We're through eight weeks of the college football season. Tuesday, October 31, the official College Football Playoff Rankings will be announced. But let's get a jumpstart on that, and project moving forward.
[divider]COMPARE: Saquon Barkley vs. Baker Mayfield[divider]
Here's what I believe the top 10 should be heading into Week 9. The following rankings are based on eight weeks of eye test and resume.
|10||North Carolina State||6-1|
Georgia's resume still trumps Penn State's, even after the Nittany Lions' victory over Michigan this past Saturday. Both deserve to remain ahead of TCU. For now.
Despite being one of eight undefeated teams, Wisconsin has yet to beat a truly good team, hence their No. 8 ranking behind three one-loss teams.
While Clemson's loss was on the road, it stings as a worse loss than Notre Dame's home loss to No. 2 Georgia and Ohio State's Week 2 loss at home to No. 9 Oklahoma.
The Sooners got the nod over Oklahoma State, Washington and 6-0 Miami for resume purposes, but they also win the eye test versus those three thus far. Bedlam is just a few weeks away and will settle that one on the field, anyway.
North Carolina State's resume is better than that of Virginia Tech, OK State and Washington through eight weeks, thanks to wins at Florida State, over Louisville and dominant showings every other week since their Week-1 loss to South Carolina.
Projected College Football Playoff
Considering the above Top-10, here are the four teams with the best chance to move into final four at the end of the season.
4. Penn State
SCHEDULE: @ Ohio State, @ Michigan State, Rutgers, Nebraska, Maryland
HOW: For Penn State to get in, they could simply run the table, win the Big Ten title game and voila, that's it. I have them losing a close game at Ohio State this Saturday, however, which means they'll need a little help.
That starts with TCU losing at least once — they have dates with Oklahoma and they likely would play the Sooners or Oklahoma State in the Big 12 championship game. It also means the Nittany Lions will need Wisconsin to lose to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship and to look good dominating the chumps remaining on their own schedule.[divider]
3. Ohio State
SCHEDULE: Penn State, @ Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois, @ Michigan
HOW: Despite a home loss in September, the Buckeyes control their own destiny with the big game at the shoe versus Penn State Saturday. They also host Michigan State and visit Iowa and Michigan. There's virtually no chance a one-loss OSU misses out on the playoff.
If Ohio State loses to Penn State Saturday, they're probably out of the running altogether.[divider]
The Bulldogs will likely be favorites in every game remaining on their schedule, including at Auburn November 11. If they enter the SEC title game unbeaten and either upset Alabama or lose a reasonably competitive game, it will be difficult to keep Kirby Smart out of the playoff.[divider]
SCHEDULE: LSU, @ Mississippi State, Mercer, @ Auburn
HOW: This one's easy, and it's more than conceivable the Tide could lose a game and still get in, even if they're unbeaten heading into the SEC championship and lose to Georgia.
Unfortunately for SEC haters, there's a good chance we see two teams from the dark side in the playoff. In this scenario, it's two SEC teams and two Big Ten teams.[divider]
If one of the four above slips enough to be chased down, here are the next four that could move up into the Top 4.
5. Notre Dame
If Notre Dame runs the table, they're in.
That schedule also makes it a little more likely they fall once or more, which is why they aren't projected in the Final Four.
The Sooners' defense has struggled at times — particularly versus backup QBs, oddly enough — but Baker Mayfield has been college football's best player and Lincoln Riley's squad hosts TCU November 11. If they handle business on the road at Oklahoma State the week before, that date with the Horned Frogs may decide the conference's chance to get a team in the playoff.
The defending champs still have a good shot to get back to the playoff for the third straight season but probably will need some help, primarily with Penn State, Georgia and TCU as it's unlikely they'll get in over an unbeaten.
Clemson's big matchup is on the road at North Carolina State November 4, a week after the Wolfpack plays at Notre Dame.
Washington's schedule hasn't helped, neither does their loss at Arizona State. Also, neither does the fact USC now has two losses and Washington State now has a bad loss, removing value from future opponents and potential future opponents.
Best-case scenario for the Dawgs: Blowout wins over WSU and Stanford, and USC wins out until the conference title game, then Washington dominates them, too. They're still going to need some help, including Penn State losing twice, Wisconsin at least once and Ohio State getting a second loss, and they may need the Big 12 champ to have two losses, too.
All possible, not all likely.
The Badgers are the Huskies, but without a loss — in many ways, too. The schedule is bad, they don't have many good future opponents — they do not play Penn State or Ohio State in the regular season — but unlike any Pac-12 team, Wisconsin controls their own destiny. Winning out, including a Big Ten title victory over a one-loss-or-fewer Penn State or Ohio State and the Badgers are getting into the playoff.
Yeah, two unbeatens landing outside the Top 4 and at the bottom of the projected Top-10, but it's based on what lies ahead — for TCU that means OU on the road and a likely date with either OU or OSU in the Big 12 title game. A one-loss TCU has a chance, a two-loss TCU doesn't.[divider]