With just two weeks left in the regular season, there was very little change, at least at the top, in the third edition of the College Football Playoff selection committee’s rankings, which were released on Tuesday.
The top-ranked Bulldogs improved to 10-0 with a 41-17 victory at Tennessee, which gave them a perfect 8-0 record in the SEC for the first time in school history. They remain on a collision course to play the No. 2 Crimson Tide in the Dec. 4 SEC championship game in Atlanta. Alabama was a 59-3 winner over New Mexico State at home on Saturday.
The No. 3 Ducks remained one spot ahead of the Buckeyes, as the committee apparently still gives a lot of weight to Oregon’s 35-28 victory at Ohio State on Sept. 11.
“Head to head is certainly one of the criteria that we use and one of the things we evaluated,” said Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, the committee chairman. “In Oregon’s case, Oregon has been playing terrific football as of late; they won the other day against Washington State. Ohio State is playing some of the best offense in the country; they had a convincing win against Purdue. But when it comes down to those two, the fact that Oregon went to Ohio State and beat them in the Horseshoe, when the vote came down this week, that’s the way the vote came out.”
However, Michigan remains one spot ahead of rival Michigan State, even though the Spartans defeated the Wolverines 37-33 at home on Oct. 30.
“With Michigan and Michigan State, the committee when we met a week ago, the committee talked about Michigan being a more complete team,” Barta said. “Since then, another game has been played. Michigan State looked good against Maryland; Michigan came from behind and won on the road at Penn State. Every week, 13 people recast their votes. And so when the votes were cast this week, that’s the way it came out: Michigan ahead of Michigan State and Oregon ahead of Ohio State.”
Undefeated Cincinnati, which is attempting to become the first team from a Group of 5 conference to make the playoff, remained at No. 5 after a 45-28 win at South Florida on Friday night. The Bearcats might face one of their more difficult challenges of the season against SMU at home on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN App).
“They’re undefeated,” Barta said. “We’ve talked a lot about a terrific win at Notre Dame, a difficult place to win. And Notre Dame keeps winning, so that win looks more impressive each week. Every week we talk about Cincinnati, the topic of strength of schedule comes up. Watching the game, we can see they have terrific players and it’s a very good football team, but strength of schedule, that’s something that makes it more difficult to evaluate. As games go forward, we’ll continue to watch it. But strength of schedule has been one of the issues when talking about Cincinnati.”
According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, no team outside the top 10 at this point in the season has gone on to reach the playoff; the lowest rank with 19 days left to reach the playoff is ninth (Michigan State in 2015, Oklahoma in 2019). In fact, 21 of the 28 teams in the top four of the committee’s rankings released 19 days before selection day went on to reach the CFP. That includes all but one eventual national champion (Ohio State was sixth in 2014).
After losing 27-14 at Baylor on Saturday, Oklahoma fell five spots to No. 13. Texas A&M also dropped five spots to No. 16 after losing 29-19 at Ole Miss. NC State slipped four spots following a 45-42 defeat at Wake Forest.
Auburn and Purdue fell out of the rankings after losing on Saturday.