Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame.
You can lock ’em in now.
The Nos. 1, 2 and 3 teams in the College Football Playoff Rankings won’t lose again, meaning all three will finish undefeated and claim three of the four berths in the post-season.
Bank on it.
Don’t believe us?
Here’s the proof.
The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (9-0) are simply dominant, and even a loss — however unlikely — to the Georgia Bulldogs (8-1) in the SEC Championship Game won’t keep ’em in the top four. The only way to keep them out of the CFP would come after a blowout loss to Georgia. That won’t happen.
The No. 2 Clemson Tigers (9-0) are also simply dominant, and their only threat to a spot in the CFP is ugly New England weather when they square off against a solid No. 17 Boston College Eagles this Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC). They’ll weather any such storm, though.
The No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-0) are fairly dominant, and the only thing stopping them from making their way into the CFP is the one-game loss of starting QB Ian Book (rib), who will watch from the sideline as Brandon Wimbush takes the reins Saturday against the pedestrian Florida State Seminoles (4-5) in South Bend (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC). They will also have to be wary of the No. 13 Syracuse Orange (7-2), whom they’ll play in Week 12. But Wimbush should hold serve against FSU, and because Syracuse game is at Yankee Stadium rather than at the Carrier Dome in Upstate New York, the Irish should take care of business, as they’ve done all year through a meat-grinder schedule.
So it’s ’Bama and Clemson — sigh … again — and new blood in Notre Dame locked into the CFP.
But after that, she gets interesting.
The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (8-1) currently have the inside track and — contrary to the belief of some pundits — control their own destiny. Winning out the rest of the way gives them only one loss — that in the opening week to Notre Dame, meaning they deserve that fourth spot.
In fact, Big Blue’s only had let-downs in two halves of football this season in putting together a remarkable campaign.
The thing is they’ll need two full halves of football — and maybe then some — against the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1) come Nov. 24 in a must-win at The Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio. That’s a toughie.
A loss in that Big Ten rivalry tilt would open the door for Ohio State or a possible one-loss team from the Big 12, the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners (8-1) or the No. 9 West Virginia Mountaineers (7-1), to steal Michigan’s spot. (OK and West Virginia meet Nov. 23 to wrap up the regular season and likely then again in the Big 12 Championship Game a week later.) With two losses each, both Georgia and the No. 7 LSU Tigers (7-2) would be on the outside looking in.
And the Pac-12 winner just won’t cut the mustard, even if the No. 8 Washington State Cougars (8-1) somehow manage to find their way through a daunting gauntlet of remaining games, including the conference championship Game.
So it’s come down to a seven-team race, barring a major upset or two, to decide the final four.
Something’s gotta give when Alabama meets No. 16 Mississippi State (6-3) on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS). ‘Bama’s hit paydirt 62 times this season, while Mississippi State’s defence has allowed just nine TDs in nine games … Strangely enough, even if No. 12 UCF (8-0) runs the table for another perfect campaign, its string of 25 straight wins won’t crack NCAA football’s top-10 all-time winning streaks. Eleven teams have run up 30-game win strings. UCF plays Navy (2-7) on Saturday (Noon ET) in a game that any other year might threaten the big run, but Navy’s on quite the rare down year without a road win to boast … Offensive coordinator Walt Bell is taking over playcalling duties from head coach Willie Taggart for struggling Florida State.
QB Kyler Murray’s pass efficiency rating is off the charts — historic, in fact — at 216.6, eclipsing Baker Mayfield’s record of 198.9 set last season. The Oklahoma pivot is one of 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award. The lengthy list, which also includes Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, West Virginia’s Will Grier, Georgia’s Jacob Fromm, UCF’s McKenzie Milton and Oregon’s Justin Herbert, will be cut down to three on Nov. 9. Be thinking Grier, Murray and Tagovailoa as the three … In not completely unrelated news, Grier, Murray and Tagovailoa are your Heisman Trophy frontrunners … QB Kyle Trask, who was in the conversation to start for Florida (6-3) in Saturday’s game against visiting South Carolina (5-3), was carted off the field during practice Wednesday after suffering a serious, non-contact, lower-body injury.
Vote of confidence or kiss of death for Gus Malzahn, who’s been told by the Auburn athletic director Allen Greene that he will return to coach the SEC program next year despite growing disapproval of the head coach among the fan base, which includes a GoFundMe page to buy him out? … Les Miles to woeful Kansas (3-6)? There’s a vacancy at the head coach’s position at the Big 12 school, and the veteran sidelines boss isn’t getting any other offers … The last of the winless programs got off the floor in Week 10, when UTEP (1-8) beat Rice (1-9) 34-26 on the road. That now leaves Rice alongside Central Michigan (1-9) as the teams with the worst records in the nation.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS
Rank (last week) Record
1. Alabama (1) 9-0
2. Clemson (2) 9-0
3. Notre Dame (4) 9-0
4. Michigan (5) 8-1
5. Georgia (6) 8-1
6. Oklahoma (7) 8-1
7. LSU (3) 7-2
8. Washington State (8) 8-1
9. West Virginia (13) 7-1
10. Ohio State (10) 8-1
11. Kentucky (9) 7-2
12. UCF (12) 8-0
13. Syracuse (19) 7-2
14. NC State (21) 6-2
15. Florida (11) 6-3
16. Mississippi State (18) 6-3
17. Boston College (22) 7-2
18. Michigan State (NR) 6-3
19. Texas (17) 6-3
20. Penn State (14) 6-3
21. Iowa (16) 6-3
22. Iowa State (24) 5-3
23. Fresno State (23) 8-1
24. Auburn (NR) 6-3
25. Washington (NR) 7-3
NR — not ranked
GAME TO WATCH
(-3.5) #10 OHIO STATE at #18 MICHIGAN STATE
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, FOX
So suddenly Sparty is some kind of threat to Ohio State, which is still in the CFP mix? Not a chance.
PICK: OHIO STATE
NORTHWESTERN at #21 IOWA (-10.5)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX
Northwestern controls own destiny to be Big Ten West winner and might be the better team.
TCU at #9 WEST VIRGINIA (-11.5)
Saturday, Noon ET
QB Will Grier and WVa offence far too much for frogs of any sort to handle on home turf.
PICK: WEST VIRGINIA
WESTERN KENTUCKY at FLORIDA ATLANTIC (-20.5)
Saturday, 5 p.m. ET
Lane Kiffin’s got Fla Atl going in right direction, while Western Kentucky’s won just once.
PICK: FLORIDA ATLANTIC
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Last week: 1-3; Season: 20-17-3 (.500)
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