The second set of College Football Playoff standings were released on Tuesday, and though there was no change to the Top Four spots there was notable movement involving the teams on the outside looking in. A handful of teams fell out of contention while a few others who just a week ago may have been considered long shots are now right in the thick of things.
But we have so much football left to be played before the semifinal pairings are finalized on Dec. 3. This weekend's slate of games no doubt will have a major impact on how things shake out as the Top Three teams are all on the road against ranked opponents on Saturday.
Using the latest College Football Playoff rankings and the upcoming schedule, we've projected how things will stand when the playoffs are announced in four weeks. This includes a detailed look at some of the top teams and what they have to do to remain in the playoff hunt.
Projected Final Rankings
|Projected Top 8|
Teams to Watch
No. 2 Alabama
Alabama is ranked No. 1 in both the Associated Press and Amway coaches polls, collecting 120-of-126 possible first-place votes. So why are the Crimson Tide (9-0, 6-0 SEC) ranked second in the playoff standings, behind fellow SEC foe Georgia?
Three words: strength of schedule. To this point Alabama's nine opponents are a combined 42-39, with last week's win over LSU the first against a team ranked by the playoff selection committee. Compare that to Georgia (9-0, 6-0), which has wins over two ranked teams including a one-point victory at No. 3 Notre Dame.
Fear not, Crimson Tide fans, Alabama's schedule is about to get much tougher. It starts with Saturday's game at No. 16 Mississippi State, then after an interlude against an FCS opponent they play No. 10 Auburn in the Iron Bowl. After that would be a matchup with Georgia in the SEC championship game, assuming they come out of the West Division on top (or lose once and have Auburn fall at least once).
According to Jake Rill of SEC Country, Alabama would be No. 1 right now if the BCS system that was used through the 2013 season were still in place.
Keep winning and it won't matter, since an unbeaten run from here on out would include taking out the current No. 1 squad and ensure the Tide end up playing in the Sugar Bowl as the top seed.
No. 3 Notre Dame
The first three years of the College Football Playoff has seen 11-of-12 semifinal spots go to conference champions, the exception being last year when Ohio State snuck in at No. 4 despite not even winning its division in the Big Ten.
Can Notre Dame match that feat by getting in without a conference title? It's the only way the Fighting Irish can since they're independent and don't have that 13th "data point," as the playoff selection committee calls it, to use as a resume booster. Instead they've had a heck of a schedule to use, with Saturday's game at No. 7 Miami (Florida) another tough one.
At 8-1 with its only loss by one point to No. 1 Georgia, Notre Dame is very deserving of its current No. 3 spot. And remaining games with the Hurricanes (8-0), Navy (5-3) and Stanford (6-3) are all valuable enough, in terms of strength of schedule, to keep it in the Top Four ahead of potential power conference champions with one loss.
No. 9 Washington
Small sample size notwithstanding, each year has seen at least one team make the playoffs that wasn't in the Top Four at this point in the season. Two years ago half the eventual field wasn't in the Top 10 of the second rankings, as Oklahoma was 12th and Michigan State 13th before ending up fourth and third, respectively.
Washington is one of several teams on the outside of the Top Four that will hope history continues to repeat itself, though the path for the No. 9 Huskies (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) is much more steep than for others. And its journey could get derailed sooner than the rest, since they play Friday night at Stanford (6-3, 5-2).
"It should be worth staying up to watch if you are on the east coast," Kevin McGuire of NBC Sports wrote of the 10:30 p.m. ET kickoff.
Though the playoff committee is supposed to weigh a team's overall body of work, how Washington deals with Stanford running back Bryce Love could sway them in the Huskies' favor. Love, the FBS leader in rushing at 182 yards per game, will be facing a Washington defense that is No. 1 overall in yards allowed and yields just 91.1 rushing yards per game.