Last week, there were five SEC teams with realistic paths to the College Football Playoff: Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn, Florida and LSU. After a wild Week 10, that number has been pared down to one state: Alabama.
Alabama checks in at No. 1 for a second consecutive week, while Auburn is on the periphery at No. 8. Clemson, Michigan and Washington round out the top four at this point. The Tigers can earn a spot in the College Football Playoff by beating No. 1 Alabama and winning the SEC. But outside of that, the rest of the SEC is toast.
Florida was shellacked by Arkansas, sending the SEC East into a tailspin. LSU played admirably against the Crimson Tide, but doesn’t have an opportunity left to make up for the loss. Texas A&M lost in embarrassing fashion to Mississippi State, a team that could easily miss out on a bowl game. Even though Texas A&M still ranks No. 8, the Aggies don’t have any statement games left and lost starting QB Trevor Knight for the rest of the season.
LSU dropped 11 spots from No. 13 to No. 24. Florida still might have a shot against Alabama in the SEC title game, but nothing gives us hope that the Gators have even the slightest shot. Florida fell all the way out of the rankings after the 31-10 loss to Arkansas.
That sets up a momentous Iron Bowl matchup between Alabama and Auburn on Nov. 26 in Tuscaloosa. Alabama has been unbeatable this season, but anything can happen in a rivalry game with a talented opponent.
Auburn has improved markedly throughout the season and leads the nation in rushing yards. QB Sean White now has a stranglehold on the job. While a win is a tall order, Auburn is one of the few teams that’s balanced enough on both sides of the ball to cause problems for Alabama.
Nick Saban only has one undefeated season in his career – the 2009 Alabama Crimson Tide. Most of his teams have overcome a loss to win the national championship. However, a loss would be enough to push Auburn into the top four.
College football has not seen four undefeated Power Five teams in the BCS or College Football Playoff eras, so chances are there will be several other losses around the country before this becomes an issue. If that were to happen, the dream of getting two SEC teams into the College Football Playoff could still be alive.
Get used to these four playoff teams
Last week, the committee bizarrely slotted Texas A&M at No. 4 over undefeated Washington. That was righted this week, after the Aggies lost on the road to Mississippi State. As things stand, this group has set itself apart as the consensus top four. All of these teams control their own destiny and have an obvious path to the College Football Playoff. Alabama and Michigan have rivalry games left against Auburn and Ohio State that could swap those teams in, but it would take a whole lot of mayhem to change much else.
Last week, the committee argued that Texas A&M deserved to be the No. 4 team in the nation because of strength of schedule, despite a loss to No. 1 Alabama. A similar situation seemed to happen when Ohio State – with a lone loss against No. 10 Penn State – competed with UW for the No. 4 spot. For whatever reason, the committee instead pointed to the strength of Ohio State’s loss and slotted Washington at No. 4. This moving criteria has been one of the most frustrating parts of the playoff process.
Big 12 seeing some light?
Despite having two losses, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both broke into the top 15 at No. 11 and No. 13 respectively. West Virginia was right on the outside at No. 16. Oklahoma has yet to play both of these teams and will also play against Baylor this week. The Sooners are certainly the Big 12’s best chance, despite losses to Houston and Ohio State early in the season. The remaining schedule gives them a chance to rise up the rankings quickly.
Head-to-head or something?
For whatever reason, Texas A&M only fell from No. 4 to No. 8 after getting floored by Mississippi State in Starkville. Regardless, the Aggies still stayed at No. 8 in the country, ahead of No. 9 Auburn because of an apparent head-to-head. While the Aggies obviously beat the Tigers early in the year, Auburn has objectively been more impressive since that date. Texas A&M’s loss might be the worst from an elite team of the College Football Playoff era.