I’m still trying to figure out how the College Football Playoff committee made its decision to stick Texas A&M over Washington at No. 4 in last week’s ranking, but that mystery pales in comparison to what the AP voters were thinking this weekend.
There’s not much to argue about at the top of the list, but when we get into the midsection and back end … oh, boy. Let’s break it down:
First teams out: San Diego State (AP No. 28), Nebraska (No. 21), Baylor (No. 25)
25. Florida (-3)
24. Arkansas (+3)
The Razorbacks don’t have many big wins to hang their helmet on this season, but they deserve to be in front of a hapless Florida team after beating the Gators by three touchdowns in Fayetteville. There are gaping holes to fix in Gainesville, beginning with the quarterback position.
23. Washington State
22. Boise State (+2)
21. Florida State (-1)
20. Texas A&M (-10)
Boise State has one fewer loss and a head-to-head win over Washington State. That combination should be enough to keep the Broncos in front of the Cougars, but voters keep flipping them. The big dog in this group is Texas A&M, which is somehow still ranked as a top-10 team after losing a game by 19 and then getting pounded by an unranked team. There’s little reason for optimism in College Station right now.
19. North Carolina (-4)
18. Virginia Tech
17. Oklahoma State
Another oddity in the vein of Boise-Wazzu: North Carolina lost to Virginia Tech by 31 points at home last month (!) and is still getting ranked ahead of the Hokies. Both teams have 7-2 records. Oklahoma State would be higher if the Cowboys hadn’t nearly perished at Kansas State this past weekend.
15. USC (+11)
14. LSU (+5)
13. Western Michigan (+1)
The biggest difference between this ranking and the AP’s is Southern California’s position. The Trojans have been a force since the first day of October, winning five straight and jumping back into the Pac-12 South race with Colorado and Utah. Next up: a visit to Washington in prime time. Louisiana State hung with the country’s No. 1 team for three and a half quarters, and has been impressive overall since Ed Orgeron took over. The Tigers’ offense disappeared on Saturday, but they didn’t deserve to drop to No. 19.
12. Utah (+1)
11. West Virginia
10. Penn State (+2)
Here lie the fringe College Football Playoff hopefuls. An inordinate amount of chaos is needed for any of these teams to reach the promised land, but there are enough opportunities remaining for all three to stay in the conversation.
These are the first alternates if any of the country’s top six teams collapse. Oklahoma (the projected Big 12 champion) and Auburn (SEC West champ if it wins out) are back from the dead, while Wisconsin (projected Big Ten West champion) has been hanging around the top 10 since a Week 1 upset at LSU. The latter two are good enough to wind up playing for a championship, but the jury is still out on the spotty Sooners.
6. Ohio State
Both of these teams might be the best in the country, but they’ll need to wait to get their due. Ohio State has far more control over its fate; the Buckeyes will host No. 2 Michigan on Thanksgiving weekend. Louisville will need to win out, watch the ACC title game from home, then pray the committee puts the Cardinals in the mix.
4. Clemson (-1)
3. Washington (+1)
No one has physically dominated its opponents like Alabama and Michigan, but Washington might join the conversation with another strong performance this weekend vs. USC. Clemson has played a tougher schedule than the Huskies, but the Tigers have had way too many close calls this season to be anywhere but No. 4 right now.
The season’s second College Football Playoff selection show will air Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.