The College Football Playoff race is starting to heat up. We know this because official playoff rankings that won’t matter at the end of the season were published for the first time of the season this week.
The current rankings might not mean anything, but it does signal the tightening of the playoff race. The margin for error is shrinking on all teams involved in trying to sew up one of the four spots in the tournament.
Regardless of postseason system, losses later in the season have always penalized teams more than ones that happen earlier. The dawn of Week 10 brings us closer to that point of no return where one loss could be the end of a team’s playoff hunt.
Here’s a look at the latest rankings and the Week 10 Top 25 schedule with the latest odds from Odds Shark and a prediction for each game.
|No. 12 Oklahoma at Iowa State||Oklahoma -20.5||Iowa State|
|UCLA at No. 21 Colorado||Colorado -12||Colorado|
|San Jose State at No. 24 Boise State||Boise State -29.5||San Jose State|
|No. 7 Texas A&M at Mississippi State||Texas A&M -13.5||Texas A&M|
|Vanderbilt at No. 11 Auburn||Auburn -26||Auburn|
|No. 5 Louisville at Boston College||Louisville -25||Boston College|
|No. 8 Wisconsin at Northwestern||Wisconsin -7||Wisconsin|
|Georgia Tech at No. 18 North Carolina||North Carolina -10.5||North Carolina|
|Maryland at No. 2 Michigan||Michigan -31||Michigan|
|Syracuse at No. 3 Clemson||Clemson -27||Clemson|
|No. 23 Virginia Tech at Duke||Virginia Tech -11||Duke|
|No. 22 Oklahoma State at Kansas State||Kansas State -2.5||Oklahoma State|
|TCU at No. 13 Baylor||Baylor -7.5||Baylor|
|No. 10 Florida at Arkansas||Florida -5.5||Florida|
|Arizona at No. 25 Washington State||Washington State -17||Washington State|
|Kansas at No. 14 West Virginia||West Virginia -34.5||Kansas|
|No. 16 Florida State at NC State||Florida State -5.5||NC State|
|Iowa at No. 20 Penn State||Penn State -7.5||Penn State|
|No. 9 Nebraska at No. 6 Ohio State||Ohio State -17||Ohio State|
|No. 1 Alabama at No. 15 LSU||Alabama -7.5||Alabama|
|No. 4 Washington at California||Washington -16.5||California|
Games to Watch
No. 5 Louisville at Boston College
Patrick Bolger/Getty Images
While this game might look like another stop on the Lamar Jackson hype tour, there’s more to this matchup than meets the eye.
Yes, Boston College is a lowly 4-4 with just one conference win over NC State. Yes, the Eagles have already been walloped by Virginia Tech (49-0) and Clemson (56-10). But statistically, their defense still gives them a chance to keep this close if the offense can do anything remotely close to resembling effective.
The Eagles have been a tall order to move the ball against under head coach Steve Addazio. It’s why the Cardinals were only able to skate by with a 17-14 win over BC at home last season.
This year, the unit returns with a similar ferocity. The Eagles rank 18th overall in defensive S&P+ and third against the run, per Football Outsiders.
That’s not good news for the Cardinals. Head coach Bobby Petrino was disappointed in the blocking of his linemen up front after his team’s 32-25 win over Virginia.
“The (offensive linemen) weren’t as sharp as they needed to be,” Petrino said, per Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal. “When you break down on your technique it’s because of your focus, (and) you’re mentally not in tune to doing what you normally do.”
Louisville is vastly superior to Boston College. The spread is indicative of that. However, the close call against Virginia highlights how vulnerable the Cardinals can be if their defense isn’t playing at the same level of their offense.
Boston College has the ability to slow down Louisville like it did last year. If the offense is able to move the ball, this one will be much closer than the spread claims and could even be worth watching in the final minutes.
Prediction: Louisville 24, Boston College 14
No. 9 Nebraska at No. 6 Ohio State
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
It’s been a rough two weeks for Ohio State with a road loss to Penn State and a narrow win over Northwestern.
The last two weeks haven’t been kind to the Cornhuskers, either. Nebraska followed up a 27-14 win over Purdue at home with a heartbreaking loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in overtime.
So why is Ohio State more than a two-touchdown favorite against Nebraska?
Because they are that much better than the Huskers.
Nebraska poses some problems. Primarily, quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. is a challenge unlike one the Buckeyes have really seen this season with his dual-threat abilities as a runner and passer.
The senior quarterback has 419 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground to go with 1,764 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air.
But all that playmaking comes at the cost of occasional turnovers. Armstrong already has seven interceptions this season and has particularly struggled on the road:
While the Buckeyes stock isn’t at its highest right now, there’s still no real reason to panic in Columbus. The Buckeyes are still No. 4 in the latest batch of F/+ rankings, an advanced metric from Football Outsiders that takes into account a variety of factors, including offensive and defensive efficiency.
Where Ohio State has struggled offensively in recent weeks is up front where opposing teams’ front seven defenders have been able to create big plays. That’s simply not Nebraska’s game, as Nebraska’s front seven Havoc rating, which looks at tackles for a loss, forced fumbles and passes defensed, is ranked 115th, per Football Outsiders.
Look for the Buckeyes to get back on track against a relatively tame defensive front at home.
Prediction: Ohio State 38, Nebraska 21
No. 1 Alabama at No. 15 LSU
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
With the release of the first College Football Playoff rankings comes the question as to whether the Alabama Crimson Tide will ever relinquish the top spot.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Alabama has the best chance to win the title given the current Top Four:
How would this 4-tm playoff play out? ESPN’s FPI would give Alabama best chance (43%) to win the National Championship, then Michigan (30%) pic.twitter.com/lYBSD75Cof
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 2, 2016
Theoretically, Bama will see one of its toughest challenges of the season on Saturday. The Tide have only hit the road three times this season, and two turned out to be blowouts over Tennessee and Arkansas.
There was the close call against Ole Miss in September. Alabama slid past the Rebels by a score of 48-43, but it would be a shocker to see this contest devolve into that type of shootout.
Once again, these teams will meet with two of the top defenses in college football.
Alabama is No. 2 in S&P+; LSU is No. 6. Alabama is No. 4 in the nation in scoring defense; LSU is No. 5. Alabama’s defense is littered with potential first-round NFL draft picks in Tim Williams, Reuben Foster and Jonathan Allen. However, LSU has its own NFL-caliber talent in safety Jamal Adams and defensive end Arden Key. Also, as Bleacher Report’s Michael Felder pointed out in the video below, linebacker Kendell Beckwith is making his own case to be a draft pick:
Yes, the difference in this game will be offense. And the Tide are the only team in the contest that can claim the balance necessary to score against defenses of this caliber.
Alabama bottled up Leonard Fournette last season (19 carries, 31 yards). While it’s not realistic to think it’ll repeat that performance, the fact of the matter is Alabama’s offense is nearly as elite its defense.
The Tide rank third in Football Outsiders’ S&P+ numbers when it comes to offense, while LSU is just outside of the top units in the country at No. 18 with a passing attack that ranks 59th. That inability to have some balance will allow Alabama to once again allocate most of its manpower toward stopping the run and daring LSU to throw the ball.
That’s been the recipe for success for Alabama in this rivalry before, and it’s resulted in a winning streak that goes back to 2011.
Prediction: Alabama 28, LSU 14