We’re a week away from the first playoff rankings coming out. A week after Notre Dame dominated USC, Utah defeated them to eliminate USC from the playoff chase and end Caleb Williams chances of repeating as Heisman winner. Virginia upset North Carolina, to give the Cavaliers an emotional boost after last year’s tragic shooting that left 3 members of the team dead. Mike Hollins, who was injured in the shooting, scored 3 touchdowns to lead the upset. Ohio State’s defense shut down Penn State for their second win over a ranked opponent this season. So without further ado, here are the contenders for the playoff after week 8, going into week 9:
Group of 5: No one
Independents: No one
ACC: #4 Florida State. 5-0 ACC, 7-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 @ Wake Forest, Week 10 @ Pitt, Week 11 vs. Miami (FL), Week 12 vs. North Alabama, Week 13 @ Florida
#17 North Carolina. 3-1 ACC, 6-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 @ Georgia Tech, Week 10 vs. Campbell, Week 11 vs. Duke, Week 12 @ Clemson, Week 13 @ NC State
#18 Louisville. 3-1 ACC, 6-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 vs. Duke, Week 10 vs. Virginia Tech, Week 11 vs. Virginia, Week 12 @ Miami (FL), Week 13 vs. Kentucky
North Carolina’s loss to Virginia has left a possible opening for Louisville to play in the ACC Championship Game, but the Tar Heels are not eliminated by any means. Meanwhile Florida State dominated Duke. Look for all 3 schools to win this week.
Big 12: #6 Oklahoma. 4-0 Big 12, 7-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 @ Kansas, Week 10 @ Oklahoma State, Week 11 vs. West Virginia, Week 12 @BYU, Week 13 vs. TCU
#7 Texas. 3-1 Big 12, 6-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 vs. BYU, Week 10 vs. Kansas State, Week 11 @ TCU, Week 12 @ Iowa State, Week 13 vs. Texas Tech
Both teams survived scares, Oklahoma winning when UCF failed on a 2-point conversion that would have tied the game, while Texas beat Houston despite blowing a 21-0 lead. However, the Longhorns lost their quarterback Quinn Ewers to a sprained shoulder. Thankfully it’s not his throwing shoulder, but he is expected to miss several weeks. I still like both of these teams to win out and meet for Big 12 Championship Game.
SEC: #1 Georgia. 4-0 SEC, 7-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 vs. Florida (in Jacksonville), Week 10 vs. Mizzou, Week 11 vs. Ole Miss, Week 12 @ Tennessee, Week 13 @ Georgia Tech
#9 Alabama. 5-0 SEC, 7-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 10 vs. LSU, Week 11 @Kentucky, Week 12 vs. Chattanooga, Week 13 @ Auburn
These teams are still on a collision course for the SEC Championship Game. Georgia was off last week before the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against Florida this week. Look for Georgia to win. Alabama avenged their loss to Tennessee from last year in dominating fashion, not allowing them to score a point in the second half to come back from a 20-7 halftime deficit. Alabama is on their annual bye week before facing LSU next week. The only way Alabama doesn’t win the SEC West is if LSU beats them for the second year in a row, but the game is in Tuscaloosa this year. The other 1-loss team in the West, Ole Miss, has already lost to Alabama, which would require them to lose 2 conference games to win the division.
Pac-12: #5 Washington. 4-0 Pac-12, 7-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 @ Stanford, Week 10 @ USC, Week 11 vs. Utah, Week 12 @ Oregon State, Week 13 vs. Washington State
#8 Oregon. 3-1 Pac-12, 6-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 @ Utah, Week 10 vs. Cal, Week 11 vs. USC, Week 12 @ Arizona State, Week 13 vs. Oregon State
#11 Oregon State. 3-1 Pac-12, 6-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 @ Arizona, Week 10 @ Colorado, Week 11 vs. Stanford, Week 12 vs. Washington, Week 13 @ Oregon
#13 Utah. 3-1 Pac-12, 6-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 vs. Oregon, Week 10 vs. Arizona State, Week 11 @ Washington, Week 12 @ Arizona, Week 13 vs. Colorado
In the last year of the Pac-12 as we know it, 6 teams are ranked in the top 25, with 4 in playoff contention. We saw one elimination last week with USC losing to Utah. Can they get someone in the playoff, or will they beat each other up and leave the conference without a playoff team? History suggests it’ll be the latter, but the playoff picture is still very muddled. Oregon vs. Utah will be an elimination game. Can the Utes keep their run of spoiler going after defeating Oregon twice in 2021, then doing the same to USC last year before defeating them again last week? Look for Utah to do it again. Meanwhile, expect Washington and Oregon State to win.
Big 10: #2 Michigan. 5-0 Big 10, 8-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 10 vs. Purdue, Week 11 @ Penn State, Week 12 @ Maryland, Week 13 vs. Ohio State
#3 Ohio State. 4-0 Big 10, 7-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 @ Wisconsin, Week 10 @ Rutgers, Week 11 vs. Michigan State, Week 12 vs. Minnesota, Week 13 @ Michigan
#10 Penn State. 3-1 Big 10, 6-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 vs. Indiana, Week 10 @ Maryland, Week 11 vs. Michigan, Week 12 vs. Rutgers, Week 13 @ Michigan State
This is still a 3-horse race between Michigan Penn State and Ohio State. As I said in the intro, Ohio State’s defense shut down Penn State, in a game that was not as close as the final score indicated. Penn State is not yet eliminated, but they will have to defeat Michigan and will need Ohio State to lose to Michigan to have any chance at playing for the Big 10 Championship and making the playoff. Ohio State faces Wisconsin at Camp Randall this week, against former Ohio State player and longtime assistant coach Luke Fickell. Camp Randall can be a hostile environment, especially at night, but expect Ohio State to win, especially since Wisconsin is without their starting quarterback. Penn State should have no problems with Indiana. Michigan is off this week, but the big news out of Ann Arbor this week is their sign-stealing scandal. Will it derail their season or turn out to be nothing? We’ll find out more in the days and weeks ahead, but it’s not looking good. So far, it’s looking worse than the Houston Astros scandal.
Brian Ferentz watch: Due to a nepotism clause in his contract, in order for coach Kirk Ferentz’s son to keep his job, the Hawkeyes must win at least 7 games this season, and score at least 325 points in 13 games, for an average of 25 points per game. Points from the defense and special teams count towards the total as well. Iowa is 6-2, and through 8 games they have scored 156 points, putting them 44 points off the pace. They lost last week in heartbreaking fashion. They appeared to have scored the go-ahead touchdown on a punt return, only for it to be called back because the returner signaled for a fair catch. Not to mention the loss of at least 6 points. At this point, he’s probably toast. Iowa ranks 133rd out of 133 teams in the FBS in total scoring. The Hawkeyes would have to score 69 points in their next game to get back on the pace, or average 34 points a game in their remaining 5 games. They have a week off this week to work on things, but it’s probably not happening.
AP Top 10 Poll:
- Ohio State
- Florida State
- Penn State
Championship Saturday matchup predictions:
ACC: Florida State vs. North Carolina
Big 12: Oklahoma vs. Texas
SEC: Georgia vs. Alabama
Pac-12: Utah vs. Washington
Big 10: Iowa vs. Ohio State
Top games of the week:
Utah vs. Oregon. Game of the week, site of ESPN College Gameday
Duke vs. Louisville. Not basketball. Football.
Sugar Bowl: #1 Georgia vs. #4 Texas
Rose Bowl: #2 Ohio State vs. #3 Florida State