The Florida Gators debuted in the College Football Playoff Rankings at #10 Tuesday evening when the first poll was released. It’s a 5-week process to get to the final poll, which will determine college football’s version of the Final Four and positioning for the most prestigious bowl games. The semifinals will be played at the Cotton and Orange Bowls and the next tier bowls – Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Peach – will involve conference champions and the highest ranked teams from the CFB Playoff rankings.
Florida’s path to the Final Four goes through Atlanta. The Gators can clinch the SEC East and a spot in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta by beating Vanderbilt this weekend but it with one loss already, getting into the Final Four will almost certainly require a 4-0 November followed by winning the SEC the first weekend of December.
The next three games won’t provide any strength of schedule help for the Gators as Vanderbilt (3-5), South Carolina (3-5) and Florida Atlantic (2-6) are a combined 8-16. What would help Florida’s cause would be for #16 Florida State (7-1) to knock off #1 Clemson this weekend and for the Gators to complete an 11-1 regular season by knocking off the Seminoles in The Swamp Thanksgiving weekend. That would send the Gators into Atlanta with plenty of momentum and they would probably move a few spots up in the CFP Rankings.
The FSU-Clemson matchup could give the Gators some upward mobility in next week’s poll. A Clemson win would eliminate FSU from the ACC and national championship picture but if FSU were to win, the Seminoles would likely move into the top ten while Clemson would tumble out.
The game that will should provide the most immediate help for Florida’s quest to move up is the showdown in Tuscaloosa between #2 LSU and #4 Alabama Saturday night. Because Alabama already has one loss, a loss to LSU would eliminate the Crimson Tide from championship contention both nationally and in the SEC. For LSU, a loss might drop the Tigers out of the CFP top ten but it would in no way eliminate them from SEC or national championship contention.
Both Alabama and Florida have one loss and the Gators beat the team that owns a win over Alabama (Ole Miss) but the committee that does the rankings gave Bama the higher position because it values Bama’s win over Georgia more than Florida’s 27-3 win over Georgia last weekend.
Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com tweeted, “Alabama beating Georgia w/Nick Chub and starting QB was a factor and noted in vote. Florida beat Georgia without Chubb and 3rd string QB.”
Top-ranked Clemson has the easiest path to the Final Four. Beat FSU this weekend and the Tigers don’t have another serious game, either in the regular season or the ACC Championship Game.
Last year’s national champ Ohio State will close out its regular season with unbeaten and #7 Michigan State and at #17 Michigan. Should the Buckeyes finish the regular season unbeaten they will likely face an unbeaten Iowa team that is currently ranked #9.
Notre Dame has a relatively easy shot at making the Final Four. The Irish have only one serious game remaining (at Stanford) and don’t have to play a conference championship game.
The Big 12 has three unbeatens (#6 Baylor, #8 TCU and #14 Oklahoma State) plus once-beaten and #15 Oklahoma. Those four teams will all play each other in November so it’s entirely possible the league will finish without an unbeaten team. But, with that kind of gauntlet, it would be almost impossible to keep an unbeaten Big 12 team out of the Final Four.
There are three unbeaten teams that didn’t make the top ten -- #13 Memphis, #14 Oklahoma State, and #25 Houston. Toledo’s unbeaten season came to an end Tuesday night with a 31-27 loss to Northern Illinois.
WEEK 1: COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS
1. Clemson (8-0)
Remaining games: Florida State (7-1); at Syracuse (3-5); Wake Forest (3-6); at South Carolina (3-5)
2. LSU (7-0)
Remaining games: at Alabama (7-1); Arkansas (4-4); at Ole Miss (7-2); Texas A&M (6-2)
3. Ohio State (8-0)
Remaining games: Minnesota (4-4); at Illinois (4-4); Michigan State (8-0); at Michigan (6-2)
4. Alabama (7-1)
Remaining games: LSU (7-0); at Mississippi State (6-2); Charleston Southern (D1AA); at Auburn (4-4)
5. Notre Dame (7-1)
Remaining games: at Pitt (6-2); Wake Forest (3-6); Boston College (3-6); at Stanford (7-1)
6. Baylor (7-0)
Remaining games: at Kansas State (3-4); Oklahoma (7-1); at Oklahoma State (8-0); at TCU (8-0); Texas (3-5)
7. Michigan State (8-0)
Remaining games: at Nebraska (3-6); Maryland (2-6); at Ohio State (8-0); Penn State (7-2)
8. TCU (8-0)
Remaining games: at Oklahoma State (8-0); Kansas (0-8); at Oklahoma (7-1); Baylor (7-0)
9. Iowa (8-0)
Remaining games: at Indiana (4-4); Minnesota (4-4); Purdue (2-6); at Nebraska (3-6)
10. FLORIDA (7-1)
Remaining games: Vanderbilt (3-5); at South Carolina (3-5); Florida Atlantic (2-6); Florida State (7-1)
The rest of the top 25: 11. Stanford (7-1); 12. Utah (7-1); 13. Memphis (8-0); 14. Oklahoma State (8-0); 15. Oklahoma (7-1); 16. Florida State (7-1); 17. Michigan (6-2); 18. Ole Miss (7-2); 19. Texas A&M (6-2); 20. Mississippi State (6-2); 21. Northwestern (6-2); 22. Temple (7-1); 23. UCLA (6-2); 24. Toledo (7-1); 25. Houston (8-0)
#7 ALABAMA (7-1, 4-1 SEC): With LSU and Leonard Fournette looming, everyone wants to point out that only Georgia (193 yards) and Tennessee (132) have cracked the 100-yard barrier running the football against the Alabama defense. Georgia’s numbers were padded by an 83-yard fourth quarter run by Nick Chubb against the #2 Bama defensive unit. Otherwise Chubb had 19 carries for 63 yards. Jalen Hurd of Tennessee had the most impressive outing against the Tide, running 18 times for 92 yards and a TD. The only stout defense Fournette has run against this year is Florida (31-180, 2 TDs) … To win the SEC West, Alabama will have to beat LSU and Ole Miss will have to lose another conference game. Alabama’s three remaining division I opponents have a combined record of 17-6.
ARKANSAS (4-4, 2-2 SEC): Leading receiver Drew Morgan (35-498, 6 TDs) has been playing through a nagging shoulder injury all season. He re-injured the shoulder against Tennessee-Martin last week but is expected to be on the field Saturday at Ole Miss. Also, cornerback D.J. Dean (turf toe) and safety Santos Ramirez (1-game suspension) will be back … The Razorbacks need two wins in their next four games against Division I opponents with a 24-8 record to become bowl eligible for the second straight year.
AUBURN (4-4, 1-4 SEC): There is often a fine line between disappointment and living up to expectations. Six of Auburn’s games (3 wins, 3 losses) have come down to a single possession so instead of 4-4, the Tigers could just as easily be 7-1 or 1-7 … The Tigers, who play at Texas A&M Saturday, need two more wins to become bowl eligible. The combined record of their four remaining Division I opponents is 21-11.
#11 FLORIDA (7-1, 5-1 SEC): The polite way of saying it for Florida’s next three opponents – Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic – is they are offensively challenged. FAU has the most productive offense of the three – 23.4 points and 389.1 yards per game – while South Carolina checks in at 21.4 points and 364.9 yards per game. Vanderbilt, which comes to The Swamp Saturday, averages only 15.8 points and 360.4 yards per game …Florida’s four November opponents have a combined record of 15-18.
GEORGIA (5-3, 3-3 SEC): The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that Mark Richt has been issued a directive to get the Bulldogs’ house in order the next four weeks or there will be changes. Wrote Seth Emerson and Chip Towers: “To be clear, change is coming at Georgia. It might not be today or even this week, but it’s coming. And we’re not talking about just he quarterback position or the offensive line. Georgia’s issues at the moment are chiefly with the offense but it goes beyond that. There is general dysfunction and dissension not only within the team but also within the football staff.” The AJC is also reporting that a major source of friction on the staff is the relationship between Richt and DC Jeremy Pruitt … Georgia’s schedule is conducive to a 4-0 finish against teams that have a combined record of 17-16. Would Georgia fire Richt for going 9-3? Would Richt clean house with his assistant coaches?
KENTUCKY (4-4, 2-4 SEC): The Wildcats will be without leading rusher Stanley “Boom” Williams Saturday against Georgia. Williams has gained 563 yards (6.6 per carry) and scored 3 TDs this year. JoJo Kemp (275 rushing yards, 2 TDs, and Mikel Horton (214 yards, 3 TDs) will share the tailback carries … Kentucky needs two wins in its last four games against opponents who have a combined record of 14-18 to become bowl eligible.
#4 LSU (7-0, 4-0 SEC): Weather could once again factor in an LSU game. The Tigers, who had their season opener cancelled because of lightning, played South Carolina at home after flooding in Columbia and played at least two other games in downpours, will go to Tuscaloosa Saturday where Weather.com forecasts a 90% chance of rain and temperatures dipping to 49 degrees by game time ... The Tigers, who are already bowl eligible, have four remaining games against Division I opponents who have a combined 24-9 record.
#24 MISSISSIPPI STATE (6-2, 2-2 SEC): Quarterback Dak Prescott (173-260 passing for 2,048 yards, 14 TDs and only 1 INT; 371 rushing yards for 7 TDs) is a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award as the nation’s best football player. Prescott has 55 touchdown passes and 38 rushing touchdowns in his career … The Bulldogs, who play at Missouri Thursday night, are already bowl eligible. Their remaining four Division I opponents have a combined record of 22-11.
MISSOURI (4-4, 1-4 SEC): Third-year sophomore defensive end Charles Harris, who is continuing the tradition of great Missouri pass rushing ends (6.5 sacks so far for -69 yards, 15.5 tackles for loss and 2 forced fumbles) says he will definitely be back next year even though his draft stock is rising dramatically ... Missouri needs two wins to become bowl eligible but the Tigers won’t be favored in any of their four remaining games against Division I opponents who have a combined record of 20-12.
OLE MISS (7-2, 4-1 SEC): Hybrid safety Tony Conner, sidelined since he tore a meniscus against Alabama back in September, is expected to play Saturday when Arkansas comes to Oxford. The Rebels are already bowl eligible and hold the tiebreaker over Alabama if Bama finishes the SEC regular season with one SEC loss on its schedule. The remaining three opponents on the Ole Miss schedule have a combined record of 17-6.
SOUTH CAROLINA (3-5, 1-5 SEC): LSU has joined with South Carolina to auction off signed memorabilia from this year’s game between the two schools with all proceeds being donated to relief for victims of the flood that forced South Carolina to play its game with LSU in Baton Rouge. Among the items that will be auctioned off are a signed Leonard Fournette jersey, an LSU helmet signed by Les Miles and a South Carolina helmet signed by Steve Spurrier … The Gamecocks have to win three out of four games to get bowl eligible. The Gamecocks play three Division I opponents with a combined record of 19-5 and D1AA The Citadel.
TENNESSEE (4-4, 2-3 SEC): Defensive end/linebacker Curt Maggitt will have an MRI this week to determine if he will be able to play in any of Tennessee’s remaining games. If he’s unable to play, Tennessee has indicated it will seek a sixth year of eligibility for Maggitt who missed the entire 2013 season with a knee injury … The Vols will be heavily favored to finish the season with an 8-4 record. Their remaining four Division I opponents have a combined record of 11-21.
#25 TEXAS A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC): Just like Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, freshman QB Kyler Murray is a dual threat QB who drives defenses crazy because he creates big plays in scramble situations. But, head coach Kevin Sumlin warns not to put too much on Murray’s shoulders, saying, “I don’t think it’s fair to compare Manziel and Murray” … The Aggies are already bowl-eligible. Their remaining three Division I opponents have a combined record of 14-9.
VANDERBILT (3-5, 1-3 SEC): Although it’s highly unlikely, Vanderbilt could still win the SEC East by knocking off Florida Saturday and then winning the next three SEC games. The Commodores could get bowl-eligible by winning three of four against opponents who have a combined record of 21-11.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY UPDATES
With impressive wins back-to-back over Utah and California, Southern Cal interim head coach Clay Helton is becoming a legitimate contender to have the interim title dropped at the end of the season. Whether USC hires him or not, Helton is going to be somebody’s head coach next year. You can take that to the bank.
USAToday reports that California coach Sonny Dykes is interested in leaving because (a) he’s one of the lowest paid coaches in the Pac-12, (b) the academic restrictions are a real problem for recruiting and (c) it’s unlikely Cal will give him a long term contract extension. He might be a serious candidate for Maryland.
With Jimbo Fisher going through a painful and nasty divorce, there is plenty of speculation that he’s considering a change of venue. There are a lot of folks on the left coast who think he would be a perfect fit at Southern Cal.
June Jones wants his old job back at Hawaii. If anyone can win there and get the fans back in the stands, he’s the guy.
Dana Holgorsen has to go at least 3-2 the rest of the way to keep his job at West Virginia. A 4-1 finish will remove all doubt.
Fox Sports’ Stewart Mandel says he’s not hearing any interest for Alabama OC Lane Kiffin among the power conference teams that are open or likely to vacate their head coaching job.
Former Gator tight end Mike Mularkey has replaced Ken Whisenhunt as the head coach of the NFL Tennessee Titans. Whisenhunt was fired Tuesday after a 1-6 start to the season and a 3-20 career record.
With J.T. Barrett suspended for next week’s (Ohio State idle this week) game with Minnesota, Braxton Miller is listed as the backup QB to Cardale Jones. I wonder what Urban Meyer would do if Miller gets in the game and begins playing like he did in 2012-13 when he was back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year? It’s one thing to have a controversy involving two QBs, but three?
Although there are complaints, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham admits his staff steals signals from opponents, but adds, “Do people steal our signals? Yeah, they do.”
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Do you think the Gators deserve a higher ranking than #10 in the first College Football Playoff Rankings?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
At 71, Jeff Beck is still making records. His May release “Live+” was released in May to outstanding reviews. “Live+” isn’t available on Youtube yet, but I found this very cool video of his performance at “Crossroads” a few years ago with a funny introduction by Bill Murray.