Race for NCAA Football Playoff Spot Continues

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Stuart Schaenen

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College football has proven to be one of the most suspenseful and unpredictable sports in all of America. Millions of crazed fans tune in each week to see their favorite teams play. The past few years of college football have been filled with massive upsets and unexpected finishes, and this year has been no exception. Just last week, three of the top four teams in the country were defeated by heavy underdogs, two of which were not even ranked in the top 25. First #2 Clemson fell to Pitt 43-42, as Pitt kicker Chris Blewitt hit a 48 yard field goal as time expired. Then, #4 Washington was humiliated by #20 USC by a score of 26-13. Finally, to top of an almost improbable Saturday night, #3 Michigan fell to Iowa in a close defensive battle by a score of 14-13.

These upsets can give an idea to those who aren’t familiar with college football how miraculous and unforeseeable college football games can be. There is really no certainty,going into a game, that a team will win. Nonetheless, the most important goal and aspect of every team is if they have assured themselves a playoff spot, which is only given to the teams ranked among the top 4 in the country. This is why rankings are such a major factor in college football, because unless ranked in the top four,  your team will be unable to compete for the national championship. However, teams can still compete in smaller notable bowl games such as the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, and the Orange Bowl. The rankings for college football are decided upon by an NCAA committee. The committee consists of 12 members who are carefully selected based on their integrity and past experience. The NCAA prides itself on impartiality and objectivity when deciding on rankings, but there is a question of bias and favoritism almost every week. Many were surprised to see, after having three of the four top four teams lose (to not very notable teams), only one team was bumped out of the top four. But the committee takes into account other things besides records and losses. For example #2 Clemson beat #5 Louisville head-to-head earlier this season, which may be why Louisville did not slip into the top four like many were expecting. Other factors affecting the committee’s decision include conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head games (as discussed), and comparison of results against common opponents. The rankings that now stand for the NCAA are as follows:

  1. Alabama (61 first-place votes)
  2. Ohio State
  3. Michigan
  4. Clemson
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Washington
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Penn State
  9. Colorado
  10. Oklahoma State
  11. Louisville
  12. USC
  13. Florida
  14. Western Michigan
  15. Florida State
  16. Auburn
  17. Nebraska
  18. Houston
  19. West Virginia
  20. Boise State
  21. Utah
  22. Texas A&M
  23. Washington State
  24. Tennessee
  25. LSU

Louisville dropped out of the top 10 and most definitely out of playoff contention with their loss against Houston this week, Utah also fell far to #21 after losing to Oregon, but USC made a huge jump up to #12 after defeating #4 ranked Washington. In terms of the new rankings released this week, don’t expect any of the top four spots to change, since all teams won their games. The new rankings for the top 25 will be released tomorrow night by the committee. However, the final rankings for the top four (which will be released Selection Day Sunday Dec.4), will all be decided by the rival game between #3 Michigan and #2 Ohio State on Saturday, November 26th. Whoever wins that game will most likely clinch themselves a  spot in the top four, while the loser will hopefully be able to struggle and fight for spot #4 against Washington and Wisconsin. Some notable games looking forward this upcoming week are Alabama vs. Auburn, Washington vs. Washington State, Clemson vs. South Carolina, and of course Michigan vs. Ohio State. The official final four teams will be selected on Sunday December 4th which is only two weeks away. There is still a lot of football left to be played with lots of potential for changes in the rankings, and as we have seen in the past, upsets are not uncommon in college football.