Forde's Fab Four: Why Michigan belongs in playoff mix despite beating up on lowly Rutgers

Each week of the season, I will be a one-man College Football Playoff selection committee, picking the four teams that should be in the bracket if Selection Sunday were today. Call it Forde’s Fab Four, and call it an invitation to debate and discuss.

This week’s big debate: can a team win a conference road game by 49 points and drop out of the bracket? The answer is yes.

Peach Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Michigan

The Crimson Tide began a three-week gauntlet of challenging games by authoritatively dispatching Arkansas in Fayetteville, 49-30. Alabama led by two scores for the final 42 minutes and 25 seconds, so the outcome really was never in doubt. However, the ‘Bama defense that has been so stout against everyone other than Mississippi also struggled to stop the Razorbacks at times, giving up 400 passing yards and allowing Arkansas to monopolize the ball for most of the game. Nevertheless, the Tide did what it had to do and can now set its sights on two more rigorous games in a row. Next for Alabama: at Tennessee on Saturday, then home against Texas A&M.

The Wolverines made their first appearance in the bracket, shoving out Washington in the one difficult call of the week. It might seem unreasonable to evict a team from the playoff after it wins at Oregon 70-21, but there are three key factors that tilt the balance toward Michigan. First, the Ducks are terrible, having lost four in a row and been blown out in the last two of those losses. Second, Washington’s signature win, over Stanford, took a big hit when the Cardinal were summarily walloped at home by Washington State, 42-16. And third, Michigan and Washington do have a common opponent in Rutgers – and the comparison goes to the Wolverine. They reduced the Scarlet Knights to ectoplasm on the road Saturday, winning 78-0 and allowing just two first downs and 39 total yards. The Huskies beat Rutgers 48-13 at home to open the season. Given all those variables, Michigan barely edges out Washington. Next for Michigan: bye week, after which the Wolverines host Illinois on Oct. 22.

Jabrill Peppers and the Wolverines were absolutely dominant in crushing Rutgers 78-0. (Getty)
Jabrill Peppers and the Wolverines were absolutely dominant in crushing Rutgers 78-0. (Getty)

Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State

The Tigers nudged up a spot and pushed the Buckeyes down one after blowing out Boston College on Friday night on the road. The Eagles are no good, but 56-10 is taking care of business on the road in what looked like a natural letdown spot coming after the dramatic win over Louisville. Clemson led for the final 46-plus minutes and was never in danger of losing. The Tigers defense once again limited big plays, with Boston College producing nothing 30 yards or longer – only two teams in the nation have allowed fewer 30-yard plays than Clemson’s five through six games. Also, the season-opening victory over Auburn continues to look a little better as the Tigers win more. Next for Clemson: Home against North Carolina State, which is still wringing the rain water out of its uniforms after the slip ‘n slide game with Notre Dame on Saturday.

Ohio State switches spots with Clemson, taking the third seed after dispatching an improving Indiana team, 38-17. It was another superb defensive performance by the Buckeyes, who for the fourth time in five games held an opponent to fewer than 300 total yards (281 in this case), fewer than 100 rushing (99) and fewer than 200 passing (182). Ohio State did not throw the ball well, but quarterback J.T. Barrett compensated for that by running the ball a career-high 26 times for 137 yards. Next: At Wisconsin on Saturday. The Buckeyes are still waiting for their first serious test of the season, and the Badgers might provide it in Camp Randall Stadium.

Dropped out: Washington.

Also considered: Washington, Louisville, Texas A&M, Boise State.

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