Last night, the CFP committee dropped the first round of playoff rankings and the world is still talking about why their team was not higher or why their rival should be lower in the rankings. We have Clemson fans upset (rightly so) that their team was left out of the top 4, but we also have Ohio State fans that are celebrating (prematurely) that their team was #1 in the rankings. We have other fans (I am looking at you Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge) that are mad that their teams are not #1.
I am hear to let people know to take a nice deep breath and just relax. There are still 5 weeks left in the season, plus a weekend of conference championships that will decide the final four teams that will compete for a national title. I have ranked the top 10 matchups remaining this season that will determine the four teams in the CFP. This list does not include championship week games, because we all already know how important those games are to the playoff race.
- #2 LSU @ #3 Alabama (Nov 9th)
Does this matchup even need an introduction? This was a #1 v. #2 matchup until the playoff committee ruined all our hopes and dreams, but this will still be a huge matchup for the playoff chase. Will the loser be eliminated? No and depending on how close this matchup ends up being, the loser may stay in the top 4 or 5. The team who wins this matchup will still have the SEC championship to add to its resume (Alabama) and if LSU wins, then they already have the best resume in the country. Alabama needs this game more than LSU, but I am assuming both teams feel major urgency to win this matchup.
- #4 Penn State @ #1 Ohio State (Nov 23rd)
This will decide who represents the BIG-10 in the playoffs (barring a huge upset) in 2019. With these teams being in the same division, this also decides who represents the BIG-10 East in the championship game. Can both of these teams still get into the playoffs with 1-loss? Probably so, but the committee will not put a 1-loss SEC and a 1-loss BIG-10 in together, so get your resumes out and ready. This matchup will be one of the biggest of the season and could determine who is the biggest threat to the winner of the first game on this list.
- #3 Alabama @ #11 Auburn (Nov 30th)
Alabama makes this list again and the game is against another Tigers team looking to make a statement. Auburn is one of the few 2-loss teams with an outside shot at the CFP and this game determines everything for the SEC. If Alabama loses to LSU, then this game becomes an absolute must-win for the Crimson Tide. If Alabama wins on the road against an Auburn team will be no less than top 15 in the CFP rankings their resume gains a huge boost. If Auburns wins this game (depending on the result of the Georgia game) their CFP chances drastically increase. Everything will be on the line when the Tide visits the Plains.
- #9 Oklahoma @ #12 Baylor (Nov 16)
This game goes along way in determining if the BIG-12 has a shot at the playoffs or not. The playoff committee set the BIG-12’s playoff hopes back by putting an undefeated team behind multiple 2-loss SEC teams. A 2-loss BIG-12 team will not have any chance at the playoffs and Baylor needs to boost its resume. If Baylor does not win this game, there is still no guarantee that Oklahoma gets in with 1-loss. The BIG-12 needs one of these teams to catch fire and chaos to ensue to the top 8 teams, which easily could happen.
- #1 Ohio State @ #14 Michigan (Nov 30)
Ohio State makes the list again and it is because this game will either put Ohio State’s resume over the top or create chaos in the BIG-10. If both teams win out until this game; we may be looking at a top ten matchup and Michigan may have an outside chance at the playoffs. If Penn State loses to Ohio State, they may be out depending on how other games fall and a loss here could put the BIG-10 in jeopardy of missing the playoffs again. The BIG-10 will need Ohio State to keep winning, but honestly if you are like me (not a BIG-10 fan) then you want chaos so root for Michigan.
- #6 Georgia @ #11 Auburn (Nov 16)
Another huge game on the Plains could shape the CFP race, which is not out of the ordinary (see 2017). If Georgia wins out (including SEC Championship), then they are guaranteed a playoff spot. Neither of these teams (especially Auburn) can suffer another loss. A 2-loss Georgia team will not make the playoffs and neither will a 3-loss Auburn and a 2-loss Auburn will not be a lock either. These teams enter this matchup with everything to gain and everything to lose. High stakes, high rewards in November in the SEC and this is honestly why we love college football.
- #19 Wake Forest @ #5 Clemson (Nov 16)
Before you have a stroke trying to think why this is #7 on the list; let me explain it to you. Clearly the playoff committee does not respect Clemson’s resume so far and this is the last ranked matchup they have until maybe the ACC championship. Clemson must win this game by 14+ points to make an adequate statement. If Wake Forest pulls off the upset or Clemson has to stop another 2-point conversion, then the ACC could be in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. This game is the biggest game of the season for Clemson and the ACC, which warrants a #7 ranking in this list.
- #4 Penn State @ #17 Minnesota (Nov 9)
Another huge BIG-10 matchup makes the list and this one means a lot more to one team compared to the other. If Penn State loses this game they are virtually eliminated from the playoff race, while Minnesota could insert themselves into the top 10 with a huge upset win. Minnesota has two ranked games left after this game (#18 Iowa and #13 Wisconsin), which could solidify their resume for a playoff run. Minnesota could also set themselves up with a huge game in the BIG-10 championship game, so this may be the only team outside the top 15 with a chance at the playoffs.
- #5 Clemson @ South Carolina (Nov 30)
This matchup makes the list due to the strength of Clemson’s schedule. The committee loves to use similar opponents to make decisions on where to rank teams and South Carolina has played two other top 6 teams (Alabama & Georgia). Clemson must go out and make a statement or a 1-loss SEC team could find themselves above Clemson. This matchup is an extremely dangerous one due to being a rivalry game and South Carolina having absolutely nothing to lose. This matchup could go a long way in determining where Clemson winds up in the CFP rankings come bowl season.
- #9 Oklahoma @ #23 Oklahoma State (Nov 30)
Another matchup that could make or break a playoff contender. Oklahoma cannot afford to lose another game and stay in the playoff race. If Kansas State keeps winning, then Oklahoma cannot lose a game or they may find themselves out of the BIG-12 championship game, since K-State holds the tiebreaker. This matchup could be a huge resume boost for Oklahoma, since the committee seems to love Oklahoma State (only 3-loss team in the CFP rankings), but this game could be the end of Jalen Hurts and the Sooners.