We’ve reached Week 12 of the 2016 college football season. While we’re still a little ways out from the College Football Playoff, the race to the final four is beginning to heat up.
We’ve had three full months of action. Each week brings new surprises. Most recently, Mississippi State upset fourth-ranked Texas A&M 35-28.
We’re going to examine the latest College Football Playoff rankings and look ahead at the remainder of the regular season. We’ll make our predictions for how we believe the playoff is going to shake out and examine some of the teams near the top.
Projected Final Rankings
Teams to Watch
For most of this season, the Alabama Crimson Tide have looked like one of the top teams, if not the best team in all of football.
Alabama waded through quality opponents with relative ease until last week’s battle with rival LSU. That was far from a cakewalk, but the Tide managed to gut out a 10-0 victory in Baton Rouge.
This latest victory might be more telling of just how physical and tough this year’s Alabama team is.
The trick from here on out is to avoid slipping up after the emotional win.
CBS analyst Gary Danielson believes the LSU game may have exposed some of the limitations of the Alabama offense, though.
“I would be alarmed if I were Alabama, to tell you the truth,” Danielson told Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com. “The game worked well against LSU. I also think there is a tape—a blueprint—out there on how to force Alabama to play left-handed.”
Alabama managed to produce 323 yards of offense against LSU, but that yardage came almost exclusively on the ground.
The Alabama defense is going to be good enough to hang with any team, but if opposing teams can force Alabama to be one-dimensional on offense, the possibility of an upset will exist.
Alabama’s next test is a matchup with Mississippi State.
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If Alabama is the consensus top team in the nation, the No. 2-ranked Clemson Tigers cannot be far behind.
Driven by the arm of standout quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Clemson offense is almost the mirror of the Tide’s defense. When operating at full steam, it is good enough to beat anybody.
Watson has already passed for nearly 2,500 yards, and he has the Clemson offense averaging 38.6 points per game.
Clemson recently announced that Watson is part of a group of players planning to head to the NFL after the 2016 season.
“Those guys indicated to me back in the summer that this was going to be it for them,” Clemson coach DaboSwinneysaid at a press conference. “They were going to graduate in December, and their plan was to be a senior. They’re more seniors than some of the seniors.”
The question is whether Watson and Co. can finish the season with a national title.
The remaining schedule ahead of Clemson will be challenging, but the Tigers have done little this season to suggest they will stumble on their path to the playoff.
|Nov. 19||@ Wake Forest|
|Nov. 26||South Carolina|
|Dec. 3||ACC Championship|
Louisville is currently on the outside looking in, but the team’s playoff hopes are far from dead. Louisville’s lone loss in 2016 came at the hands of undefeated Clemson.
Louisville boasts its own high-powered offense and star quarterback in Lamar Jackson.
Jackson, who has passed for 2,753 yards already this season, might be an even better pro prospect than Watson. He has the Louisville offense averaging more than 50 points per game.
Given the talent on the team and the way Louisville has handled every opponent not named Clemson, few would argue if the Cardinals were ranked in the top four right now.
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino recently suggested that his team might be ranked higher if it consistently ran up the score on opponents.
“Maybe looking back at it in Florida State, we should have kept all the starters in and scored 80 points,” he told reporters.
Unfortunately, Louisville might only make its way into the playoff if one of the top few teams manages to lose between now and the end of the season.