In college football, if a team loses early in the year, it’s going to have time to recover in the rankings.
If a team loses late in the year, it’s a goner. It’s a famous line used by most college football analysts, but it has never been truer for this season of college football.
Take a look at Alabama. After a loss to Ole Miss and barely squeaking by Arkansas, many counted them out. But here they are, ranked No. 2 in the AP top 25.
Who would have thought Ohio State and Oregon would be where they are midway through the season? The Buckeyes had one of the worst losses by any top 10 team this year, a loss to Virginia Tech that might not even make a bowl game. Oregon dropped a game per usual, this time to Arizona, but both Oregon and OSU still currently sit in the top ten.
The same case can be made for several one-loss teams with the exception being Mississippi State, and all have a chance for the College Football Playoff. Instead of ranking them like the playoff committee, these rankings depict the teams with the best odds make the playoff.
Florida State is once again the frontrunner. They have been bashed for their strength of schedule, but the Seminoles are the defending National Champions and are riding a 26-game win streak. They have come-from-behind wins over Miami and Louisville and one of the easiest remaining schedules in the country.
They host Boston College and Florida to finish out the season. Boston College is 6-4 and Florida just fired head coach Will Muschamp.
The Seminoles also have Heisman winner Jameis Winston and a dangerous freshman running back, Dalvin Cook. Florida State is the safest bet to make the College Football Playoff.
Oregon follows the Seminoles with the second highest odds. The Ducks are also almost a lock to make the College Football Playoff. They have their toughest games out of the way and host Colorado Saturday.
They do have to travel to play in the Civil War game against Oregon State and play a top-tier opponent in the Pac-12 Championship Game, which could be tricky. There are teams out there that can beat Oregon, but they are not in the Pac-12.
Alabama is once again in prime position to play for another title. How could we ever have doubted them? Love them or hate them, Alabama once again is one of the best teams in the country.
They had the right things fall their way: an Ole Miss loss, Auburn losing in consecutive weeks and then they got to play Mississippi State at home. An anemic offense that is wildly inconsistent and a secondary that has yet to be challenged are significant weaknesses, but they get Auburn at home and if they win, they go to the SEC Championship game and likely earn a playoff spot.
Ohio State sits just behind the Crimson Tide. The Buckeyes have earned their chance to be in the College Football Playoff. They lost early in the year and then lost seasoned quarterback Braxton Miller and everyone counted them out.
However, the emergence of freshman JT Barrett has the Buckeyes playing at a high level. They beat their only true threat on their schedule in Michigan State and have a cupcake schedule the rest of the way. There is a chance that they drop the Big 10 Championship Game in Indianapolis, provided that Wisconsin is their opponent.
Melvin Gordon set the single game rushing record last week with 408 yards rushing and could easily wreck the Buckeyes’ title aspirations.
Baylor is just on the outside looking in. Many analysts think TCU should be here, but since Baylor won the head-to-head match-up at home earlier in the year, they deserve to be ahead. By no fault of their own, the Big 12 no longer has a championship game and that severely hurts the Bears.
If they had one, they would likely jump Ohio State, as their resume is much better. But only playing Kansas State in their last game will hurt them and ultimately keep them out.
TCU has looked like a championship team during the second half of the season and is the dark horse to win the National Championship, but will most likely but left out of the playoff.
After their scare against Kansas, I can see the committee dropping them down in the rankings. Not only that, but their remaining games are weak compared to Baylor’s final games and they will not jump them unless the Bears drop a game.
Lastly, the committee will hold the loss at Baylor over their heads. Even though TCU controlled the game for three quarters, they still lost.
Mississippi State had their destiny in front of them, but watched it crumble with their loss to Alabama. Too much has to happen for the Bulldogs to make it to the college football playoff this season. They need Alabama to lose to Auburn first, beat Ole Miss and then they would need to win the SEC Championship game.
All of that is a tall order for one of the most physical teams in the nation. They did the one thing you cannot do in college football, lose late in the year.
It will be entertaining to see how the playoff committee makes sense of all the parody when it comes time to name the final four. But right now, Florida State, Oregon, Alabama and Ohio State are in prime position to stake their claims.