Here we are, in the wake of the third week of College Football Playoff rankings and still no drama.
Nothing’s changed with the top six still led by Alabama and includes Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State. Don’t expect much rattle that top-four fortress this weekend either with three of the top four sitting idle and the top-ranked Crimson Tide facing Arkansas (3-6).
So, is there any room for this to get spicy in the two weeks left before the semifinals are set?
Four of the top six teams will have conference title showdowns Dec. 19 with No. 1 Alabama facing No. 6 Florida and No. 2 Notre Dame playing No. 3 Clemson. Should Florida and Clemson win, that could be your top four right there.
Wins by Alabama and or Notre Dame could open door(s).
Ohio State is perhaps the most unique team in this year’s conversation. The Buckeyes are 5-0 with two canceled games already missed before Saturday’s visit from Michigan met the same COVID-19 fate. The high point is a 42-35 win over currently-No. 12 Indiana and presumably still has the Big Ten championship for a sixth game.
The Buckeyes are clearly among the most talented teams in the nation so this will be an interesting test of the eye test versus resumé discussion.
No. 5 Texas A&M (7-1) needs an Alabama win over Florida to completely KO the Gators’ shot at the semifinals. The Aggies game Saturday with Ole Miss was nixed because of COVID-19 issues in Oxford so it has just one game left on the schedule at Tennessee on Dec. 19. The only stain on A&M’s season is the 52-24 loss at Alabama in the second game of the season and win over Florida the following week is the only victory over a currently ranked opponent.
A second Notre Dame win over Clemson — this time with Trevor Lawrence — would likely knock Dabo Swinney’s group from the playoff for the first time since 2014. The Tigers’ lone win over a ranked team came in its fourth game of the year against No. 10 Miami, 42-17.
Clemson (9-1) and Notre Dame (10-0) are idle this Saturday before facing each other in the ACC title game Dec. 19. A Tiger win in that one would make it hard to exclude either after the Irish won Round I, 47-40 in South Bend. That would mark only the second time one league got two teams into the playoff. The SEC in 2017 was the other with No. 4 seed Alabama beating Georgia for the national title.
In the six previous playoffs, three teams were selected who didn’t win conference titles. The 2017 Alabama team, of course, was one along with Ohio State in 2016 and Notre Dame in 2018. The other two lost semifinals in blowouts by a combined score of 61-3.
So it’s clearly down to teams from the SEC, ACC and Big Ten. The highest-ranked team from the Big 12 is Iowa State (8-2) at No. 7 while USC at No. 15 is the top Pac-12 team.
This would be the fourth straight playoff without a Pac-12 team with Washington in 2016 being the last representative. The west coast league has the fewest CFP appearances of the Power conferences with just two. The Big 12 and Big Ten have four apiece for the next fewest.
What about the outsiders from the Group of 5 and beyond?
Cincinnati (8-0) is the only one still hanging around but having games COVID-cancelled from last Saturday and this Saturday won’t boost its image. It dropped a spot to No. 8 on Tuesday. This week’s game with No. 24 Tulsa would have been a data point in company speak but the Bearcats had coronavirus issues again. It will now play Tulsa in the Dec. 19 AAC title game as its last shot to impress instead of getting two shots to beat the Golden Hurricane.
BYU didn’t appear to be a contender at No. 13 last week before losing its undefeated season at Coastal Carolina.
Bottom line, the elites will remain the elites unless some kind of chaos beyond the current reach vaults Cincinnati into the field. The Power 5 is more like the Power 3 again with a two-bid league all but assured for only the second time in the seven years of the playoff.
Michael Casagrande is a reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @ByCasagrande or on Facebook.