With this week's College Football Playoff Rankings set to release, we take a look at the biggest storylines, preview key matchups, and predict the top-six.
Storyline of the Week: Ohio State or LSU?
This will likely be the storyline that follows us the rest of the season.
The College Football Playoff Committee has already flipped Ohio State and and LSU's rankings once, moving the Tigers ahead of the Buckeyes after LSU's win over Alabama, and it will have a decision to make once again after Ohio State's 11-point victory over Penn State this weekend.
It was a multi-score win over a top-10 team, but the question is whether it will be enough to move the Buckeyes ahead of LSU in this week's rankings, especially given Ohio State's second-half turnovers that allowed Penn State to climb back into the game.
If Ohio Sate does retake the top spot this week, it's likely the Buckeyes hang onto it the rest of the season if they continue to win, as wins over Michigan and a Big Ten Champion would presumably only boost Ohio State's resume. In comparison, LSU will face top-5 Georgia in the SEC Championship game, but plays an unranked Texas A&M this week.
For the same reason, if LSU is ranked ahead of Ohio State this week, there is still potential for the Buckeyes to retake the top spot in the coming weeks.
How far does Penn State fall?
We will get a strong indicator of the committee's perception of Penn State by how far the Nittany Lions fall in this week's edition of the rankings. The less they fall, the better it is for Ohio State's resume.
How high does Michigan climb?
After a decisive win over Indiana and a few losses from teams ahead of it in the rankings, Michigan finds itself in the top-10 in the latest AP Poll, but there's now the question about where the Wolverines will be in this week's College Football Playoff rankings. If the Wolverines can crack the top-10, it's likely Ohio State will play three-straight top-10 opponents to close the season.
Predicting the Top 6
Ohio State may have overtaken LSU in the top spot if Ohio State had put Penn State away decisively and not allowed the Nittany Lions to climb back into the game with turnovers, but as it stands, we expect the Tigers to maintain the top spot – for now.
2. Ohio State
The Buckeyes did have a double-digit win over a top-10 opponent, but it was not as decisive as it could have been, or quite frankly should have been as they were unable to close the game out. Because of that, we expect Ohio State to stay at No. 2 this week. But we believe a win against Michigan on Saturday should be enough to move the Buckeyes up into the top spot in next week's rankings.
Clemson was idle this week and is in no danger of falling behind any other team. The Tigers obviously won't move up, either, as both teams ahead of them won.
Georgia continues to win ugly, but it continues to win. With no team currently emerging as the decisive No. 4 team in the country, we expect Georgia to hold the No. 4 spot after surviving against Texas A&M this week.
Ultimately, Georgia's make-or-break game in the College Football Playoff race will be the SEC Championship game against LSU.
Backup quarterback Mac Jones looked fine in his second start of the season and gave the committee no reason to drop Alabama further, but the Tide were also playing against an FCS opponent.
Alabama's make-or-break game in the College Football Playoff race is this week against Auburn where Jones will have to prove himself against a talented Tiger defense. If the committee is going to put the Tide in the playoff without Tua Tagovailoa, Jones has to look good in this game.
With Oregon now out of the picture after a loss to Arizona State, Utah emerges as the decisive leader in the PAC 12 and appears to have quite a realistic shot at the College Football Playoff.
After their 30-23 loss to USC in September, the Utes have won seven-straight games, most of which were decisive victories.
Note: This is how we think the College Football Playoff Committee will rank the teams, not necessarily how we think they should rank the teams.
Key Games This Week
- Cincinnati @ Memphis. This game does not necessarily have College Football Playoff ramifications, but the winner will have the inside track at a New Year's Six bowl bid with a win.
- Ohio State @ Michigan. While maybe not technically an elimination game for Ohio State, it's a chance to solidify its standing as a College Football Playoff team and improve its resume as the Buckeyes look to retake the No. 1 ranking.
- Alabama @ Auburn. This is a must-win game for Alabama, but a win may not even be good enough. The Tide will likely need to win decisively and Mac Jones must prove himself against a talented Auburn defense.
- Wisconsin @ Minnesota. Both of these teams might be on the outside looking in on the College Football Playoff landscape, but both teams are still playing for a conference championship, and the winner of this game will play the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.
- Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State. Since losing to Kansas State, Oklahoma has won three games decided by no more than four points and could have easily lost all three. As it stands though, the Sooners are still alive in the College Football Playoff race, and have a big game to close out the season against Oklahoma State.