College Football Playoff 2021: Predicting Final Four After Week 11 Rankings

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistNovember 10, 2021

College Football Playoff 2021: Predicting Final Four After Week 11 Rankings

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    The path to the College Football Playoff has not changed for any of the top title contenders in the FBS. 

    Even with the Michigan State Spartans' drop from No. 3 on Tuesday night, the route is clear for everyone at the top of the latest rankings. 

    Michigan State can play its way back into the title picture by beating the Ohio State Buckeyes. Ryan Day's team can clear out the contenders in the Big Ten if his team wins out and takes the Big Ten Championship Game. 

    The Georgia Bulldogs, Alabama Crimson Tide, Oklahoma Sooners, Oregon Ducks and Cincinnati Bearcats all can create clear paths to the four-team playoff by winning out. 

    Of course, that will not be as easy as it sounds since the college football landscape has been littered by upsets all season. 

    Georgia is the only team that has looked flawless through 10 weeks, which is why the Bulldogs should be projected to be the No. 1 overall seed. 

No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Cincinnati

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Georgia is in a tier of its own, and it should march into the SEC Championship Game unscathed after three matchups with unranked foes. 

    The Bulldogs' defense faces an intriguing challenge against the fast-paced offense of the Tennessee Volunteers, but that unit has met every single task to date. 

    Kirby Smart's team held four of its last six opponents to single-digit point totals. Tennessee might put up a few more points, but it is not expected to challenge the best positional unit in the sport. 

    The biggest question surrounding Georgia right now is which team it would play in the playoff semifinal. 

    After Michigan State's loss, it seems likely one SEC and one Big Ten team would make the playoff since one of Ohio State and Michigan State will have two losses. If Georgia beats Alabama, the Crimson Tide would be out with two losses as well. 

    Cincinnati has been far from perfect in its last three games, but neither have a majority of the title contenders outside of Georgia. 

    As long as the Bearcats keep winning, they will be in the conversation for the top four. They will benefit from one or two other upsets elsewhere. 

    Entering Week 11, Oklahoma and Oregon could face the difficult tasks of beating a team twice in quick succession. 

    Oklahoma's challenge in the Big 12 is harder because it would have to play the Oklahoma State Cowboys in back-to-back weeks. Oklahoma State gave up six points in its last two games and should prepare for the Sooners with easy wins over the TCU Horned Frogs and Texas Tech Red Raiders. 

    Oklahoma has the unenviable task of potentially playing the Cowboys' defense twice in a row and that could put an end to its playoff hopes. 

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Oregon

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    Rebecca S. Gratz/Associated Press

    Ohio State has the Purdue Boilermakers and Michigan Wolverines to thank for the game plan to beat Michigan State. 

    Michigan and Purdue gashed through the Spartans defense. Michigan State could not overcome its defensive weaknesses last week in its road defeat to the Boilermakers. 

    Ohio State has more playmakers on its roster than Michigan and Purdue combined. Unless Michigan State fixes its defensive shortcomings, it could be in for a rough outing on November 20 against the Buckeyes. 

    Ryan Day's team steamrolled through a handful of lesser opponents, and if its offense plays to its potential, it will beat any squad in the Big Ten and land a playoff spot. 

    If more teams are eliminated in the coming weeks, the Buckeyes could be in for a rematch with the Oregon Ducks, who were one spot ahead of them in Tuesday's rankings release.

    Ohio State has to play three more ranked foes before it gets to the playoff. Michigan and Michigan State are still on the regular-season docket and the Big Ten West champion should still be ranked. 

    Those results should allow the Buckeyes to leapfrog the Ducks in the final rankings. Oregon does not have any ranked opponents left on its schedule.

    The Ducks could play the Utah Utes twice, but that may not matter in that specific matchup. Utah lost to three of the best teams on its schedule, with one of them (BYU Cougars) in the Top 25. 

    If Oregon wins out, it will end up in the playoff, but it could land as the No. 3 because Ohio State's strength of schedule will be significantly better at the end.