Michi­gan up to 4th in CFP

Bama, Clem­son, N. Dame top 3

Yuma Sun - - SUN SPORTS -

Michi­gan moved into the fourth spot of the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off rank­ings Tues­day night, be­hind Alabama, Clem­son and Notre Dame.

Ge­or­gia was next at five, fol­lowed by Ok­la­homa.

The play­off pic­ture cleared up af­ter a week­end where sev­eral con­tenders as­serted them­selves. The top-four teams in the fi­nal rank­ings Dec. 2 will play in the na­tional semi­fi­nals.

The Crim­son Tide eas­ily dis­patched LSU from the top four, beat­ing the Tigers 29-0. LSU, though, only dropped to No. 7 af­ter its sec­ond loss, ahead of Wash­ing­ton State, West Vir­ginia and Ohio State — all with only one loss.

Se­lec­tion com­mit­tee chair­man Rob Mul­lens noted LSU’s three vic­to­ries against teams the com­mit­tee has ranked this week (Mis­sis­sippi State, Auburn and Ge­or­gia).

“Their de­fense is ex­tremely strong,” said Mul­lens, the Ore­gon ath­letic di­rec­tor. “Their two losses come against No. 1 Alabama, on the road to Florida.”

Un­beaten Notre Dame moved up one spot to No. 3, and Michi­gan jumped a spot af­ter a 42-7 vic­tory against Penn State.

With four weeks left in the sea­son, nine of the top 10 teams are se­ri­ous con­tenders. LSU is ba­si­cally out, be­cause the Tigers have no chance to win a con­fer­ence ti­tle.

As­sum­ing the top three un­beaten teams would get in by win­ning out, here are the paths to the play­off.

No. 1 Alabama (9-0)

The Tide is al­ready locked into the SEC cham­pi­onship game and has

built up enough eq­uity that even a reg­u­lar-sea­son loss to Mis­sis­sippi State or Auburn won’t keep Tua Tago­v­ailoa and Co. out of the play­off. Now if they lost twice ... yeah, that’s prob­a­bly not hap­pen­ing. The only in­trigue in­volv­ing Alabama is whether the Tide could lose the SEC cham­pi­onship game, fin­ish 12-1 and still get in? The chances are prob­a­bly de­cent.

No. 2 Clem­son (9-0)

Like Alabama, the Tigers have some room for a reg­u­lar-sea­son mis­step, but their po­si­tion is not a strong as the Tide’s. With a loss to ACC At­lantic ri­val Bos­ton Col­lege on Satur­day, Clem­son would be at risk of be­ing shut out of the con­fer­ence ti­tle game. Ohio State and Alabama both made the play­off at 11-1, with­out even play­ing for a league ti­tle the last two sea­sons. The Tigers could, too, but it is no slam dunk.

No. 3 Notre Dame (9-0)

The Ir­ish fin­ish with three winnable games, but no locks. Notre Dame fans be­lieve their team holds a trump card against Michi­gan, with that sea­son-open­ing vic­tory in South Bend. That could buf­fer the Ir­ish against one loss in their fi­nal three games, but with no con­fer­ence ti­tle and some strug­gling mar­quee teams on their sched­ule such as Vir­ginia Tech and Stan­ford, Notre Dame is not a lock if it gets into a re­sume con­test with other one-loss teams. Even one it beat.

No. 4 Michi­gan (8-1)

The Wolver­ines have to feel good about con­trol­ling their path to the play­off. Win­ning out, in­clud­ing at Ohio State, puts Jim Har­baugh’s team at 12-1 with a Big Ten ti­tle. That’s a re­sume with vic­to­ries against Michi­gan State, Wis­con­sin and Penn State, and a seven-point road loss to Notre Dame. One loss and Michi­gan is out, right? Not so fast. Take a quick glance at the rank­ings and no­tice how many highly ranked teams still have to play each other. It won’t take more than one or two mild up­sets to have the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee sift­ing through a bunch of two-loss teams to fill the fi­nal play­off spot. Fig­ure the ones with con­fer­ence cham­pi­onships will have the edge.

No. 5 Ge­or­gia (8-1)

Sim­ple: Win out, get in. Oh, and beat Alabama. The good news for the Bulldogs is beat­ing Alabama to win the SEC cham­pi­onship would al­most cer­tainly make up for a sec­ond reg­u­lar-sea­son loss. Ge­or­gia has got a lit­tle lee­way when it faces Auburn and Ge­or­gia Tech.

No. 6 Ok­la­homa (8-1)

UCLA did the Soon­ers no fa­vor by be­ing ter­ri­ble and de­priv­ing Ok­la­homa of a qual­ity non­con­fer­ence vic­tory. Still, the Soon­ers are prob­a­bly the Big 12’s best bet to win an ar­gu­ment against a one-loss Big Ten cham­pion or Notre Dame with one loss. Maybe.

No. 8 Wash­ing­ton State (8-1)

The Cougars could fin­ish as 12-1 cham­pi­ons of the weak­est Power Five con­fer­ence and no notable non­con­fer­ence vic­to­ries. The most re­al­is­tic sce­nario to put Mike Leach’s Wash­ing­ton State team in the play­off in­volves Big Ten and Big 12 im­plo­sions.

No. 9 West Vir­ginia (7-1)

The weather did the Moun­taineers no fa­vor by forc­ing the can­cel­la­tion of West Vir­ginia’s game at North Carolina State in Septem­ber. The Moun­taineers do have a vic­tory against Ten­nessee on a neu­tral field. Not ter­ri­ble. To get to 11-1 and a Big 12 ti­tle could mean two vic­to­ries over Ok­la­homa in con­sec­u­tive week­ends.

No. 10 Ohio State (8-1)

The Buck­eyes found out last sea­son that get­ting ham­mered by a team that fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son 7-5 is deal-breaker with the com­mit­tee when it comes time to make a tough choice. Ohio State could win out — beat­ing Michi­gan State and Michi­gan along the way — and get in. But that’s a long way from cer­tain con­sid­er­ing the Buck­eyes are the low­est ranked one-loss team.

No. 12 UCF (8-0)

The Knights stayed at No. 12 af­ter beat­ing Tem­ple 52-40 last week.

“Strong of­fense, strug­gling on de­fense,” Mul­lens said.

Ath­letic di­rec­tor Danny White and the Knights fans cer­tainly don’t want to hear this, but an­other per­fect sea­son prob­a­bly won’t even get UCF se­ri­ously con­sid­ered for a spot in the semi­fi­nal — un­less things get re­ally weird.

So let’s think weird: North­west­ern wins the Big Ten, Ari­zona State wins the Pac-12, Iowa State wins the Big 12, Pitt wins the ACC, Notre Dame losses two of its fi­nal three and Ge­or­gia losses to both Auburn and Alabama. That’s ex­treme, but if three of those six things hap­pen, UCF prob­a­bly gets a look.

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