&M and Ole Miss, and that’s just not enough.
The metrics and the numbers might like someone else, but the people in that room will argue it out for a few minutes, and either put the Tide in the top spot on the eye test, or …
1. Clemson Tigers 8-0
Remember, it’s about the schedules and the metrics, too. Clemson has more than passed the eye test over the last three weeks – whacking NC State, Louisville and Boston College by a combined score of 163-20. But why could the Tigers by No. 1 over Alabama?
It’s simple. Clemson beat Texas A&M in College Station, and Alabama beat the Aggies at home. Also, the Tigers beat a Syracuse team that’s turning out to be strong, destroyed NC State, and it handed Georgia Southern its only loss so far.
– Clemson 56, Florida State 10