Ahead of rivalry week, nine teams figure to have the best chance to make the College Football Playoff.
1. LSU Tigers (11-0) | Last week: 1
As expected, LSU did not have much trouble blowing out two-win Arkansas. Joe Burrow had another fantastic performance, but running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire again starred, with an absurd 188 rushing yards and three touchdowns on just six carries. Head coach Ed Orgeron says he hasn’t forgotten about the seven-overtime loss to Texas A&M last year, and the Tigers should be ready to go despite the SEC Championship Game coming up in a couple of weeks.
2. Clemson Tigers (11-0) | Last week: 2
Clemson had off last week, and they have the ACC title game coming up, but they are not going to look past a rival South Carolina team this Saturday. With all the hype surrounding Ohio State and the SEC, Dabo Swinney’s squad is a bit under the radar entering the final week of the regular season.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-0) | Last week: 3
Ball security was an issue and helped allow Penn State to get back into the game, but Ohio State has so much talent that they are able to overcome costly turnovers against most teams. Getting stud defensive end Chase Young back in the lineup after a two-game suspension adds another element to the Buckeyes defense, as he’s an incredible force getting after the quarterback that’s a terror in one-on-one situations.
4. Georgia Bulldogs (10-1) | Last week: 4
Georgia again had a lead that was put in danger in the fourth quarter, but they were able to hold on for a 19-13 win against Texas A&M. This Saturday against Georgia Tech probably won’t be a cakewalk given that it’s a rivalry game, but the Bulldogs are still likely in a win-and-in scenario for the SEC title game on December 7.
5. Alabama Crimson Tide (10-1) | Last week: 5
Mac Jones averaged 27.5 yards per completion and had more touchdowns (three) than incompletions (two) in his first start since Tua Tagovailoa’s season-ending hip injury. It was against Western Carolina, but the Alabama offense has looked comfortable when Jones has been at quarterback this season. This week’s Iron Bowl will be a totally different test, and it’s possible the Crimson Tide need some “style points” to make a final statement for a chance get into the Playoff.
6. Oklahoma Sooners (10-1) | Last week: 7 (+1)
It’s obviously difficult to say what would’ve happened if Oklahoma was back on defense, but the Sooners arguably caught a break against TCU when it looked like Jalen Hurts was short of a first-down late in the game. Nevertheless, OU will take the victory and a 10-1 start with a chance to get to 12-1 with a couple more ranked wins and a conference title the next two weeks. Oklahoma is not in a bad spot after Oregon’s loss.
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers (10-1) | Last week: 9 (+2)
Minnesota’s NFL-caliber receiving corps led by Rashod Bateman (seven receptions, 78 yards, three touchdowns) and Tyler Johnson (seven receptions, 125 yards, one touchdown) was tough for Northwestern to contain, but this week against Wisconsin should be a bigger challenge for the Gophers. Stopping star running back Jonathan Taylor (three consecutive 200-yard games) will be critical for Minnesota this Saturday with Paul Bunyan’s Axe on the line.
8. Utah Utes (10-1) | Last week: 10 (+2)
Utah had another physical effort in their rout of Arizona, and running back Zack Moss led the way with 203 rushing yards on offense. However, Oregon’s loss not only hurt their own chances, but it probably hurt the Pac-12’s chances overall (Utah) to get into the Playoff. The Utes just need to control what they can control, though, and they’ve been dominant since the USC loss early in the season.
9. Baylor Bears (10-1) | Last week: NR
It’s a great sign for Matt Rhule’s program that they were able to bounce back from their first loss of the season to handle Texas while clinching a spot in the Big 12 title game. Rhule and his staff have done an excellent job of turning around Baylor football. The Bears need to beat an upset-minded Kansas team this Saturday first, but the rematch against the Sooners—with a potential chance at the Playoffs on the line—is not something most people saw coming before the season for Baylor.
10. Penn State (9-2) | Last week: NR
The final two spots could have gone to a number of teams including Florida, Wisconsin, and Michigan. But Penn State gets the nod after showing great heart and playing Ohio State tougher than anyone this season. The defense forced turnovers and made it a game in the second half, and the Nittany Lions should finish strong this week against Rutgers and get a New Year’s Six bowl appearance.