Zwiller: Predicting this week’s CFP Rankings
Thomas Zwiller | Monday, November 8, 2021
When I read the first College Football Playoff (CFP) Rankings, I had a feeling I was not the only person slightly annoyed. The Playoff Committee has always been relatively high on Alabama in the past; the year they did not make it (2019-2020), I honestly thought the Committee would find a way to sneak a two-loss Alabama in.
So when I read that the Committee had decided to make Alabama second ahead of a few more deserving teams, I was pretty surprised.
So I thought I would try and do a predictionary column this week instead of a reactionary so as to prepare everyone for Alabama inevitably and unreasonably being moved to first over Georiga.
All jokes aside, let’s get into this one.
Rank last week: #1 (-)
Reason: Georgia allowed six points against but made up for it by scoring a safety. This defense is otherworldly, and barring an unforeseen loss down the stretch, Georiga will make the CFP.
Path to the Playoff: Keep being Georgia and win the SEC. The Bulldogs certainly can afford a loss to Alabama, but only Alabama.
Rank Last Week: #2 (-)
Reason: The CFP Committee hates America. I kid—sort of. I think the committee respects playing in the SEC, which is fair. It just should not override the resumes of other teams.
Path to the Playoff: Avoid another scare early, like in the LSU game, and then upset Georgia to win the SEC.
Rank Last Week: #4 (+1)
Reason: While Oregon had a bit of a slow start against Washington, but was able to seal the deal. With only one loss this season, and a win against Ohio State, it feels impossible for the Ducks not to be in the top-3.
Path to the Playoffs: Win the Pac-12, which might be harder than it seems, based on their game against Washington.
#4 Ohio State
Rank Last Week: #5 (+1)
Reason: If Ohio State had avoided that loss to Oregon, they could have had a case strong enough to make them second in the rankings. However, since losing to Oregon, the Buckeyes have improved tremendously, and I would put the Buckeyes above the Ducks.
However, I do not think the Committee will put them above Oregon because head-to-head games have been shown to matter in the past. (The AP Poll had Ohio State above Oregon, the CFP did not.)
Path to the Playoffs: Avoid being upset by the Purdue Spoilermakers, and then beat Michigan and Michigan State.
Rank Last Week: #6 (+1)
Reason: Has an undefeated team ever played itself out of the CFP? Cincinnati may be the first to do so.
In their last three games, their average MOV is 11, down from nearly 36 points per game in their first six.
Cincinnati needs to win and to win with style to get in the CFP. That’s why the Committee put them in the sixth spot, to say that they need either chaos or style points to advance.
Cincinnati survived this week and should continue to do so, but they may not be easy games for Bearcats fans.
Path to the Playoffs: Win out, win the AAC and see Oregon and Oklahoma fall.
#6 Michigan State (MSU)
Rank Last Week: 3 (-3)
Reason: The undefeated Sparty Party may be over, but Sparty could party his way back into the CFP.
It is not great, as MSU will play at Ohio State and then be home to PSU and still have to win the Big 10 Championship (my pick would be they play against Wisconsin). A tall order, but there is undoubtedly a chance.
Path to the Playoffs: Beat out Ohio State, Penn State and possibly Wisconsin.
Rank Last Week: #7 (-)
Reason: Michigan played it a closer than I thought they might play against Indiana, but they are 8-1, with a path to the playoffs much like MSU.
Path to the Playoffs: Beat PSU, OSU (while MSU loses) and win the Big 10 Championship.
Rank Last Week: #8 (-)
Reason: Oklahoma did not play this weekend, and so they could not benefit from MSU falling.
The Committee is unimpressed by Oklahoma for the same reason I am; they have not looked great for a large portion of the season. Once the Sooners benched Spencer Rattler for Caleb Williams, they began to look a lot better.
However, their real tests in Baylor and Oklahoma State still lie ahead.
Path to the Playoffs: Win out, and hope the Big 10 implodes.
#9 Notre Dame
Rank Last Week: #9 (+1)
Reason: Last week, I said that they would simply need utter chaos for ND to have a shot at the CFP. MSU did their part, and the NCAAF delivered with Purdue’s upset of MSU.
According to 538, should Notre Dame finish the season by winning out, their odds of making it to the CFP would increase to 33%.
Add on Oregon and Cincinnati losses and the assumption that Georgia beats Alabama and, Notre Dame would jump to a 60% chance of making the CFP.
So, Irish fans, root for chaos!
Path to the Playoffs: Win out AND slightly less utter chaos.
#10 Oklahoma State
Rank Last Week: #11 (+1)
Reason: Oklahoma State got a solid win over what I think is a good West Virginia team and, of course, is going to get a boost from Wake Forest falling out of the Top-10.
The Cowboys will undoubtedly have a way to get into CFP contention: they still have a game against Oklahoma and a shot at the Big 12 championship (538 gives them a 31% chance of doing so.)
Path to the Playoffs: Beat Oklahoma in the regular season and do it again in the Big 12 Championship game.
#11 Texas A&M
Rank Last Week: #14 (+3)
Reason: I did not understand why the Committee had A&M so low, but with a win over Auburn, as well as Wake and Baylor losing, I think it is likely that the Aggies get quite a nice jump.
However, because they are a two-loss team, Texas A&M can’t make it into the CFP (even with the best win in college football over Alabama). The best they can do is make it into an NY6 Bowl game.
Path to the Playoffs: A two-loss team is eliminated.
#12 Wake Forest
Rank Last Week: #9 (-3)
Reason: I think Wake, like Oklahoma, was only ranked as high as last weekend because they were undefeated.
With their close loss to UNC on the road, 55-58, Wake is still the best team in the ACC and arguably the most likely to win the ACC championship.
However, their odds of making the playoffs got a lot lower.
Path to the Playoffs: Win out, win the ACC, and, well, utter chaos.