Saturday’s showdown between LSU and Alabama won’t be a matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the College Football Playoff committee’s eyes.
Ohio State was ranked No. 1 in the first set of playoff rankings on Tuesday night — ahead of both LSU and Alabama. The Tigers are at No. 2 and the Crimson Tide are at No. 3 while Penn State is at No. 4 ahead of Clemson at No. 5.
The Buckeyes have blown out their opponents in 2019 by an average margin of 48-8. Ohio State’s best win is a 38-7 victory over No. 13 Wisconsin and it also beat No. 20 Cincinnati 42-0 in Week 2.
All those blowouts were enough for Ohio State to get the edge over LSU, who has beaten top-12 teams in Auburn and Florida this season. Alabama, meanwhile, has won handily throughout the season. But the Tide’s opponents so far don’t match up to the teams at Nos. 1 and 2. Alabama’s best win so far is a 47-28 win over a Texas A&M team that was No. 24 in the AP poll at the time. The Aggies are currently unranked.
Don’t freak out, Clemson fans
The defending national champions are behind four other undefeated teams in the rankings because of the ACC’s mediocrity. Wake Forest is the only other team in the ACC that’s in the top 25 and Wake and Clemson haven’t played each other yet.
But as long as Clemson keeps winning, the Tigers will end up in the playoff at the end of the year. It’s a straightforward formula.
We already know that either LSU or Alabama will have a loss as of Saturday. And Penn State plays Ohio State on Nov. 23. Two of the teams currently in the top four are guaranteed to have a loss.
That opens the door for Clemson, mediocre ACC and all. Because of that mediocrity, a loss to anyone not-named Wake Forest certainly dooms the Tigers’ playoff chances. But an undefeated Clemson at 13-0 with another ACC title to its name is not missing the playoff.
Oklahoma has work to do
The Sooners are at No. 9 in the first rankings behind three one-loss teams in No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Oregon and No. 8 Utah. Oklahoma is three spots behind Georgia despite losing to No. 16 Kansas State on the road while Georgia lost to 4-5 South Carolina at home. The committee really likes Georgia’s wins over Notre Dame and Florida. Texas is Oklahoma’s marquee victory and the Longhorns aren’t in the top 25.
Oklahoma has yet to play No. 12 Baylor and No. 23 Oklahoma State and could play one of those two teams (or Texas) again in the Big 12 championship game. If Oklahoma wins out the rest of the way, an 11-1 season on its own may not be enough to get the Sooners into the playoff for a third straight season.
Two Power Five unbeatens outside the top 10
Baylor came in at No. 12 and Minnesota is at No. 17. Both teams are 8-0.
The Gophers have a chance to rocket up the rankings with a win on Saturday against No. 4 Penn State. While Minnesota won’t come close to the top four with a win — even a convincing one — the Gophers should at least be much closer to the top 10 with a victory.
Baylor, meanwhile, may have to wait a bit to get near the top 10 unless teams ahead of it lose. The Bears play No. 9 Oklahoma on Nov. 16. A win there would put Baylor into the top 10 assuming it beats TCU on Saturday.
A top-10 showdown for the Pac-12?
The Pac-12 is just one of three conferences with multiple teams in the top 10. Raise your hand if you saw that coming at the beginning of the season.
Oregon and Utah each lead their respective divisions and could end up playing in a Pac-12 championship game with a playoff berth on the line. While a playoff spot doesn’t seem likely at this point, the conference is positioned for just its third top-10 showdown in nine championship games.
The AAC gets four teams in the top 25
The American Athletic Conference has been wild in 2019. The bottom of the rankings are proof of just how tight it is at the top.
Four of the bottom six teams in the rankings all hail from the AAC. Cincinnati leads the pack at No. 20 and is followed by Memphis at No. 21, Navy at No. 24 and SMU at No. 25.
SMU lost its undefeated season on Saturday when it fell at Memphis. The Tigers, who have also beaten Navy, play Cincinnati at the end of the season while Navy faces SMU on Nov. 23. Those two games mean that the AAC won’t end up with four teams in the rankings at the end of the year. But if a one-loss champion emerges from that group of four, it should have an edge on No. 22 Boise State for a New Year’s Six bowl if the Broncos finish the season with just one loss.
1. Ohio State, 8-0
2. LSU, 8-0
3. Alabama, 8-0
4. Penn State, 8-0
5. Clemson, 9-0
6. Georgia, 7-1
7. Oregon, 8-1
8. Utah, 8-1
9. Oklahoma, 7-1
10. Florida, 7-2
11. Auburn, 7-2
12. Baylor, 8-0
13. Wisconsin, 6-2
14. Michigan, 7-2
15. Notre Dame, 6-2
16. Kansas State, 6-2
17. Minnesota, 8-0
18. Iowa, 6-2
19. Wake Forest, 7-1
20. Cincinnati, 7-1
21. Memphis, 8-1
22. Boise State
23. Oklahoma State, 6-3
24. Navy, 7-1
25. SMU, 8-1
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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