Tuesday night saw the fourth installment of the College Football Playoff committee’s rankings revealed, though not much has changed within the Top Four as Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and Clemson remain on top.
Less than two weeks separates college football from its final selection day and actual semifinal announcement. But for now, the speculation of who will be competing for a national championship will continue after the Week 13 rankings came out:
Final Four Predictions
At the moment, No. 1 Alabama seems like the only surefire pick to make the semifinals given its dominant play throughout the season.
With an 11-0 record, the Crimson Tide have beat their opponents by an average of 28.9 points per game. That includes six victories over programs that were ranked in the Top 25 at the time of the meetings.
Behind the emerging dual-threat quarterbacking of Jalen Hurts, Alabama’s offense has somewhat surprisingly been one of the most dangerous in the nation, averaging 40.3 points per game.
The defense, on the other hand, has remained consistently stout, ranking second in the country with 11.4 points against per game.
Against No. 13 Auburn in the Iron Bowl and No. 15 Florida in the SEC title game, I wouldn’t expect Alabama to trip up any time soon.
No. 4 Clemson is poised to lock up the No. 2 spot in the playoff rankings with a win against South Carolina in the regular-season finale and North Carolina or Virginia Tech in the ACC title game.
Deshaun Watson remains one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the country with with 3,279 passing yards and 425 rushing yards, although he’s relegated a lot of the rushing responsibilities to Wayne Gallman.
On top of that, wide receiver Mike Williams is one of the biggest outside threats in the country with 73 catches for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns.
A solid defense that’s allowing less than 18 points per game rounds out the best team in the ACC that should represent the conference in the playoff.
Here is where things get interesting. No. 2 Ohio State most likely has just one last game to play this year against No. 3 Michigan at Ohio Stadium.
Those two teams are tied atop the Big Ten East along with No. 7 Penn State, who delivered Ohio State its only loss earlier this season.
If Ohio State were to beat Michigan while Penn State defeats Michigan State, which seems likely, the Nittany Lions win the division and play for the conference title. If Michigan wins, then it’s the Wolverines representing the East.
The Buckeyes haven’t lost to Michigan since 2011 and haven’t lost at home since 2000. For a team that’s played in conference title games and semifinals and have all but lived within the Top Five rankings over the past three years, I’m picking that experience at home to beat Michigan, who could be without starting quarterback Wilton Speight for a second straight week.
That would mean Ohio State finishes with an 11-1 record and four wins against ranked opponents. That kind of resume should not be turned away by the committee regardless of whether Penn State or No. 6 Wisconsin wins the conference.
There might never be a larger installment of the Apple Cup than the one that will come on Saturday when No. 5 Washington takes on No. 23 Washington State with a trip to the Pac-12 title on the line.
If Washington were to win the Pac-12, there should be no reason why it would be outside of the Top Four.
The Huskies’ only loss this season came to No. 12 USC, and a win over Washington State would mark three victories against ranked teams. A Pac-12 title-game win over a program like No. 9 Colorado would make that four wins, the same amount as Ohio State.
That’s an impressive feat regardless of how weak some will make the Pac-12 out to be, and a conference title should put the Huskies within the Top Four after either Ohio State or Michigan loses.
Quarterback Jake Browning is a Heisman Trophy candidate with 2,970 yards and 37 passing touchdowns, while the Washington scoring offense is ranked fourth in the nation with 44.7 points per game.
A dangerous offense like that along with a top-10-ranked defensive unit could make a big statement in the semifinal for the validity of the Pac-12 moving forward.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.