College Football Playoff 2016: Week 12 Rankings Released by the Committee

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2016

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - OCTOBER 8:  Head Coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide watches the team warm up before a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on October 8, 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Crimson Tide defeated the Razorbacks 49-30.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Eight Top 25 teams in the College Football Playoff rankings lost in a wild Week 11. The landscape-altering group of upsets featured five squads inside the Top 10 going down, including Clemson, Michigan and Washington from the Top Five.

Meanwhile, Alabama stood tall atop the rankings with a 51-3 blowout of Mississippi State to maintain its place at No. 1 in the latest standings released Tuesday night. There are several changes below the Crimson Tide, though.

Ohio State, Michigan and Clemson are holding the other spots in the projected playoff picture heading into Week 12. Here's a look at the complete rankings:

Ultimately, the main takeaway from this week is that Alabama is in terrific shape, while everybody else in the playoff conversation—a list that's grown in size as more contenders have suffered their first or second losses—still has an opportunity to make a statement down the stretch.

The question is how the Tide will handle their remaining games, because they should have a loss to play with given their placement and strength of victory.

A matchup with a vastly overmatched Chattanooga side Saturday night is followed by the Iron Bowl against Auburn to close out the regular season. Stewart Mandel of FoxSports.com highlighted one option for head coach Nick Saban and Co.:

Saban, who's guided his teams to five national championships, isn't likely to take his foot off the gas too much, though. In a special for the Tuscaloosa NewsTerrin Waack passed along the coach's thoughts Monday about doing anything that would leave the team's hopes in the hands of the committee.

"The message is when you win, you control your own destiny," Saban said. "When you don't, you allow someone else to determine what your fate's going to be."

That said, it's hard to imagine a scenario where the Tide don't end up in the playoff, unless Chattanooga pulls off one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

The outlook for every other playoff hopeful is murkier. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight illustrated that with a chart showing the CFP odds for the top eight in the outlet's projection system:

One thing that's going to remain a key talking point is whether the committee rewards its ranking based on the quality of a loss, the timing of a loss or a combination of both. It's a tricky debate, especially when so many teams are muddled together.

Take Oklahoma, for example. The Sooners suffered their two losses within their first three games. They have gone undefeated since that point, however, and have a chance at two statement wins to finish the regular season with games against West Virginia and Oklahoma State. They could force the committee to make a tough decision, especially if the chaos continues elsewhere.

Ryen Russillo of ESPN Radio summed up the situation well ahead of the ranking release:

No. 21 Western Michigan, the only undefeated team aside from Alabama, is still quite a bit off the playoff radar despite the upset-filled weekend. The Broncos are 10-0, but none of their victories has come against top-tier opponents.

They do get at least one week to enjoy the national spotlight, though. The campus will host College GameDay on Saturday morning ahead of their MAC clash against the lowly Buffalo Bulls, the second-worst team in college football, according to ESPN's FPI rankings.

While even a complete dismantling of Buffalo won't do much to help Western Michigan, Brandon Folsom noted in a special to the Detroit Free Press that head coach P. J. Fleck views the situation as a chance to build the Broncos' brand:

We're up to 49 nevers now. It had never happened, and we're up to 49 things that have never happened here at Western Michigan. ...

It's wonderful for the brand. People across the country can experience Row The Boat and Western Michigan University. If they don't know much about us, they're going to know more about us now. It helps people across the nation find out about who we are, and some might come to WMU now. They could be from Oregon, Texas or California, and they could see us and say, "Hey, I want to go to that place," and it's just wonderful for Western Michigan University.

There may not be a realistic path on the surface for the Broncos to leapfrog all of the contenders from power conferences to make the playoff. But all they can do is win out, hope for more massive upsets around the country and see what happens when the dust settles in a few weeks.

Looking ahead, the schedule for Week 12 is tame on the surface. Things could always change quickly with a shocker or two, but it appears like a chance for most contenders to regroup before a flurry of crucial games to finish the regular season.

There are a few exceptions. Oklahoma and West Virginia will battle with the Big 12 title race still up in the air. Elsewhere, Louisville should face a challenge from Houston, Ohio State must be careful against Michigan State, and either Colorado or Washington State will boost its resume with a key Pac-12 win.

                                              

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