College Football Playoff 2017: Predicting Final Four After Week 11 Rankings

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2017

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 04:  Brandon Wimbush #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish passes against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium on November 4, 2017 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Wake Forest 48-37.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The College Football Playoff Selection Committee released its second rankings, which look identical to the first within the Top Four. After each program recorded a victory on Saturday, there's no surprise or debate about those spots.

As expected, Ohio State and Penn State slid down the pecking order because of conference losses to Iowa and Michigan State on Saturday.

Miami and Wisconsin inched closer to the top four. The Hurricanes leapfrogged the Badgers because of a win over a ranked opponent in Virginia Tech.

The upcoming slate of games will feature three top-10 battles. No. 1 Georgia goes on the road against No. 10 Auburn, No. 6 TCU goes to No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 3 Notre Dame travels to Hard Rock Stadium for a matchup against No. 7 Miami.

In the meantime, check out the full Top 25 rankings along with predictions on the College Football Playoff.

                     

Top 25 Rankings

1. Georgia (9-0)

2. Alabama (9-0)

3. Notre Dame (8-1)

4. Clemson (8-1)

5. Oklahoma (8-1)

6. TCU (8-1)

7. Miami (8-0)

8. Wisconsin (9-0)

9. Washington (8-1)

10. Auburn (7-2)

11. USC (8-2)

12. Michigan State (7-2)

13. Ohio State (7-2)

14. Penn State (7-2)

15. Oklahoma State (7-2)

16. Mississippi State (7-2)

17. Virginia Tech (7-2)

18. UCF (8-0)

19. Washington State (8-2)

20. Iowa (6-3)

21. Iowa State (6-3)

22. Memphis (8-1)

23. NC State (6-3)

24. LSU (6-3)

25. Northwestern (6-3)

                      

No. 1: Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 04:  Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs the offense against the LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It's the boring, expected pick, but Alabama continues to roll through its relatively soft schedule without showing much weakness. However, the Crimson Tide will play against two SEC-ranked opponents on the road in November.

An Alabama loss to No. 16 Mississippi State on Saturday or No. 10 Auburn on Nov. 25 would undoubtedly jeopardize its chance at a College Football Playoff spot. Expect an electric atmosphere at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Iron Bowl.

Thus far, Alabama looks like its previous squads, physical and overwhelming on defense:

At this point, the Crimson Tide's schedule doesn't look as impressive as those of other teams atop the rankings, but it's hard to argue against a perennial championship contender.

Aside from Mercer, we'll see how well the offense stacks up against tougher opponents in the coming weeks. The opposition will have a tough task in slowing down the Crimson Tide's rushing offense, which averages 6.1 yards per rush attempt.

               

No. 2: Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 04:  Brandon Wimbush #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish passes against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium on November 4, 2017 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Wake Forest 48-37.  (Photo by Jonathan Da
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Notre Dame will play a critical matchup against undefeated Miami on Saturday. The matchup will either legitimatize the Hurricanes as one of the elite programs in the country or put another feather in the Fighting Irish's cap as a Top Four team. You should lean toward the latter scenario.

Much like Alabama, Notre Dame physically dominates its opponents in the trenches. Head coach Brian Kelly's group rag-dolled two previous ranked opponents by 21 and 35 points.

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 04:  Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish breaks a tackle attempt by Cameron Glenn #2 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium on November 4, 2017 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Wake Forest 4
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Nonetheless, there's some uncertainty surrounding running back Josh Adams, who exited the previous game in the first quarter. Kelly didn't offer too much info on the decision to hold the potential Heisman candidate out for most of the game, per Indianapolis Star reporter Laken Litman.

"He was not ruled out of the game other than him not just feeling right. He had a busy week with exams. He was a bit rundown this week. He wasn’t feeling himself. So we were really conservative with him in terms of not putting him in the game, but he wasn’t in our concussion protocol."

Based on Kelly's comments, Adams seems like he just needs some rest to replenish his energy levels. He'll need extra spring in his step against Miami's stingy run defense that's not even allowing a rushing touchdown per game.

Notre Dame makes up for its shortcomings in the passing attack with a strong ground game, but the offense absolutely needs Adams at nearly 100 percent. Assuming he's ready to go on Saturday, the Fighting Irish would clear their toughest hurdle en route to a playoff spot.

                       

No. 3: Clemson

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 04:  Kelly Bryant #2 of the Clemson Tigers watches on after their game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter Finley Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Clemson doesn't have any tough challenges left until its probable appearance in the ACC Championship Game. Head coach Dabo Swinney led his program to four wins over currently ranked opponents.

The loss to Syracuse shouldn't hurt the Tigers going forward. Keep in mind quarterback Kelly Bryant didn't finish that game because of injury. As long as he's healthy and the defense continues to suffocate its opponents, Clemson will have an opportunity to defend its title reign.

The Tigers don't look as dangerous without Deshaun Watson under center, but give credit to Swinney for keeping the program afloat as a top-tier contender behind a hard-nosed defense. Nonetheless, we'll see if Bryant can make enough throws in a playoff atmosphere for a title repeat.

Looking at the projected top-three programs, there's a running theme—physical teams with dominant ground attacks.

                    

No. 4: TCU

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 04:  Kenny Hill #7 of the TCU Horned Frogs warms up before the football game against the Texas Longhorns at Amon G. Carter Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Richard W.  Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

TCU will go through the back door to secure the No. 4 spot. Head coach Gary Patterson's group will take the first step in climbing the rankings with a win over No. 5 Oklahoma on Saturday, which puts the Horned Frogs atop the conference.

However, since the Big 12 added a championship game, we can see another matchup between the two programs for the official conference title. If the schools split the contests, both would miss the College Football Playoff as two-loss teams, which would ironically backfire against the original reason for inserting the contest.

Despite a 7-0 start, many jumped off the bandwagon after a 14-7 road loss to Iowa State—the same program that also beat Oklahoma three weeks prior.

College Football Playoff Selection Committee Chair Kirby Hocutt outright challenged the Sooners defense during the first rankings show:

Oklahoma surrendered 52 points in a win over Oklahoma State. TCU will have enough offense to keep pace with the Sooners offense and a strong defense to limit the No. 3 scoring offensive unit in the country.

Assuming the Horned Frogs win out, a loss for Wisconsin against Iowa or Michigan, a Notre Dame win over Miami and a loss for Georgia in the SEC Championship Game clear the path for TCU in the top four. It sounds like a lot of ifs, but it's a possible scenario.