College Football Playoff: Projected Top 4 after Week 9
Let’s take a look at the College Football Playoff projections after the ninth week the 2016 season.
The week that most college football fans have been waiting for is finally here — at least the fans of teams who are contenders this season. The first College Football Playoff rankings will be released on Tuesday and there will be plenty of speculation about who should be in the top four.
Right now, there are four unbeaten at the top of the Week 10 AP Poll, but does that mean they are all locks for the four coveted spots?
A few top-10 teams were greeted with their first losses of the season in Week 9. The Big 12 suffered the biggest setbacks as Baylor traveled to Texas as the No. 6 team in the nation and came away with a defeat thanks to a last-minute field goal by the Longhorns. West Virginia, No. 10 last week, fell at the hands of Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium, one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12.
No. 7 Nebraska was the surprise of the Big Ten and had to travel to Madison to take on the No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers. The Cornhuskers forced overtime, but Wisconsin ultimately came away with the big win.
Lastly, No. 13 Boise State was looking to be 2016’s New Year’s Six dark horse contender. Playing in a Mountain West Conference with an easier schedule than most playoff contenders seemed to give the Broncos a leg up in the quest for an unbeaten record. However, Wyoming’s home-field advantage proved to be too much as the Broncos lost on a safety in the final two minutes.
On that note, here are the four teams I believe would be in the College Football Playoff if the season ended today.
8-0, Last Week: 4
Chris Petersen is doing an excellent job with the Washington Huskies. After taking over the program a few years ago, he has shown improvement in each season and this might just be the year Washington contends for the national title.
Even in a down year for the Pac-12, the Huskies are proving to be one of the most impressive teams in the country. Any time you can go on the road against a ranked team like Utah and not play a very good game and still come away with a win, that brings confidence to a football team.
The Huskies are definitely in line to run away with the Pac-12 North. That is if they can take care of business in the last game of the season against he Washington State Cougars. For the first time in recent memory, that in-state battle could be gigantic for both the national outlook and conference title hopes. Both are 5-0 in Pac-12 play and tied for first in the North.
Jake Browning continues to be the best pocket passer in the country, in my opinion. The other guy who might just be better is Baker Mayfield, but Browning is just a sophomore and is getting better by the week. He might be coming off two subpar performances in terms of completion percentage, but he threw for 477 yards and five touchdowns with only one pick.
Washington will likely be 11-0 by the time they travel to Washington State for the season finale. That game could decide the Huskies’ College Football Playoff future.
8-0, Last Week: 3
Why do I have the Michigan Wolverines at No. 3 in my projected College Football Playoff rankings instead of No. 2 where they are in the AP Poll? Well, I’ve made the claim that Clemson has had more impressive victories this season than Michigan and I’m going to remain consistent when it comes to ranking them in terms of that.
Just because Clemson has more impressive wins doesn’t mean Michigan doesn’t have any. The Wolverines have beaten a top-10 Wisconsin team at home and Penn State 49-10 in Ann Arbor as well.
However, the Wolverines have played just two road games on the season. One happened to be a 78-0 blowout of Rutgers and the other was the big in-state rivalry game against Michigan State in which the Spartans put up quite a fight and Michigan’s defense didn’t look as lockdown as it had been through seven games.
Still, Michigan came away with another win and is now 8-0 on the year. People knew Jim Harbaugh would turn this program around, but who knew it would be this soon? In fact, he’s 18-3 in his first two seasons with the Wolverines and people are already talking up the national title hype.
Would Michigan be able to take down the top two teams on this list?
8-0, Last Week: 2
You look at Clemson and see flashes of the same team that made the national title game a season ago. The defense has some play-makers in the front-seven and the secondary and the offense is loaded with Deshaun Watson and a plethora of elite receiving targets. Will the Tigers be able to take care of business and run the table in the regular season for the second straight year?
Well, both of their tough games have been taken care of through eight weeks. The Tigers took down Louisville a few weeks ago and then Florida State in Week 9. That was the toughest game remaining on their schedule and if they were to lose one of their final four games, it’d be a shock.
The four remaining games are Syracuse, Pittsburgh and South Carolina at home and Wake Forest on the road. Each of those should be a victory and Clemson would be playing for the ACC title shortly thereafter.
Beating Florida State this season may not seem like a huge deal since the Seminoles have three losses now and are essentially out of conference title contention, but the winner of this rivalry game in each of the past three years has either gone on to the College Football Playoff or BCS title game.
As long as Deshaun Watson continues to play well, the Clemson Tigers are going to be unbeaten heading into a second straight playoff appearance.
Alabama Crimson Tide
8-0, Last Week: 1
Alabama had its bye in Week 9, gearing up for an important four-week stretch to end the 2016 regular season. The Crimson Tide have been on a completely different level than everyone else in college football this year. They have been demolishing opponents, both ranked and unranked.
The one true scare that Alabama had this year was against Ole Miss, a team that is now 3-5. The Rebels seem to give the Crimson Tide a battle each season and the Week 3 bout was no different. Ole Miss had a big lead early on at home only to squander it late in the game and allow Alabama to leave with a 48-43 victory.
Since then, the Tide have been as dominant as any team in the nation. Nick Saban has reloaded a squad that lost the Heisman Trophy winner and starting quarterback from last year’s national championship team and Alabama is 8-0 with five straight wins by at least 19 points.
Jalen Hurts is looking like one of the best freshman quarterbacks in the country and he can do damage with his arm and legs. He’s going to be a tough task for defenses over the next three or four seasons. He also has a wealth of weapons on offense such as Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart and O.J. Howard.
The defense is the best in the country and there may not be a single team who could beat the Crimson Tide in their current state. LSU, Mississippi State, Chattanooga and Auburn stand between the Tide and an SEC West crown.
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