Say this about the top of the poll: these teams are really good. The top four didn’t change once again, as Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Michigan took care of business over the weekend. But there were some subtle changes near the bottom of the top 10.
Most notably, UCF jumped Ohio State and is now ranked ninth after the Buckeyes barely got by Maryland on Saturday. The Knights, meanwhile, dominated Cincinnati by a score of 38-13 in prime time.
Based on what we said before about how strong the top four is looking right now, it’s highly unlikely that UCF sniffs the College Football Playoff. But it will reach a major bowl game, and since LSU likely has nowhere to go but down based on its schedule, the Knights could reach the top seven in the final rankings. That’s a heck of an accomplishment for a program that lost beloved head coach Scott Frost to Nebraska a little under a year ago.
As for Ohio State, the Buckeyes still have the opportunity to beat Michigan this weekend and play Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game. They can boost their resume significantly. But they just haven’t inspired much confidence that they’ll run the table.
OSU can’t seem to find consistency. The run defense is a huge problem; Maryland gashed the Buckeyes for 339 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Michigan running back Karan Higdon has to be licking his lips watching that tape. The committee was right to reward UCF and move the Knights ahead of the Buckeyes.
The only team that fell out of the top 10 entirely was West Virginia, which lost a shootout to Oklahoma State over the weekend. That’s significant as it pertains to Oklahoma, which has major defensive issues of its own. The Sooners, ranked sixth, still have a fighting shot at the Playoff and play the Mountaineers this week.
Kyler Murray and his crew always needed help to make it, but West Virginia’s loss to Oklahoma State doesn’t aid its case. A win won’t pop as much on the resume. That said, it’s absolutely necessary, and it would be a shock if both teams didn’t crack 45 on Friday night.
Some notes near the end of the poll: Northwestern jumped into the top 20 this week after a win at Minnesota. Michigan doesn’t need assistance to get into the Playoff, but that could help the Wolverines’ resume. Beat the Wildcats in the Big Ten title game, and perhaps they can jump Notre Dame and avoid Alabama in the CFP semifinal. That would anger Notre Dame fans, as it beat Michigan in Week 1. But one team has a chance to add two big wins to its resume; the other doesn’t.
Syracuse fell eight spots to No. 20 after getting crushed by the Fighting Irish. That seems harsh at first glance, but the teams in that range all won, for the most part. Two new teams joined the rankings in No. 22 Texas A&M and No. 24 Pittsburgh. That’s important because Clemson has a win over the Aggies, and the Fighting Irish have a win over the Panthers.
OHIO STATE VS. MICHIGAN: Harbaugh on The Game: Biggest day in ‘our football lives’
Let’s take a quick look at some games this weekend that figure to have CFP implications:
No. 6 Oklahoma at No. 13 West Virginia
Points, points, and more points. Having home field is big for the Mountaineers. Whoever has the ball last could win.
No. 16 Washington at No. 8 Washington State
The Cougars put up 69 points over the weekend and could move past LSU with a win over the Huskies. Few teams have as much momentum as Wazzu does right now.
No. 4 Michigan at No. 10 Ohio State
Michigan is the better team this year, but Ohio State has dominated the Wolverines lately, and the game is in Columbus. This rivalry game is always emotional, but the stakes are as high as ever this year.
Auburn at No. 1 Alabama
Alabama looked surprisingly mortal this weekend, but the Crimson Tide should be energized for their most bitter rival.