College Football Playoff Standings 2017: Week 11 Rankings & Bowl Projections
Undefeated Miami was ranked No. 10 in the initial College Football Playoff Top 25, but the Hurricanes made the biggest (positive) statement of the week with a convincing win over No. 13 Virginia Tech. That along with losses by Ohio State, Penn State and Oklahoma State, should vault Miami up the rankings to No. 6 this week, as it is now on the short list of teams with a legitimate claim for a spot in the playoff.
But there are 37 other bowl games to consider, and we have updated projections for each and every one of them.
There are already 50 bowl-eligible teams, and 21 others are one win away from punching their tickets to college football's postseason. Will we get to 78 six-win teams, or will Academic Progress Rate scores push in potential 5-7 teams like Air Force, Duke and Minnesota?
Week 11 will go a long way toward answering that question, while also clearing up some of the uncertainty surrounding teams that eclipsed six wins a while ago. Georgia vs. Auburn, TCU vs. Oklahoma and Notre Dame vs. Miami all have major CFP implications regardless of the outcomes. There are also several Big Ten and Big 12 matchups that should help sort out the remaining candidates for New Year's Six bowls.
The CFP Top 25 is the only one that matters anymore, but the Associated Press still puts out a Sunday afternoon Top 25 that should offer a glimpse into what the CFP selection committee will have to say Tuesday night. In that poll, the biggest movers were Michigan State climbing 11 spots to No. 13 and Penn State plummeting nine spots to No. 16 after the Spartans upset the Nittany Lions. Michigan, South Florida, West Virginia and Iowa all joined the Top 25, replacing LSU, North Carolina State, Stanford and Arizona.
Group of Five Bowls
Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. San Diego State
AutoNation Cure Bowl: South Florida vs. Arkansas State
Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Fresno State vs. North Texas
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Ohio vs. Louisiana
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Marshall
Boca Raton Bowl: Memphis vs. Florida Atlantic
Frisco Bowl: Houston vs. UTSA*
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Temple vs. Florida International
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Boise State vs. Northern Illinois
Bahamas Bowl: Western Michigan vs. UAB
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Nebraska vs. Army
Dollar General Bowl: Toledo vs. Troy
Birmingham Bowl: SMU vs. Missouri
Hawai'i Bowl: Western Kentucky* vs. Wyoming
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Texas Tech
Military Bowl: Navy vs. Syracuse
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Colorado State vs. Georgia State
*Teams with asterisks are replacements for leagues projected to be unable to fill their spots.
I hope you're ready to watch a lot of Conference USA football for the first 10 days of bowl season. The league already has five bowl-eligible teams with three others at five wins, as well as a pair of 4-5 teams (Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech) with remaining schedules that could produce two more victories.
It's not that C-USA has a bunch of great teams, but rather it has four awful ones.
Case in point: Old Dominion, Charlotte and UTEP combined for nine total points this week, and Rice gave up 52 points to a school that didn't have a football team one year ago. Those teams have a combined record of 3-29 when they aren't facing each other. They have basically been free wins for everyone else, making the top 10 teams look better.
The inverse to that situation remains the American Athletic Conference, where there are three great teams and not much else.
The league has tie-ins to seven bowl games, but assuming UCF is the Group of Five's representative in the New Year's Six, there are only five remaining AAC teams likely to become bowl-eligible. We did include 4-5 Temple in this projection, but that's admittedly a reach, as the Owls play two road games with a home game against UCF in between. It's looking like C-USA is going to end up taking several spots that are supposed to go to the AAC.
Lower-Tier Power Five Bowls
Cactus Bowl: Texas vs. Oregon
Quick Lane Bowl: Purdue vs. Akron
We had Texas and Oregon projected for the Cactus Bowl three weeks ago. Both teams are now back in this lower-tier game following mutually dreadful offensive performances. Texas scored seven points in a loss to TCU, but at least that was better than the three points Oregon scored at Washington. Back in the 2008-09 window, this would've been one of the most entertaining matchups possible. This year, it might be a challenge to stay awake through the whole game.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College vs. Iowa
Walk-On's Independence Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. California*
Texas Bowl: West Virginia vs. South Carolina
Foster Farms Bowl: Northwestern vs. Arizona
It took a while for Khalil Tate to get going against USC, but he remains the most electrifying man in college football. For a fifth consecutive week, Tate both ran and threw for at least 137 yards with at least three total touchdowns. Despite barely seeing the field for the first month of the season, he has become a serious candidate to win the Heisman, and he has made it a foregone conclusion that Arizona's bowl game will be must-watch television.
One other Pac-12 note is that California is projected for the Walk-On's Independence Bowl, even though that game is supposed to go to bottom-of-the-barrel ACC and SEC teams. However, the SEC doesn't have enough bowl-eligible teams, while the Pac-12 might end up with as many as 10. Got to put those teams somewhere.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Louisville vs. Mississippi State
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Virginia vs. Arizona State
Belk Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Kentucky
Both Louisville and Mississippi State have been penciled in for one of these three bowl games in just about every week of our projections. At this point, we can only hope they face each other. Maybe we will be blessed enough to get Louisville (Lamar Jackson) against Arizona (Tate) in the Sun Bowl. Jackson against Nick Fitzgerald is another dream pairing though, too.
Speaking of the Sun Bowl, that's where we currently have Virginia, which is bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011 thanks to an upset win over Georgia Tech. The Cavaliers had floundered the previous two weeks against Boston College and Pittsburgh and were starting to look like they might ruin a 5-1 start by finishing with six straight losses. However, Kurt Benkert had three second-half touchdowns to bring the Wahoos back from a 15-point deficit.
TaxSlayer Bowl: Michigan vs. Texas A&M
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Kansas State vs. Vanderbilt
Karan Higdon and Chris Evans combined for 391 rushing yards and four touchdowns as Michigan improved to 7-2 with a win over Minnesota. Out of nowhere, the Wolverines are potent on offense and remain one of the best defenses in the nation.
The list of things that need to happen for this team to reach the Big Ten title game is about a mile long, but Michigan looks like much more of a threat to win season-ending games against Wisconsin and Ohio State than it previously did.
Will Vanderbilt finally be able to beat some SEC opponents to become bowl-eligible?
The Commodores improved to 4-0 in nonconference play with a 31-17 win over Western Kentucky last week. They gave up a combined total of 30 points in those four games. But they are 0-5 in SEC play, and they surrendered at least 34 points in each loss. The remaining schedule (vs. Kentucky, vs. Missouri, at Tennessee) is favorable as far as SEC competition goes, but can Vanderbilt win two of those three games to save Derek Mason's job?
Top Non-New Year's Six Bowls
Camping World Bowl: North Carolina State vs. Iowa State
Valero Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Washington State
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: Penn State vs. Stanford
Holy Week 10 losses, Batman!
Of the six teams in this bunch, only Washington State got through Saturday without suffering a loss—and only because either Stanford or Washington State was required to win that head-to-head battle. Luke Falk threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns, while the defense kept Bryce Love bottled up for a 24-21 victory.
Oklahoma State scored 52 points, but it wasn't enough to overcome Oklahoma's 62 in what was the most entertaining game of the season thus far. The Cowboys have now lost home games to both Oklahoma and TCU and are likely going to fall short of reaching the Big 12 championship game.
They'll definitely miss the cut if they lose next week's road game against Iowa State, a team also reeling from a hard-fought defeat. The Cyclones fell behind West Virginia 20-0 in the first half, but they held the Mountaineers scoreless the rest of the day, clawing back for a better looking but still New-Year's-Six-dream-killing 20-16 loss.
Penn State's loss to Michigan State was probably the second-most surprising of the entire week, trailing only Ohio State's loss to Iowa. That isn't to say the Spartans aren't a quality team, but it's a game the Nittany Lions had to win (and should have won) in order to remain in the race for the Big Ten championship and the College Football Playoff. Instead, it's now looking like Penn State won't even have a strong enough resume to get into a New Year's Six game—a testament to how much can change in the span of two weeks.
Citrus Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Auburn
Outback Bowl: Michigan State vs. LSU
It's time to find out if Auburn can throw a massive wrench into the SEC's quest for a CFP double-dip.
The Tigers host Georgia this week and will be the home team for the Iron Bowl two weeks after that. If they lose both games, there's a good chance both the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide reach the playoff. If they win both games, though, they'll face Georgia a second time in the SEC championship game in what would effectively be a play-in game for the playoff.
LSU blew its chance to shake things up in a 24-10 loss to Alabama, but the Tigers are still either the fourth- or fifth-best team in the SEC.
That designation doesn't mean nearly as much as it does in most years, but it does mean they would be destined for one of the better bowl games to which the conference is tied. If they can get through their remaining three games (vs. Arkansas, at Tennessee, vs. Texas A&M) without suffering another loss, the Outback Bowl might be their worst-case scenario.
The most interesting talking point coming out of Week 10 might be Michigan State.
The Spartans were No. 24 in the initial CFP Top 25, but they now have wins over Michigan and Penn State, play at Ohio State this coming week and control their own destiny for a meeting with Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. We aren't projecting them to pull it off, but should they beat each of the (other) top four teams in the conference, it just might be enough to sneak into the playoff—particularly if Auburn turns the SEC into a one-CFP-team league.
Non-CFP New Year's Six Bowls
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Ohio State vs. USC
Save for Alabama, it has been a long year for the preseason favorites to reach the College Football Playoff. Florida State likely won't become bowl-eligible, and the Buckeyes and Trojans already have been effectively eliminated from the playoff with two losses each.
After beating Arizona 49-35 late Saturday night, USC should still reach the Pac-12 championship game, where it would likely get a shot at a marquee win over Washington. But even with one of the best nonconference schedules in the country (Notre Dame, Texas and Western Michigan), a win over the Huskies to finish at 11-2 wouldn't be nearly enough—unless things get really messy elsewhere in the next four weeks.
Despite getting smashed by Iowa this week, Ohio State also controls its destiny as far as conference championships are concerned. And at least the Buckeyes would pick up a bunch of quality wins along the way. They host Michigan State this coming week, play at Michigan in Week 13 and would draw currently undefeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.
Should both of these teams get to 11-2, Ohio State would certainly have the stronger resume. But the best-case scenario would likely be an unofficial, non-playoff, Rose Bowl type of battle between the Pac-12 and Big Ten champions.
Capital One Orange Bowl: Miami vs. Wisconsin
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: TCU vs. UCF
Five teams entered Week 10 with an undefeated record, and all five survived with perfection intact. It just so happens that three of those teams ended up in this bucket.
Per usual, Wisconsin's win did nothing to move the needle. The Badgers' last four wins have come against arguably the four worst teams in the Big Ten—Indiana, Illinois, Maryland and Purdue. Business picks up a little bit now with back-to-back games against Iowa and Michigan, but the current lack of any great wins should keep the Badgers around No. 8 in the next iteration of the CFP Top 25.
Miami and UCF have much more impressive victories.
After repeatedly eking out close wins over mediocre teams, the Hurricanes laid a whooping on No. 13 Virginia Tech, suffocating the Hokies with a defensive effort unlike anything we had previously seen from this team. Meanwhile, the Knights picked up a tougher-than-advertised road victory over six-win SMU. UCF didn't score quite like it usually does, but it amassed more than 600 yards en route to a 31-24 final.
And don't forget about one-loss TCU.
The Horned Frogs have held their last four opponents to 27 points and play at Oklahoma this coming week. They already have a road win over Oklahoma State and would likely face one of those Oklahoma schools again in the Big 12 title game. Would three wins over the Sooner State be enough for a spot in the CFP?
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Washington
Could you imagine the offensive firepower if this matchup comes to fruition?
Oklahoma and Washington combined for 100 points this week in wins over Oklahoma State and Oregon, respectively. Everyone marveled at Baker Mayfield's 598-yard performance in Bedlam, but Jake Browning, Myles Gaskin and Dante Pettis all had great showings against the Ducks.
Each team still has a bunch of hurdles to clear, though. As previously mentioned, Oklahoma faces TCU in Week 11. And Washington's schedule finally starts to get interesting. To date, the only bowl-eligible team Washington has faced is Fresno State, but the Huskies get Stanford this Friday and Washington State in the Apple Cup in Week 13.
College Football Playoff
Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl: No. 2 Georgia vs. No. 3 Notre Dame
No changes here from one week ago. The CFP selection committee decided last Tuesday that Georgia has a better resume than Alabama—an assessment we would wholeheartedly agree with. However, we're still projecting the Crimson Tide to defeat the Bulldogs in the SEC title game, hence the order in which they are ranked.
Fuss all you want about the importance of conference championships and the perceived lunacy of ranking the SEC runner-up at No. 2.
Here's the thing, though: The next-best candidate for the No. 2 ranking is Notre Dame, which doesn't even play in a conference that it could win and lost a home game against Georgia earlier this season. If the Dawgs get to 12-1 with a neutral-site loss to Alabama and road wins over Notre Dame and Auburn, they'll have one heck of an argument for No. 2.
As far as Notre Dame is concerned, the Fighting Irish just keep chugging along.
They have won seven straight by a double-digit margin, and they most recently hung 48 points on Wake Forest in a game where star running back Josh Adams only got five touches due to an injury. Even at less than 100 percent, this offense is ridiculous. It's a testament to Georgia's defense that the Bulldogs were the only team to hold Notre Dame below 33 points this year.
Both Oklahoma (62 points in a win at Oklahoma State) and Miami (statement win over Virginia Tech) took huge strides toward the Top Four, but Clemson remains the top candidate for that final spot after its 38-31 win at North Carolina State. The Tigers now have seven wins over likely bowl teams, including Auburn, at Virginia Tech, at NC State and at Louisville. The rest of their schedule is favorable, too.
That isn't to say Clemson is a lock to go 11-1.
As disappointing as Florida State has been this season, next week's home game against the Seminoles will still be a challenge. And the regular-season finale at South Carolina could be a tricky rivalry game. But compared to Oklahoma facing TCU and Miami facing Notre Dame next week, the Tigers practically have a cakewalk the rest of the way.
Then again, Ohio State was supposed to beat Iowa by three touchdowns in Week 10, so who knows? This whole CFP projection might get thrown into a blender next week.
Kerry Miller covers college football and college basketball for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.