NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Latest Week 2 Standings and Playoff Predictions

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2014

EUGENE, OR - AUGUST 30:  Quarterback Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks warms up prior to the game against the South Dakota Coyotes at Autzen Stadium on August 30, 2014 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Even with the NCAA College Football Playoff's arrival, every week still bears a major impact on the championship outlook.

Take the season's opening week, where South Carolina saw its CFB chances go bye-bye after getting steamrolled by Texas A&M. Clemson and Wisconsin aren't looking good either after suffering Week 1 losses, but Clemson and LSU both climbed up the recent AP poll.

Week 2 NCAA Associated Press Poll
RANKTEAMRECORDPOINTSPRESEASON RANK
1Florida State1-01,4561
2Alabama1-01,3172
3Oregon1-01,3143
4Oklahoma1-01,2834
5Auburn1-01,1866
6Georgia1-01,11412
7Michigan State1-01,0938
8Ohio State1-09825
9Texas A&M1-097821
10Baylor1-096210
11UCLA1-09447
12LSU1-092613
13Stanford1-088611
14USC1-072915
15Mississippi1-052518
16Notre Dame1-051917
17Arizona State1-043119
18Wisconsin0-136414
19Nebraska1-035222
20Kansas State1-032520
21South Carolina0-11969
21North Carolina1-019623
23Clemson0-116416
24Missouri1-014724
25Louisville1-014131
Collegefootball.ap.org

Some seismic changes already shook college football, yet the top four remained the same. With the new system, those are the spots we're watching closely.

Here are the latest predictions for which four teams will occupy playoff spots at the end of the year.

College Football Playoff Predictions
RANKTEAMWEEK 2 OPPONENT
1Florida StateCitadel
2OregonNo. 7 Michigan State
3AlabamaFlorida Atlantic
4OklahomaTulsa
Author's predicted rankings

Change is almost certain atop the rankings after No. 3 Oregon and No. 7 Michigan State clash. A Spartans victory would propel them into the playoff picture while plummeting the Ducks down next week's rankings.

That makes Saturday's showdown a must-watch for all college football fans. Let's take a look at the pivotal matchup.

 

Game of the Week: No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 3 Oregon (Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET)

Week 1 only stood to amplify this matchup's meaning. UCLA's sluggish 28-20 victory over Virginia helped solidify Oregon as Pac-12 favorites, and Braxton Miller's season-ending injury allows Michigan State to leapfrog Ohio State in the Big Ten. 

Both teams are favorites to win tough conferences, but the loser will hold no wiggle room going forward. As for CFB aspirations, a signature victory against a Top 10 opponent would go a long way.

ESPN's Ted Miller called it "a Rose Bowl matchup the first weekend of September." Only instead of wrapping a neat bow on a successful season, this bout sets the tone for the remainder of the year. As Miller explained, this also creates a scenario where each squad wants the other to stay elite after this weekend so they look better by the transitive property.

"A further twist is that both teams after the game become each other's biggest fans, with both winner and loser wanting the other to make the result a more impressive measure of itself," Miller said.

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Running back R.J. Shelton #12 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates following their 24-20 win over the Stanford Cardinal in the 100th Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2014 in Pasadena, Califo
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

This brawl represents a tale of two widely contrasting teams. While Oregon's high-powered offense compiled 565 yards and 45.5 points per game last year, respectively ranked second and third in the FBS, Michigan State instead ranked second and third in yards and points allowed.

Opponents mustered 252 yards and 13.2 points per game against the Spartans, and they played to that average when allowing 244 total yards against Jacksonville State last week. It's a battle of offense against defense that the Ducks have lost before.

Fox analyst Charles Davis compared Michigan State to Stanford, a program that has soured Oregon's championship aspirations in each of the past two years. He told USA Today's Joe Rexrode:

Their nemesis, their kryptonite in recent years has been Stanford. What's Stanford's style of play? Heavy-duty running the ball on offense, being extremely physical, excellent tackling team on defense, which makes you run more plays. All those yards after catch, yards after contact, open-field plays that Oregon's used to getting, that hidden yardage, they weren't getting against Stanford.

On the bright side, at least the Pac-12 powerhouse knows what to expect. Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost is prepared for MSU's corners to press cover throughout the game, a physical formula that has served the Spartans well.

"Everybody that plays them knows what they're going to run," Frost told MLive.com's Mike Griffith. "They just run it really well, so we have to be prepared for it and we have to execute."

Yes, a similarly styled Stanford beat Oregon twice, but the Cardinal did so by a combined nine points, including an overtime victory two years ago over a freshman Marcus Mariota. That 2012 defeat marks Oregon's last loss at Autzen Stadium.

ESPN's Power Football Index gives the Ducks a high probability of riding their offensive juggernaut to victory.

It won't come easy, but Oregon finally conquers a hard-nosed defense due to Mariota's maturation and a crucial home-field advantage. A win also vaults Mark Helfrich's squad into No. 1 consideration.

Prediction: Oregon 31, Michigan State 27