Oklahoma moved into third and Iowa was fourth in the new College Football Playoff rankings as Notre Dame slipped to No. 6.
Clemson and Alabama remained the top two teams in the third-to-last committee rankings.
The Sooners (10-1) seem to be in solid shape with only one game left in their season. Oklahoma will play at Oklahoma State on Saturday with a chance to win the Big 12. The Cowboys dropped to 11th after losing its first game of the season. The committee does not seem to be hung up on the Sooners’ October loss to Texas.
“They have performed at a high level since then, so they’ve overcome that loss with their play on the field and the success they’ve had and the wins they’ve accumulated, with now six wins over teams with .500 or better records,” committee chairman Jeff Long said.
Long said the committee took into account that Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield sat out the second half against TCU. When Mayfield was playing, Oklahoma was in control of the game, Long said.
Notre Dame (10-1) also plays its last game of the season Saturday, a possible resume-builder against Stanford, which is ninth in the rankings.
Unbeaten Iowa (11-0) and No. 5 Michigan State (10-1) can setup a possible playoff play-in game in the Big Ten championship if both win this weekend.
What else you need to know about the latest rankings as the season hits the final two weeks:
OU IS NOT TCU
Last season TCU was third in the second-to-last playoff rankings and slipped to sixth in the final rankings, behind Ohio State and Baylor.
That has Big 12 fans understandably wondering if the league is setup for another fall from No. 3 even if the Sooners take care of business on Saturday in Stillwater.
It is not the same situation. Oklahoma is in better position. Here’s why:
Last season the committee liked TCU more than Baylor all season, despite the Bears beating the Horned Frogs in October. In the very last rankings, when Baylor’s and TCU’s schedule were almost identical, the committee finally honored the head-to-head result and placed Baylor ahead of TCU.
That can’t happen this season. The Sooners loss was the Texas and with the Big 12 now using head-to-head tiebreakers, they would be the conference’s one true champion.
Baylor’s very weak nonconference schedule also left it susceptible to being slighted by the committee last season. The Sooners have no such problem, with a win against Tennessee (7-4) on the road to their credit.
If committee members were looking for a reasonable alternative to Baylor on championship weekend before the final rankings last year, they found it in Ohio State. The Buckeyes’ 59-0 victory against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game with a backup quarterback was maybe the most impressive performance of the season by any team.
Notre Dame would be in the role of Ohio State this season, but it’s not quite the same. First off, the Irish don’t have the extra game to make a last and lasting impression with the committee on championship weekend.
Stanford and Oklahoma State are similar opponents.
Last season TCU finished with a weak Iowa State team. Baylor faced a good Kansas State team at home, posted a solid win, but still was being dragged down by its nonconference schedule and a loss at West Virginia, which finished in the middle of the Big 12.
Unless the Irish can do to the Cardinal what the Buckeyes did to the Badgers, it would be hard for the committee to explain reversing course on the Sooners at this point.
BIG TEN vs. NOTRE DAME
When Ohio State was unbeaten, it looked as if the final spot would come down to Notre Dame or the Big 12 champion.
Now it looks as if the Irish’s path to the playoff goes through the Big Ten. The Irish could be blocked without an upset or two in the Big Ten over the next couple weeks.
Michigan State plays Penn State on Saturday and Iowa is at Nebraska. If both win, that sets up a Big Ten championship game with unbeaten Iowa against Michigan State at 11-1. Again, unless Notre Dame posts some type of monstrous blowout of Stanford, jumping ahead of the Big Ten champ looks very difficult.
The Irish might be able to get some help from their rivals. If USC can beat UCLA on Saturday to win the Pac-12 South, the Trojans would play Stanford for the Pac-12 title. Also, Navy can play for the American Athletic Conference championship if it beats Houston on Saturday. The success of Trojans and Midshipmen would enhance two of Notre Dame’s best wins.
Stanford and Baylor looked done a couple of weeks ago when they both lost on the same Saturday night.
A couple weeks later both are lurking and the two could combine to make a fascinating decision for the committee.
An Oklahoma loss and a Notre Dame loss could leave Baylor (9-1) and Stanford (9-2) vying for the last spot as conference champions. This might not bode well for the Big 12, again. Stanford’s schedule strength would certainly trump Baylor’s and could give the committee ample reason to look past the number in the loss column – which it has shown it is more than willing to do.
College Football Playoff Rankings
5. Michigan St.
6. Notre Dame
8. Ohio St.
11. Oklahoma St.
14. Florida St.
14. North Carolina
20. Washington St.
21. Mississippi St.