College Football Playoff Outlook: Week 9
With the College Football Playoff Committee's initial rankings less than a week away from coming out, our analysts took a look at who the top four teams in the country should be right now.
Unsurprisingly, the Tide keep rolling. Bama moves to 8-0 (5-0) following a 45-7 drubbing of Tennessee; a game where the Vols offense was held to 108 total yards. Alabama doesn’t have a strong schedule, especially considering the downfall of Florida State and a weak SEC. The Iron Bowl looms at the end of the season, the final test for Nick Saban’s bunch. If (and when) the Tide make is to the SEC title game, they will likely face Georgia. Even if the Bulldogs win, expect Alabama to still make the playoff.
2. Penn State
Penn State’s blowout win against then-No. 19 Michigan solidified the Nittany Lions’ playoff hopes. One-third of the “Gauntlet” has resulted in a win, but playing No. 6 Ohio State and No. 16 Michigan State on the road could present some issues for Penn State. At 7-0 (4-0), the Nittany Lions are on their way to the playoffs, but most likely will need to win out in order to get there.
For the first time in a long time, the Bulldogs’ preseason hype is proving to be legitimate. It’s a given that a Kirby Smart-coached team would play good defense, but the Georgia offense has been explosive. A crucial game in three weeks against No. 19 Auburn will have enormous implications; the Bulldogs could afford to lose in the conference title game and still make the playoff as long as they run the table in the regular season. That matchup with the Tigers is their toughest remaining game and could be a challenge.
4. Notre Dame
The Irish have two major things going for them: strength of schedule and a national brand. A one-point loss to Georgia doesn’t do much to keep Notre Dame out of the final four as long as they win out. The Fighting Irish could finish with wins over five ranked teams. As long as Notre Dame goes 11-1, there is no way that they will be kept out of the College Football Playoff. Brian Kelly has fought his way off the hot seat and has his squad back in the title talk.
- Jon Gross
As usual, the Crimson Tide have the inside track to the No.1 seed in the College Football Playoff. Alabama has been dominating opponents thus far, and this isn’t likely to change. The defense is among the best in the nation, Jalen Hurts’ all-around game is vastly improved this year, and the offense is deep with playmakers at running back and wide receiver. The toughest games remaining on the schedule are at home versus LSU and away versus Auburn, but neither team seems like a good bet to beat ‘Bama and shake them from their Top Spot in the rankings.
2. Penn State
Coming off of a convincing victory over Michigan in last week’s White Out game, Penn State has solidified its place at the No. 2 ranking. Saquon Barkley is once again the frontrunner for the Heisman trophy, having bolstered his resume with three touchdowns against the Wolverines, including a 69-yard run on his first carry of the game. Trace McSorley has the poise under pressure to get the ball in the hands of his talented receivers, whether it be DaeSean Hamilton, Mike Gesicki, or even Barkley when split out wide. The defense is also hitting its stride, holding Michigan to 13 points and sacking John O'Korn seven times.
As the best SEC East team at this point in the season, Georgia has improved in every game since barely squeaking by a No. 19 Notre Dame team in the second week of the season. Jake Fromm has been a pleasant surprise as a freshman quarterback, and Nick Chubb is simply exciting to watch. As the No. 2 team in total defense to compliment a powerful offense, many of their games haven’t been close. Georgia has enough talent around Fromm that not losing them games has been enough. When it comes down to the SEC championship and potentially, the CFP, the big question for the Bulldogs is: Can Jake Fromm take the next step in his development and become the guy who can singlehandedly win you games?
4. Ohio State
Since losing to Oklahoma early in the season, Ohio State has straight-up blown out its opponents, and is rolling coming into this weekend’s game against Penn State. J.T. Barrett has flashed his dual-threat ability all year, the defense is one of the better units in the country and the Buckeyes are ranked fifth in total offense. With a bad loss already on the schedule, and its toughest games still remaining, a dominant win over the Nittany Lions this weekend can place Ohio State solidly back into the Playoff conversation.
6. Notre Dame
- Jeremy Ganes
Alabama rolled over a struggling Tennessee and comes into the bye week with an 8-0 record. Damien Harris has emerged as a force coming out of the backfield, and along with Bo Scarbrough, the two give Alabama one of the best running back tandems in the nation, with a combined 16 TDs on the season. The Crimson Tide face their toughest test since Week 1 in LSU after the bye, but with two weeks to prepare, expect Alabama to beat down on yet another SEC opponent, and remain No. 1.
2. Penn State
The Nittany Lions silenced any doubters in a 42-13 victory over Michigan in Happy Valley this past weekend. Penn State played its most complete game of football all year against the Wolverines, led by superstars Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley, who combined for all six of Penn State’s touchdowns. However, the biggest game of the season lies ahead for Penn State, as the Nittany Lions travel to Columbus to face No. 6 Ohio State. It’s going to be much more difficult for Lee Corso to pick the Nittany Lions for a second straight week, but if Penn State can pick up the win, they are a sure-fire pick for the CFB Playoff.
TCU blew out Kansas 43-0 at home, as expected. However, Kansas usually plays TCU very close, as the Horned Frogs won the past two matchups by a total of just seven points. This year feels different for the Horned Frogs. QB Kenny Hill has been great, and tied his career high with five touchdown passes against Kansas. The most telling statistic from Saturday was the total yardage, as TCU outgained Kansas by an astonishing 475-21. The Horned Frogs have a tricky test this week against No. 25 Iowa State, who upset Oklahoma earlier this season. If TCU plays to their full ability, the Cyclones should not pose too much of a threat to Hill and the Frogs.
The Bulldogs are coming off a bye week and play host to the underperforming Florida Gators this weekend. Georgia, outside of a close call versus Notre Dame, have won every game by more than 20 points thus far. The Bulldogs’ defense, led by their front seven, has been nothing short of spectacular this season, and ranks fourth-best in points allowed. Look for RB Nick Chubb to have a big game against a Florida defense allowing just under 170 rushing yards per game. The Bulldogs will ultimately be too much for the Gators to handle, and should move to 8-0.
5. Ohio State
6. Notre Dame
Alex Loughin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeremy Ganes is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Jonathan Gross is a junior double-majoring in broadcast journalism and international politics. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.