Eight top-25 teams lost this week, including five of the top 14. That’s big in shifting the conversation and narrowing our list of playoff competitors, but don’t be fooled. By year’s end, we’re likely to only have two, maybe three undefeated teams. So the real questions will be deciphering between one-loss teams, and that means the Week 6 games will just be part of a bigger conversation.
Anyway, here are our tiers for this week…
Tier 1: Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame (5)
These are the teams essentially in control of their own destiny for the College Football Playoff. Obviously Alabama and Georgia would have to play each other. If the others win out, they’ll be in. The Bulldogs are the one team that I’m a little less convinced by. Not that I don’t think UGA is good. It is. But much like Clemson the first few weeks, there’s been too many games where the Dawgs just haven’t looked quite in sync. This probably fixes itself, but something to monitor.
Tier 2: Penn State, Oklahoma, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Texas, UCF, Oregon (8)
Everyone on this list has either a.) lost a game or b.) not played a serious opponent. So what to make of them? The eye test tells me each of these teams is a legit challenger, but they’ll need some luck ahead of them in the rankings to make a real push.
Tier 3: LSU, Michigan, Miami, Florida, Colorado, NC State, Kentucky, Cincinnati (8)
This is the real wild card group. Clearly there are flaws with every team here, but they either haven’t lost or have shown they can play with the big boys, too. In either case, it’s too soon to write them off, but they’re clearly a tick behind the rest.
Tier 4: Auburn, Texas A&M, USF, Stanford, Mississippi State, Iowa, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Utah, Washington State, South Carolina, Fresno State, Duke, Virginia Tech, TCU, App State, Maryland, Memphis, Ole Miss, Houston, San Diego State, Boise State (22)
We talked last week about how hard it is to really know who belongs in this group. To me, this is the foundation for how we judge everyone in Tiers 1-3. These are the resume builders, and it’s where the “experts” tend to go really off base. We talk about “top 25 wins” but that’s arbitrary and pointless. The difference between beating the No. 23 team or the No. 32 team is nothing, so the big question is which teams qualify as good but not real competitors. There are a lot of good arguments we can have here. Is Syracuse good? Is Boise State? Boston College? App State? More games will give us more info, but this is the list I’m going with this week.