In a rare turn of events, the College Football Playoff Committee released their second week of rankings to a generally positive public response. Three of the top six teams from the first rankings lost in Week 10, clearing the path for a more straightforward decision from the committee, but nevertheless, the top of the list looks coherent and sensible, with Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, and TCU claiming the first four spots.
The biggest question raised by this week’s rankings is whether No. 10 Clemson and No. 9 Alabama still have a path into a playoff berth. Alabama has two very close losses to top-10 SEC opponents, and Clemson has just one (very bad) loss to a three-loss Notre Dame team.
CFP Rankings: Are Alabama and Clemson still in the mix?
Let’s take a look at who lies ahead of these perennial contenders. We have two-loss LSU, who have yet to face the SEC East winner in the conference championship game — a Georgia team that has bulldozed nearly every opponent in its path. Three-loss LSU can’t get in. Michigan and Ohio State have yet to play each other, and Michigan still faces a scrappy Purdue and a surprisingly talented Illinois on the way there.
USC sits ahead of Clemson and Alabama, as well, with one loss and upcoming matchups against a Notre Dame team that suddenly looks a lot more frightening and a UCLA team that has consistently impressed this year. The Trojans’ defense continues to struggle, allowing California to score 35 points in an uncomfortably close win this week.
And then there’s Tennessee and Oregon. Tennessee should theoretically be able to win out, unless that tough loss to Georgia took all the wind out of the Vols’ sails, but Oregon still faces ranked Washington and Utah teams in Pac-12 play as well as a potential conference championship.
There is almost too much potential for total chaos in the current top 10. TCU has Texas this week, and the committee has already shown that the Horned Frogs will have to go undefeated to have a shot at qualifying for the CFP. It won’t take a miracle to put the Tigers or the Tide back into contention for 2022 playoff consideration despite their Week 10 performances.
Of course, Clemson and Alabama will need to win out in order for this to happen, and LSU might need to help the Tide out with a big loss in the conference championship or a fourth loss elsewhere. Clemson’s biggest challenge likely lies in North Carolina in the ACC Championship.