Oklahoma up to 3rd, Iowa 4th in playoff rankings; ND to 6th

  • By RALPH D. RUSSO
  • Wednesday, November 25, 2015 1:06am
  • Sports

Oklahoma moved into third and Iowa was fourth in the new College Football Playoff rankings as Notre Dame slipped to No. 6.

Clemson and Alabama remained the top two teams in the third-to-last committee rankings.

The Sooners (10-1) seem to be in solid shape with only one game left in their season. Oklahoma will play at Oklahoma State on Saturday with a chance to win the Big 12. The Cowboys dropped to 11th after losing its first game of the season

Notre Dame (10-1) also plays its last game of the season Saturday, a possible resume-builder against Stanford, which is ninth in the rankings.

“In our view, Oklahoma is better than Iowa,” committee chairman Jeff Long said. “We felt Iowa and Michigan State were extremely close.”

Unbeaten Iowa (11-0) and No. 5 Michigan State (10-1) can setup a possible playoff play-in game in the Big Ten championship if both win this weekend.

What else you need to know about the latest rankings as the season hits the final two weeks:

OU is not TCU

Last season TCU was third in the second-to-last playoff rankings and slipped to sixth in the final rankings, behind Ohio State and Baylor.

That has Big 12 fans understandably wondering if the league is setup for another fall from No. 3 even if the Sooners take care of business on Saturday in Stillwater.

It is not the same situation. Oklahoma is in better position. Here’s why:

Last season the committee liked TCU more than Baylor all season, despite the Bears beating the Horned Frogs in October. In the very last rankings, when Baylor’s and TCU’s schedule were almost identical, the committee finally honored the head-to-head result and placed Baylor ahead of TCU.

That can’t happen this season. The Sooners loss was the Texas and with the Big 12 now using head-to-head tiebreakers, they would be the conference’s one true champion.

Baylor’s very weak nonconference schedule also left it susceptible to being slighted by the committee last season. The Sooners have no such problem, with a win against Tennessee (7-4) on the road to their credit.

If committee members were looking for a reasonable alternative to Baylor on championship weekend before the final rankings last year, they found it in Ohio State. The Buckeyes’ 59-0 victory against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game with a backup quarterback was maybe the most impressive performance of the season by any team.

Notre Dame would be in the role of Ohio State this season, but it’s not quite the same. First off, the Irish don’t have the extra game to make a last and lasting impression with the committee on championship weekend.

Stanford and Oklahoma State are similar opponents.

Last season TCU finished with a weak Iowa State team. Baylor faced a good Kansas State team at home, posted a solid win, but still was being dragged down by its nonconference schedule and a loss at West Virginia, which finished in the middle of the Big 12.

Unless the Irish can do to the Cardinal what the Buckeyes did to the Badgers, it would be hard for the committee to explain reversing course on the Sooners at this point.

Big Ten vs. Notre Dame

When Ohio State was unbeaten, it looked as if the final spot would come down to Notre Dame or the Big 12 champion.

Now it looks as if the Irish’s path to the playoff goes through the Big Ten. The Irish could be blocked without an upset or two in the Big Ten over the next couple weeks.

Michigan State plays Penn State on Saturday and Iowa is at Nebraska. If both win, that sets up a Big Ten championship game with unbeaten Iowa against Michigan State at 11-1. Again, unless Notre Dame posts some type of monstrous blowout of Stanford, jumping ahead of the Big Ten champ looks very difficult.

Lurking

Stanford and Baylor looked done a couple of weeks ago when they both lost on the same Saturday night.

A couple weeks later both are lurking and the two could combine to make a fascinating decision for the committee.

An Oklahoma loss and a Notre Dame loss could leave Baylor (9-1) and Stanford (9-2) vying for the last spot as conference champions. This might not bode well for the Big 12, again. Stanford’s schedule strength would certainly trump Baylor’s and could give the committee ample reason to look past the number in the loss column — which it has shown it is more than willing to do.

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