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CFP Rankings Round 3

By Jamison Cook | November 17
CFP Rankings Round 3
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An updated look at the Playoff outlook for the Irish

The third College Football Playoff rankings came out last night, and the committee made as few changes as possible. The only action in the Top 10 involved Notre Dame moving up into the No. 8 spot vacated by Oklahoma, Oklahoma State sliding up one spot to No. 9, and Wake Forest moving from No. 12 to No. 10 after Texas A&M lost to Ole Miss. The Top 25 in the CFP rankings is as follows:

1) Georgia

2) Alabama

3) Oregon

4) Ohio State

5) Cincinnati

6) Michigan

7) Michigan State

8) Notre Dame

9) Oklahoma State

10) Wake Forest

11) Baylor

12) Ole Miss

13) Oklahoma

14) BYU

15) Wisconsin

16) Texas A&M

17) Iowa

18) Pittsburgh

19) San Diego State

20) NC State

21) Arkansas

22) UTSA

23) Utah

24) Houston

25) Mississippi State

Notre Dame still has a windy and complicated path to reach the Playoff, but Oklahoma’s loss represents another domino falling in favor of the Irish. There are a few things that need to happen for Notre Dame to make their second straight CFP appearance, so let’s take a look at what needs to happen along the most likely path for Brian Kelly and co. to reach the Playoff.

Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC Championship

A Georgia win in the SEC Championship would lock the Bulldogs in as the No. 1 overall seed in the Playoff, and it would give Alabama two losses on the season, which should keep them out of the CFP. You never know how the committee would evaluate a two-loss Alabama – especially if the SEC Championship is a close game – but one would think that two defeats would be enough to keep the Crimson Tide out of the final four.

Ohio State wins out and wins the Big 10

Ohio State seems to have rounded into form and should take down Michigan State and Michigan in the next two weeks. This also seems to be the simplest path for only one Big 10 team to make the Playoff, which would be best for Notre Dame. Losses to the Buckeyes would eliminate both the Spartans and Wolverines from CFP contention, ultimately helping avoid a mess that could box the Irish out of the Top 4.

Either Oregon or Cincinnati stumbles

The Irish do need a little help in this regard, with either the Ducks or the Bearcats falling late in the regular season or in their respective conference championships. It seems more likely that Oregon will lose, and this would be better for Notre Dame as a Cincinnati loss may discount Notre Dame’s earlier loss to the Bearcats even further. Oregon is set up to play No. 23 Utah this coming week and again in the Pac-12 Championship, giving the Utes two opportunities to knock off the Ducks.

Other factors to consider:

Is it better if Oklahoma wins the Big 12?

The Committee has already shown their distaste for Oklahoma, ranking the undefeated Sooners at No. 8 and dropping them down to No. 13 after their loss to Baylor. One-loss Oklahoma State is ranked ahead of the Sooners at No. 9, and I could see a Big 12 conference championship elevating the Cowboys ahead of Notre Dame in the committee’s mind. An Oklahoma win might be better for the Irish, as it seems unlikely that the committee would put the Sooners in. Even better if the winner of the Big 12 has two losses (I’m looking at you Baylor).

Does Wake have a chance?

Personally, I don’t think so, but a one-loss ACC Champ doesn’t sound too bad on paper. Once again, I think Wake’s loss to UNC was indicative of the fact that they aren’t a Playoff-caliber team, but you never know what the committee is thinking.

Does a two-loss Bama still get in?

Unfortunately, I think there is definitely still a chance that they do. Unless they lose to Georgia handily or Oregon, Ohio State, and Cincinnati all win out, I think a two-loss Bama might be in. The committee has already shown an affinity for the Crimson Tide, ranking them at No. 2 right off the bat. I think that the committee might still put in a two-loss Bama over a one-loss Notre Dame and potentially even over an undefeated Cincinnati. I hate to say it, but it might be true.

Currently, 247 Sports has Notre Dame playing projected ACC Champ Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl. This seems like an insult to ND, as I think we would beat Pitt by about the same margin as Virginia. Regardless, this would be a major bowl win, so I really can’t complain. That being said, we are not out of the Playoff running. There is a lot of football left to play, and the Irish are in the hunt in November.