College Football Playoff Rankings: Projected Top 10 after Week 11

Let’s take a look at the College Football Playoff projections after the 11th week the 2016 season.

It has been what you would call a crazy season. Through 10 relatively tame weeks with upsets here and there, Week 11 happened to blow the rest out of the water. The College Football Playoff rankings are going to get a major shakeup this week after three undefeated teams dropped.

Heck, five of last week’s top-10 teams in the playoff rankings fell in Week 11 in upset fashion. In fact, Michigan, Clemson, Washington, Texas A&M and Auburn all lost last week after breaking the top 10 and for a few of them, it basically wipes away any hopes of a playoff berth.

Michigan went on the road to face unranked Iowa as a three-touchdown favorite and lost by a last-second field goal. Clemson hosted unranked Pittsburgh and also lost on a field goal in the final seconds. Washington hosted No. 20 USC and didn’t expect such a fierce battle, losing by double digits. Texas A&M lost its second straight game since being ranked No. 4, surprisingly, in the first playoff rankings.

Lastly, Auburn lost on the road to unranked Georgia. You could argue that all five of those teams may have had their playoff hopes crushed, but that’s just not the case. At least Washington, Clemson and Michigan will be in the race until the very end.

Take a look at what I believe the College Football Playoff rankings for Week 12 will look like after such a wild week of football. Will we have an entirely new top-five? It’s possible.

Nov 12, 2016; Tucson, AZ, USA; Colorado Buffaloes wide receiver Jay MacIntyre (14) and wide receiver Bryce Bobo (4) celebrate after scoring a touchdown against the Arizona Wildcats during the second quarter at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

10

Colorado Buffaloes

8-2, Last Week: 12

If the season ended today, the Colorado Buffaloes would be playing Washington State in the Pac-12 title game. Talk about an odd matchup for the conference’s biggest game of the year, but those two teams have easily been the biggest surprises in the Pac-12 this season and deserve to battle it out for a potential New Year’s Six bowl or even a playoff spot.

Right now, the Buffaloes are in the best position to make the playoff, ranking No. 12 in last week’s playoff poll and likely jumping a couple of spots, passing Texas A&M and Auburn this week.

Since a tough four-point loss to USC in the third conference game of the season, the Buffaloes have won four straight games and three of which have been by double digits. The playoff committee has to be impressed by the progress this team has made and there’s no way the Buffaloes are left out of the top 10.

Senior Sefo Liufau continues to be a solid quarterback and might be one of the most reliable in the conference. He could finally reach his goals that he’s been working four hard years to achieve. A conference title is within his grasp.

Nov 12, 2016; Bloomington, IN, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley (9) hands the ball off to Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) during the second half at Memorial Stadium. The Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Indiana Hoosiers 45-31. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

9

Penn State Nittany Lions

8-2, Last Week: 10

If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that Penn State would be 8-2 and sitting at No. 9 in the country with just two weeks left to play in the regular season, I would have looked them straight in the eyes and laughed. That would have seemed like the most far-fetched scenario, but it has come to fruition.

James Franklin basically needed a year like this to save his job and he has put together an impressive campaign which was really revved up by an upset with over then-No. 2 Ohio State at home.

Since that victory, the Nittany Lions have done nothing but trend in the right direction. With a first-year starting quarterback and a relatively young team, Penn State wasn’t expected to do much this season and it looked like it’d be another 7-5 year after a 49-10 loss to Michigan, but they have since rebounded to post an 8-2 record.

There’s a realistic chance that if this team wins out, it could find itself playing for a Big Ten title and, potentially, a playoff berth. It would be shocking to see, but the Nittany Lions are surely still in the hunt.

Nov 12, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon (25) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the second half against the Baylor Bears at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

8

Oklahoma Sooners

8-2, Last Week: 11

Oklahoma is probably the best two-loss team in college football, regardless of what the rankings say on Tuesday night. The Sooners will be the second-highest ranked two-loss team in the newest playoff poll, but that shouldn’t discount the fact that they’ve been arguably the hottest team in the country not named Alabama over the past 7-8 weeks.

Since starting the season 1-2 with losses to Ohio State and Houston, the Sooners have won seven straight games and find themselves in first place in the Big 12. If Oklahoma can win out and capture the conference title, there will be debate about whether it deserves a spot in the playoff.

Just like the past two years, the final playoff rankings could be controversial because of the Big 12 not having a title game. The two early-season losses might do the Sooners in down the stretch because of one-loss teams also winning their respective conferences.

Baker Mayfield is playing at an extremely high level and a 21-point win over Baylor last week is a huge confidence boost for a team that has been playing some poor defense. Holding Baylor 24 points is an accomplishment.

I think this team jumps Penn State in the playoff rankings this week.

Nov 12, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Browning (3) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against the USC Trojans during the third quarter at Husky Stadium. USC defeated Washington, 26-13. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

7

Washington Huskies

9-1, Last Week: 4

It wasn’t the ideal week that Jake Browning was expecting. Washington had a chance to add to its lackluster resume with a nice win over No. 20 USC, but the Trojans came into hostile territory and stole a win from the Huskies. Chris Petersen’s team was almost expecting to come out on top, but they just didn’t come out strong enough.

Washington will take the biggest dip of the unbeatens that fell last week, but the Huskies will still remain in prime position to pick up one of those coveted playoff spots before the year is over.

The Huskies will likely only drop to No. 7 or maybe even No. 8, but that just means that they will have to hope a couple teams ahead of them lose one more game in the regular season or the conference championships. Heck, some teams ahead of them won’t even make their own conference’s title game. The Huskies control their own destiny.

Losing to USC was a tough blow and entirely unexpected, but the Huskies could still win out and add an impressive win to their resume against Washington State to end the year. If they do that and win the conference title game, they’re back in the playoff conversation.

Nov 12, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel (47) and safety Leo Musso (19) celebrate a turnover during the first quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

6

Wisconsin Badgers

8-2, Last Week: 7

Wisconsin will be the highest-ranked two-loss team heading into Week 12 and the playoff committee has been impressed with their two close losses to top-five opponents this season as well as their wins.

The Badgers lost, on the road, to Michigan by just seven points and in overtime at home to Ohio State by a touchdown in that one as well. Those might be the most quality losses of any two-loss team in the country and that’s why they’ll be breathing down the neck of the No. 5 and No. 4 teams in this week’s poll.

Sitting in first place in the Big Ten West with just two games remaining, Paul Chryst’s Badgers might just be in line to head to the conference championship game.

Imagine this scenario:

Wisconsin wins out to finish 10-2 and heads to the Big Ten title and faces off against Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State. The Badgers end up winning against a potential top-10 or top-five foe to finish 11-2 heading into bowl season.

There’s no way you leave that team out of the College Football Playoff, right?

Nov 12, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) carries the ball as Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Desmond King (14) defends during the first half at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

5

Michigan Wolverines

9-1, Last Week: 3

Irrational fans may have been watching the seconds tick down with Iowa setting up a potential game-winning field goal with a few seconds left Saturday, thinking that Michigan’s season was essentially over. Iowa, down 13-11 at the time, was going to kick the game-winner with no time left and end the Wolverines season.

Well, the Hawkeyes did make that field goal to win the game and send Kinnick Stadium into a craze, but what fans at home didn’t realize was that the Wolverines’ chances to make the College Football Playoff still rest entirely in their own hands.

Jim Harbaugh’s team just needs to win out and they will be in the playoff. That is easier said than done, though. Left on the schedule is a tough home contest against a pesky Indiana team that always seems to give Michigan fits as well as a huge game in Columbus against Ohio State. That game will likely be for all the marbles.

However, the final stretch of the schedule won’t be easy now that starting quarterback Wilton Speight has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a broken collarbone. When it rains, it pours.

John O’Korn will have to prove his worth.

Nov 12, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers running back Wayne Gallman (9) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the second half against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

4

Clemson Tigers

9-1, Last Week: 2

Clemson went down in potentially the most shocking fashion in Week 11. No one thought the Tigers would have anything to worry about with a struggling Pittsburgh team coming to town, but Death Valley was stunned by a field goal in the closing seconds by the Panthers to win.

Taking advantage of late-season home games against potential trap opponents should be a priority for teams in the hunt for a playoff spot. Clemson was looking to finish its second straight regular season without a loss, but the Panthers were on a mission and proved to be all the Tigers could handle on Saturday.

Even with that loss to an unranked Pitt team, I can only see Clemson dropping two spots. Just think about the teams below the Tigers. First, there’s Michigan who also lost. Then you have Washington who lost as well, followed by Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Penn State — none of them did enough to jump into the top-four and all have two losses.

This week’s playoff rankings might be the most interesting since the polls came out two years ago. For the first time in recent memory, the three undefeated teams that were upset might not drop more than two spots each. This week’s rankings might look very similar to last week’s at the top end.

Nov 12, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals linebacker Devonte Fields (92) celebrates after sacking Wake Forest Demon Deacons quarterback John Wolford (10) during the second half at Papa John

3

Louisville Cardinals

9-1, Last Week: 6

Lamar Jackson had what some would call an ‘off-game’ and the Louisville Cardinals still ended up beating Wake Forest 44-12. The Cardinals have been one of the most impressive teams in college football this season, going from No. 19 to start the season all the way to No. 2 this week.

If it wasn’t for that loss at Clemson in the middle of the year, the Cardinals would be a lock in the No. 2 spot with a potential ACC title looming. However, a close loss to the Tigers has changed the outlook of the season.

After 11 weeks, though, Louisville will finally be slotted ahead of Clemson and it might take an upset in the conference title game for the Cardinals to hold on to a playoff spot. Not winning their own conference is definitely a negative in the playoff committee’s eyes and that’s a real possibility for this team.

Louisville has a tough game coming up this week against Houston, though. The Cougars have fallen off a bit in recent weeks, but they won’t be an easy victory. In fact, Houston will be hosting Louisville, making the matchup that much more intriguing. A win at Houston might just add one more impressive win to the resume.

Nov 12, 2016; College Park, MD, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Corey Smith (5) runs with the ball after the catch during the second half against the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

2

Ohio State Buckeyes

9-1, Last Week: 5

Ohio State will make the biggest jump in this week’s top 10, along with Louisville, leaping all the way to No. 2 after beating Maryland by 59 points and watching the three teams ahead of it drop.

If you’re the Buckeyes, you have to be pretty happy with how things stand right now. First, bitter rival Michigan lost at the hands of Iowa and that means that Big Ten title hopes are still alive and well. And second, the Buckeyes are setting themselves up for a huge season finale against the Wolverines that could decide the Big Ten East.

J.T. Barrett had yet another solid game and the Buckeyes have won their last two games by a combined score of 124-6 — and one of those games came against the No. 10 team in the country. Urban Meyer’s team keeps demolishing inferior opponents and will need to do so again this week before ‘The Game’ against Michigan to close the year.

Does this team truly have what it takes to win the Big Ten or will Michigan or Penn State take home the conference crown? Right now that doesn’t matter seeing as the Buckeyes are leading the way.

The Buckeyes shouldn’t overlook a road game at Michigan State this weekend. Even though the Spartans have had a tough season, going just 3-7, they are just a few plays away from having the inverse record. The talent is still there and East Lansing will be rocking.

Nov 12, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Cam Sims (17) carries the ball against Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tide defeated the Bulldogs 51-3. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

1

Alabama Crimson Tide

10-0, Last Week: 1

Would you look at that, Alabama is No. 1 in the playoff rankings for yet another week. Dating back to the middle of last season, post-Ole Miss defeat, the Crimson Tide have been dominating the rankings. It’s easy to do that when you show up each week with a big win.

Just one week after taking LSU down to the wire on the road, scoring 10 fourth-quarter points to win 10-0, the Crimson Tide ran Mississippi State out of Tuscaloosa. The game was over before it even began and Alabama beat the Bulldogs 51-3.

Remember, this is the same Mississippi State team that beat Texas A&M the week before, knocking the Aggies out of the playoff race.

Jalen Hurts had his best game of the year, passing for nearly 350 yards and four touchdowns while also leading the team with 100 rushing yards and another score.

This is the most complete team in the country. Not only does Alabama have an elite offense with an up-and-coming quarterback, but the Crimson Tide also have the best defense in college football, allowing just three points to an SEC team that just beat the fourth-ranked team in the nation.

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