Earlier this week I railed on the powers that be in college football for the first playoff rankings. I won’t go into it again, mainly because I need to keep my blood pressure down.
If there is any bright side to this season, is this will eventually play itself out on the field, and the contenders will be separated from the pretenders on the one place they should be, the field of play. Between now and December 6th (when the final rankings are released), there will be several huge games played that will shake out the rankings.
So what follows is a list of games, and their dates, which should help make figuring out who belongs in the Final Four a lot easier. Since it is impossible to totally know which games will matter and which ones won’t, this list will not be comprehensive, but it will be a best guess at which games to look out for.
Editor’s Note: Rankings used are from the recently-released CFP, not AP*
No.5 Notre Dame @ Pitt – The Irish schedule is easier than Swish cheese, but one of their more difficult games comes against Pitt on November 6. The Panthers were ranked until a loss to North Carolina, and a win against the Irish would be a boost to the program.
No.16 Florida St @ No.1 Clemson – Last time FSU visited Death Valley to face an undefeated Clemson team, the Seminoles put up 51 points in a 51-14 route. So Clemson is not only looking for revenge, but a spot in the ACC Title game, they can achieve both with a win against FSU. It will also cement the choice of Clemson as the top team in the country.
No.2 LSU @ No.5 Alabama – Every year it seems the Alabama/LSU tilt has major implications, and this year is no different. If the Bayou Bengals can win in Tuscaloosa, their number 2 ranking will be well deserved, and it will knock their rivals from pretty much having any shot for the National Title. The best battle to watch in this game is Leonard Fournette, LSU’s Heisman front runner vs Alabama’s top ranked run defense. Whoever wins that battle will probably win the game.
No.15 Oklahoma @ No.6 Baylor – With their win at Kansas St in Week 10, the Bears host the Sooners in what may be their toughest game to date. A win against a very good Oklahoma team should be enough to sway the committee enough to put an undefeated Baylor team into one of those coveted Top 4 spots.
No.2 LSU @ No.18 Ole Miss – IF LSU can get by Alabama, a trip to Oxford could be their next spot to look out for. Ole Miss is a very good team, and will not be a walk-over for LSU. Obviously the Tigers will need to keep winning to make the Top 4, and they better not overlook the Rebels.
No.23 UCLA @ No.12 Utah – Utah’s loss to Stanford still looms large for the Utes, but if they want to be a part of the Playoff, they will need to win out, which means beating a tough UCLA team. Other than the Pac-12 Championship game, this would be the Utes toughest game left on their schedule. A loss to the Bruins could put UCLA in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 South.
No.8 TCU @ No.15 Oklahoma – If the Sooners can beat Baylor in Week 11, their prize would be the undefeated Horned Frogs the following week. At least they would get TCU at home, instead of on the road. This game will have a HUGE feel to it too, as TCU is also without a loss this season, and like Baylor, they have designs on crashing the playoff party.
No.6 Baylor @ No.14 Oklahoma State – Speaking of the Big 12, one week after having to face off with the Sooners, Baylor gets to travel to Stillwater for a battle with the (currently) undefeated Cowboys of OK State. This gauntlet for the Big 12 at the end of the season will make for some very compelling football.
No.7 Michigan St @ No.3 Ohio St – Not to be outdone, the Big 10 has their share of huge games coming up too, and none may be bigger than the battle of undefeated teams at the Horseshoe. The winner of this game will have to feel really good about their chances of making the playoff, and after struggling to win games early in the season, the AP Poll’s top-ranked Buckeyes seem to be rolling now, just in time for the meaty part of their schedule.
No.6 Baylor @ No.8 TCU – If both Baylor and TCU are able to survive until Week 13 both undefeated, they will have earned it. It will also make this one of the biggest games the state of Texas has seen in quite some time. Fort Worth will be the spot that decides which one of these two teams will be playing for a National Title.
No.15 Oklahoma @ No.14 Oklahoma State – Bedlam, is not only the name of this rivalry, but the perfect name for this game if both teams win out until this game. A one loss Sooners team against an undefeated Cowboy squad with a trip to the Playoff on the line, does it get any better?
No.3 Ohio St @ No.17 Michigan – Speaking of rivalries, can you imagine what kind of reception Jim Harbaugh will get if he can not only beat Ohio State, but stop them from getting in the playoff too? If Michigan does not lose until this game, and then beats the Buckeyes, a battle with the one undefeated team nobody is talking about would loom in the Big-10 Title Game, Iowa.
No.5 Notre Dame @ No.11 Stanford – If Notre Dame can get by Pitt in Week 10, this will become the biggest game on their schedule. Winning in Palo Alto is already tough enough, but to do it when the Cardinal also has a shot at the CFP, the pressure will be on and we will see if Notre Dame belongs or not.
This is the week of the Championship Games. Obviously depending on the match-ups, will decide how much is on the line. Does a 2 loss team have a chance to make the playoffs? It will all depend on how the games above all turn out.
These games, for the reasons stated, will go a long way in determining who exactly will be the four teams vying for College Football’s second playoff.
It will make the first set of standings obsolete, which means all this time and energy people (including myself) have spent being frustrated and angry about these rankings, meaningless.
Of course, I will say that it gives Notre Dame and Alabama and advantage, as they are already ahead of teams which means, for all intents and purposes, if for instance both Notre Dame and Baylor win out, Notre Dame should stay ahead of Baylor, which is an absolute joke.
But rankings aside, at the end of the day, it will be the play on the field (I hope) that will decide who are the best four teams in the country, and these games listed above will be the ones that play the largest factor in just who will have a shot at the National Championship.