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CFP Rankings Round 2

By Jamison Cook | November 10
CFP Rankings Round 2
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What do the latest CFP rankings mean for the Playoff picture? What do they mean for ND?

The College Football Playoff committee released their second set of rankings yesterday, and they were about as puzzling as the first set. The Top 25 is as follows:

1) Georgia

2) Alabama

3) Oregon

4) Ohio State

5) Cincinnati

6) Michigan

7) Michigan State

8) Oklahoma

9) Notre Dame

10) Oklahoma State

11) Texas A&M

12) Wake Forest

13) Baylor

14) BYU

15) Ole Miss

16) NC State

17) Auburn

18) Wisconsin

19) Purdue

20) Iowa

21) Pittsburgh

22) San Diego State

23) UTSA

24) Utah

25) Arkansas

You can argue all you want about how Michigan State should be ahead of Michigan – which they should considering MSU won the head-to-head matchup two weeks ago – but it doesn’t really affect Notre Dame at this point. Yes, I think ND should already be ahead of both of those teams and ranked seventh behind the current Top 5 and Oklahoma, but we will get there soon enough.

Ohio State still has both Michigan and Michigan State on their schedule and given the way the QB CJ Stroud and the Buckeyes are playing, these should be relatively comfortable wins. With two losses, both Michigan and Michigan State should fall out of the Top 8 at least, allowing ND to move up into the seventh spot if they win out. And this seems to be the floor for the Irish if they win out. If any other crazy upsets happen – which there have been a ton of this season – Notre Dame could move up further.

This begs the question: could ND sneak into the Playoff? If we did, it would almost certainly be at the No. 4 spot, setting us up for a matchup with (most likely) the SEC Champ, which would be Georgia or Alabama. Is that something we want? Who knows. While Coan, Kyren, the offensive line, and Marcus Freeman’s defense have most definitely come into their own as the season has progressed, I don’t think there is any way this team can win a national championship. I would love to be wrong, but I think Georgia is that much better than everyone else this season. That being said, I am not convinced that Ohio State, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Alabama are that much better than the Irish given their inconsistencies. I also think that we would dominate Cincinnati if we played them again at this point in the season.

So, with three weeks of regular season left and lots of movement sure to happen at the top of the CFP rankings, let’s take a look at some likely scenarios (in my opinion). For the sake of argument, let’s assume Notre Dame finishes the season 11-1 with three wins over Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Stanford to end the year (as they should).

A few simple things to consider first:

If Oregon, Cincinnati, or Oklahoma lose at any point, they are out of the running.

This holds even if these three teams win their conferences.

**Because of this, I will not make you consider these scenarios more than once below.

Scenario 1: Georgia wins the SEC, Oregon wins the Pac-12, OSU/MSU/Michigan wins the Big 10 with one loss, Cincy wins American, Oklahoma wins the Big 12

This is the most straightforward scenario and would probably cause the committee the least amount of stress. That is if they think like normal human beings, which they have shown a reluctancy to do thus far this season. In this case, Georgia would enter the playoff as the No. 1 after finishing the season undefeated with a win over Alabama in the SEC Championship. A two-loss Bama would surely drop, causing Pac-12 champ Oregon and the one-loss Big 10 champ to move up. With wins over some combination of Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State along the way, the Big 10 champ might jump over the Ducks to No. 2. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the committee in the MSU-Michigan debate, so who knows. In the end, they would play each other in the semifinals no matter who is No. 2 No. 3. That leaves the fourth spot. As of now, Cincinnati sits at No. 5 and with a conference championship and undefeated season under their belt they would have a great case for the fourth spot. But an undefeated, Big 12 champ Oklahoma also has a good case. It would come down the ageless Power 5 versus Group of 5 debate. And how would the committee view a two-loss Bama if the SEC Championship against Georgia is close? As much as I hate to say it, the committee might throw the Crimson Tide in at No. 4, especially if the game is close. I think that Cincy should get the fourth spot in this scenario, giving the Group of 5 their first representative in the Playoff, but I think the committee would attempt to justify an Alabama bid.

Scenario 2: Alabama wins the SEC, Oregon wins the Pac-12, OSU/MSU/Michigan wins the Big 10 with one loss, Cincy wins American, Oklahoma wins the Big 12

Everything in this scenario is the same as the first except that Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC Championship. In this case, Alabama moves up to No. 1, but Georgia would still make the Playoff and the committee would want to avoid a rematch of the two teams in the semifinals. I think the committee realizes the gap between the two SEC teams and the rest of the field, meaning Georgia would be No. 2 and play Pac-12 champ No. 3 Oregon in the semis. The one-loss Big 10 champ takes the fourth spot. Cincy and Oklahoma are left on the outside looking in.

Scenario 3: Georgia wins the SEC, Oregon loses again, OSU/MSU/Michigan wins the Big 10 with one loss, Cincy wins American, Oklahoma wins the Big 12

A singular loss derails Oregon’s Playoff hopes, no matter when it happens. In this case, Georgia stays at No. 1, the one-loss Big 10 champ moves to No. 2, and you have a debate over the last two spots. This seems to be the only sure-fire way that Cincy makes the Playoff, but I think it would be at the no. 4 spot. Since the committee seems to be discounting Oklahoma heavily, I think that a two-loss Alabama might get the three-seed in this scenario to avoid a rematch with Georgia right away. I don’t agree with it, but that seems to be the way they are leaning. My four in this case would be Georgia, Big 10 champ, Cincy, Oklahoma, but the committee seems to disagree.

Scenario 4: Alabama wins the SEC, Oregon loses again, OSU/MSU/Michigan wins the Big 10 with one loss, Cincy wins American, Oklahoma wins the Big 12

This scenario might also make the lives of the committee easy. Alabama is No. 1 following their win in the SEC Championship, the one-loss Big 10 champ is No. 2, Georgia is No. 3 to avoid the rematch with Bama, and Cincy slides up to No. 4.

Scenario 5: The Big 10 kills itself off

Is there a chance the Big 10 gets left out? In all of my previous scenarios they have made it in, but that is assuming that the Big 10 champ only has one loss. Personally, I don’t think Ohio State will lose again, but let’s look at all the possibilities. Michigan and Michigan State could both beat Ohio State, meaning that they both finish with one loss and MSU goes to the Big 10 title game. A win there would send MSU to the CFP. If Ohio State beats Michigan State but loses to Michigan, the Wolverines go to the Big 10 Championship and a win would send them to the CFP. If Ohio State beats both of them, then they go to the Big 10 Championship, where a win would guarantee them a CFP bid. Again, this is assuming these three teams take care of the lesser teams remaining on their schedule. Lastly, a Big 10 Champ from the Big 10 West would surely mean that the Big 10 would be left out of the CFP. Currently Wisconsin leads the Big 10 West (didn’t we beat them by four touchdowns?), but they have three losses overall. Second-place Minnesota also has three losses overall, and third-place Iowa – despite only having two losses – has already shown the committee they are undeserving of a Playoff spot. All in all, if a team from the Big 10 East wins the Big 10, they will have one loss and will go to the CFP. If a Big 10 West team wins the Big 10, well, the whole conference will be left out.

Something else to consider:

The only way for Oklahoma to make the Playoff is seemingly if both Oregon and Cincy lose (or if the Big 10 somehow manages to keep itself out of the CFP).

Scenario 6: What ND needs to happen

Buckle in, folks, this will be interesting. Technically there is still a path, but I am not so sure that this is even possible. For ND to make the CFP, a lot needs to happen. And I mean a lot. Because, let’s be honest, the committee is putting in a two-loss Bama in over us. So, this is what I think needs to happen for ND to make the Playoff:

  • Doesn’t matter who wins the SEC, both Georgia and Bama are getting in over us
  • Oregon loses, preferably in the Pac-12 Championship
  • One-loss Ohio State wins the Big 10
  • Cincinnati loses, preferably in the American Athletic Conference Championship
  • Oklahoma loses in the Big 12 championship

In this scenario, Oregon has two losses and hopefully lacks a conference championship. Both Cincinnati and Oklahoma would have only one loss, which is why I think it is important that neither of them wins their conference, but given that Oklahoma is ranked at No. 8 now despite being undefeated, I am less worried about them. Cincy with one loss but a conference championship might sneak in over us given that they won the head-to-head, but without a conference championship they are definitely out. With Ohio State winning the Big 10 with just one loss, only one team from the Big 10 would get in. If someone else wins the conference or if a Big 10 West team wins the conference, it could get messy. Given all this, we sneak in at No. 4.

It's a lot, but it’s possible. Feel free to let me know what you think will happen or how ND could sneak into the CFP. All of this being said, I don’t think we will make the CFP this year. And that is totally fine, I would be ecstatic with a win in a New Year’s 6 Bowl. So should everyone, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year. We lost our one big game, so we have to deal with the consequences. It is fun to hypothesize, though, and only time will tell who the four teams will be.