The first College Football Playoff Poll for 2016 was released last Tuesday night. The second will be released tonight. Playoff Committee (POC) #4 Texas A&M has already seen their playoff hopes dashed. Why were they #4 to begin with? In Sunday’s Associated Press (AP) poll, the Aggies dropped to #10. We agree with that drop (see below). This poll is usually more fluid than the others two, but more fair. It is absent the hype (and Baylor). It rewards teams and conferences that play defense. It is also not afraid to rank teams from “lesser” conferences when they deserve it. First, with highlights, is our audio Top 10:
1. Alabama (9-0) @AlabamaFTBL (Last Week 1)
Another week, another shutout. At least they didn’t score a defensive TD against LSU. Maybe they are slipping? They are giving 29 points to Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa Saturday. The Bulldogs will not get a second-straight upset.
2. Clemson (9-0) @ClemsonFB (2)
Dabo’s Tigers are rolling again. With 565 yards of offense and 54 points last Saturday against Syracuse – much of that coming from backups – the 128th ranked Red Zone Defense of Pittsburgh has their work cut out for them Saturday at 3:30 in Death Valley. Like Alabama, Clemson is a lock for the playoff unless a monster upset occurs.
3. Washington (9-0) @UW_Football (3)
The critics say the Huskies have a soft schedule. Maybe. But they have outscored that schedule 435-153. They are 19th in FBS total offense with QB Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin and WRs John Ross and Dante Pettis leading the way. Browning leads the the nation in passing efficency (202.8). He has thrown 38 TD passes with just 4 interceptions the last 12 games. They are tied with #13 Western Michigan in turnover margin at +15. They’re 8th in 3rd Down D (29.6%) and rank 18th overall in Total D. They do have #22 USC and #14 Washington State down the stretch, so big tests are coming, but Chris Peterson’s crew should have a shot to make the Football Four if they run the table.
4. Michigan (9-0) @UMichFootball (4)
How good are the Wolverines? We shall see. Wilton Speight is improving. Their defense is statistically impressive. But, allowing 217 yards rushing and 13 fourth quarter points to a putrid Michigan State team remains a red flag. Like Washington, they are benefitting from a favorable schedule. The coming showdown with the Ohio State Buckeyes will be their biggest litmus test of the regular season.
5. Louisville (8-1) @UofLFootball (5)
The Cardinals remain at #5 and wait to see if Michigan/Ohio State and Washington win out. If that happens, the Cardinals will likey be left at the playoff altar. With 7 TDs and 416 total yards versus Boston College. QB Lamar Jackson is the Heisman front runner (sorry Jabrill Peppers’ backers). The Cards’ big tests come in the final two weeks: at Houston on November 17 and versus in-state, arch-enemy Kentucky on November 26.
6. Ohio State (8-1) @OhioStateFB (8)
The Buckeyes were pushed to the limit by Northwestern two weeks ago, then they destroyed #20 Nebraska. Urban Meyer’s squad looked formidable again against the Huskers. They should have little trouble with MSU in East Lansing. Their game versus #4 Michigan – and a likely Big Ten Championship Game rematch with Wisconsin – is all that should stand between the Buckeyes and a playoff birth.
7. Wisconsin (7-2) @BadgerFootball (7)
The Badgers devoured the Northwestern Wildcats last weekend in Evanston, allowing only 39 yards rushing and five 3rd down conversions, while holding a 40:25 to 19:35 time of possession edge. Next up is Illinois and 8-2.
8. LSU (5-3) @LSUfootball (13)
LSU’s defense was up to the task last weekend in Baton Rouge versus the Crimson Tide, but their offense is still trying to find the end zone. Nevertheless, that 10-0 loss moves the Tigers up five spots in this week’s poll. Next up is Arkansas, who made formerly #13 Florida squeal like a piggy last weekend in Fayetteville. Leonard Fournette (35 yards versus Bama) better get back on track versus the Hogs, or it could be two-straight losses for Ed Orgeron’s squad.
9. Auburn (7-2) @FootballAU (9)
The Tigers were 26-point favorites against Vanderbilt last Saturday and eeked out a 7-point win. Banged-up QB Sean White came off the bench in the second half to kick start the Tigers, who gave up 22 first downs and 341 total yards to the Commodores. If the Tigers can survive a trip to struggling Georgia this weekend, they will face the Alabama buzz saw in the Iron Bowl with a chance at the SEC West title.
10. Texas A&M (7-2) @AggieFootball (6)
This team is loaded with talent and has wins over Auburn, Arkansas and a once healthy Tennessee. They led Alabama in the 3rd quarter in Tuscaloosa before losing. Then, they gave up 574 total yards (365 rushing), 29 first downs and 11-of-18 third down conversersions to a lousy Mississippi State team. This team could destroy their opponent in a bowl game – or they could sleepwalk for 60 minutes and get upset – it just looks like that kind of year for the Aggies.
11. Utah (7-2) @Utah_Football (14)
The Utes had a bye last week following their 31-24 loss to #3 Washington back on Oct. 29. They return to action this week at Arizona State in a Thursday night kickoff. They are a 5 1/2 point favorite versus the unranked Sun Devils. As point spreads go, that is not impressive for a Top 15 team. Colorado leads Utah in the Pac-12 South by a game and host the Utes in Boulder on November 26. Unless the Utes can pile up style points on the way to a road win versus the Buffs, Utah could fall out of Top 16 contention by the end of the month.
12. Penn State (7-2) @PennStateFball (20)
The upset of #6 Ohio State was their biggest W in years. Then, they steamrolled Purdue, 62-24, in West Lafayette and Iowa, 41-14, at home. Versus the Hawkeyes, they collected 359 yards rushing (599 total). Sophomore Saquon Barkley is the best running back in the Big Ten. They have a five-game win streak and are getting better every week. With road games versus Indiana and Rutgers and Senior Day against 2-7 MSU, the Nittany Lions could earn 10 wins for the first time since 2009.
13. Western Michigan (9-0) @WMU_Football (17)
The Broncos are the cream of the Mid-American Conference and frankly of all the “Group of Five” conferences. They have scored at least 41 points for 6-straight weeks. WR Corey Davis is a 1st round NFL Draft pick. They rank 3rd in FBS in Red Zone offense (40 scores on 42 trips) and their defense is tied with #3 Washington in turnover margin at +15. A New Year’s Six bowl birth remains in sight. Like Houston was last year, this team is no joke and could pull an upset on the national stage in a bowl game if P.J. Fleck’s boat can stay afloat until Christmas.
14. Washington State (7-2) @wsucougfb (25)
As I wrote last week, “Mike Leach is college football’s Renaissance Man and his Air Raid offense is a work of art.” That art flowed to the tune of a 69-7 blitzkrieg of the Arizona Wildcats last Saturday in Pullman. QB Luke Falk was 32/35 for 311 yds and 4 TDs. His backup, Tyler Hilinski, was 15/17 for 163 yds and 2 TDs. The Cougars’ offense tallied 81 plays, 614 yards, converted 11-14 on 3rd down and controlled the ball for 37:28.
They are 6-0 in the Pac 12. If the Cougars can beat Cal at home Saturday and defeat Colorado in Boulder the following week, the Apple Cup vs #3 Washington on November 25 in Pullman could be for the Pac 12 North championship.
15. North Carolina (7-2) @GoHeels (21)
The Tar Heels rolled up 636 yards and 6 TDs in a 28-point win over Georgia Tech last Saturday. They have an impressive 37-35 road win over Florida State, another road W over Miami and they pulled out a one-point home win over Pitt back in September. But the 34-3 loss to Top 25 Virginia Tech (see below) on October 8 (during Hurricane Matthew) was a stinker. As I said last week, they are a hot and cold team who could end up with anywhere from 8 to 10 wins.
16. Oklahoma (7-2) @OU_Football (15)
The Sooners remain one of the biggest dissapointments of the entire season. They only managed 2 field goals in the second half last week against a garbage Iowa State team. While they did drop one notch, I wonder, as I did last week, if having them at #16 is too generous. They gave up 854 yards and 59 points to Texas Tech three weeks ago! Maybe the overrated (#17 POC and #25 AP) Baylor Bears can surpass those totals Saturday in Norman?
17. West Virginia (7-1) @WVUfootball (16)
Another team from the Big XII who I wonder if I have ranked too high, especially after they gave up 21 second half points and 441 total yards to Kansas last Saturday. Holy Moonshine Batman! No one plays defense in the Big XII! Why do I have any team from that conference ranked?
18. Florida State (6-3) @FSU_Football (10)
The Seminoles were dissapointing last weekend in their 24-20 win over North Carolina State. They collected 6 penalties, lost a fumble, let the Wolfpack convert 50% on 3rd down and were outgained 469-to-393 in total yards and an astonishing 165-to-63 yards on the ground. Their November 26th showdown with the #14 Gators in Tallahassee could be their fourth loss unless Boston College or Syracuse beat them first.
19. Florida (6-2) @GatorsFB (13)
The Gators got rolled last week by unranked Arkansas, as their sad-sack offense collected only 13 first downs, 12 yards rushing and 229 yards passing. Meanwhile, their vaunted (?) defense gave up 466 total yards (223 rushing) to Razorback OC, Dan Enos’, designed attack. With road games versus LSU and Florida State in the final two weeks of the season, the Gators may fall out of every Top 25 by December.
20. Nebraska (7-2) @HuskerFBNation (11)
Saturday’s beatdown in Columbus versus the #6 Buckeyes put the Huskers out of CFB Playoff contention. QB Tommy Armstrong was knocked out during the debacle. What remains for Big Red are Big Ten West games (at home) versus Minnesota and in Iowa City versus the Hawkeyes, which sandwich a home date with Maryland. Even if they win out, the Huskers will likely finish second in the Big Ten West behind #7 Wisconsin.
21. Virginia Tech (7-2) @VT_Football (18)
The Hokies were -11 road favorites versus Duke in Durham last Saturday and escaped with a 24-21 win. I thought a Dukies upset was in the cards. The Hokies will not be upset by the triple-option of Georgia Tech this Saturday.
22. USC @USC_Athletics (22)
The Trojans ride a five-game win streak into Saturday night’s showdown in Seattle versus #3 Washington. The Trojans are 9-point underdogs. They are also 109th in penalities (69). But their 31st ranked offense has allowed just 9 sacks this season. If the Trojans can limit their mistakes and keep their QB Sam Darnold upright, the USC could get a signature win and keep head coach Todd Helton off the unemployment line at season’s end.
23. Oklahoma State (7-2) @CowboyFB (23)
Mike Gundy’s team is on a five-game win streak. But they play in the Big XII where defense is always optional. Can they hold Texas Tech to under 800 yards of total offense Saturday unlike their arch-rival Sooners (854 yds on Oct. 22)? Considering they allowed 345 yards rushing to Kansas State last week and are 98th in total defense in FBS, I say no.
24. San Diego State (8-1) @Aztec_Football (25)
The Aztecs moved to 8-1 – and up a notch in this poll – by crushing Hawaii 55-0 last week. They are giving 23 1/2 points to Nevada Saturday. Go find CBS Sports Network at 10:30 p.m. and watch RB Donnel Pumphrey. He is leading FBS in rushing with 1,581 yards and has 13 touchdowns. He also has 8-straight 100 yard games, which is two behind a guy named Marshall Faulk, who holds the SDSU record.
25. Colorado (7-2) @RunRalphieRun (22)
The Buffaloes hung tough with Michigan in Ann Arbor for a time back in September (a 45-28 loss). They bookended that performance with a 12 penalty, 4 turnover, disaster versus UCLA last week (a 20-10 win). Eight of those penalities against the Bruins were personal fouls. They are 15-point favorites in Tucson versus Rich Rodriguez and Arizona Saturday night. The Buffaloes have won 3-straight. The Wildcats (2-7) have lost 6-straight. The Wildcats will get their third win.
Falling out of last week’s Top 25: None
Like or dislike these rankings? Hit me up on Twitter @iamDougWarren