The latest edition of the College Football Playoff rankings have been released and it has finally happened folks. Washington has jumped over Florida State into 4th place in the rankings. Across the rest of the Pac-12: Utah dropped out, Oregon State fell to #16 from 11th, Arizona moved up to #15, and Oregon remained at #6.
There were certainly arguments for the Huskies to deserve the final spot in the top-4 in previous weeks but it became more obvious after Washington added a road victory over the #11 team in the CFP rankings (even if they’ve now fallen to 16th). Meanwhile, Florida State beat FCS North Alabama but unfortunately lost their star quarterback Jordan Travis for the season due to a gruesome leg injury. Travis’ injury shouldn’t directly affect the Seminoles’ ranking until the committee sees how they play against a real opponent without him but it might have helped serve as a tiebreaker in the minds of some members.
Washington now owns either the #1 or #2 strength of record by most sites that track the resumes of each team. The problem up until now, and will continue to be, that Washington has now won 7 consecutive games by 10 or fewer points. That matters when trying to determine how teams will perform in the future. It doesn’t matter when trying to assess how impressive a set of wins and no losses is for the Huskies.
It is very likely that Washington will move up to 3rd place in next week’s rankings if they take care of business as 16 point favorites in the Apple Cup. #2 Ohio State plays at #3 Michigan. It certainly wouldn’t be out of character for the committee to refuse to punish the loser of the game if it ended up being an extremely close finish. It would stand to reason though that a 12-0 Husky team would pass an 11-1 Michigan that lost at home to OSU and has just one win against a team in the top-38 of the SP+ rankings (Washington has 5). Still, UW fans should be hoping for a decisive win one way or the other that eliminates a 11-1 Big Ten non-champ from consideration.
All of this is largely a moot point for the Huskies though. We’ve seen years where an undefeated regular season champ could lose their conference title game and still make the top-4. Look no further than last year when TCU took that path. There are too many undefeated teams and quality 1-loss squads waiting in the wings this year though. Barring a bloodbath of a final two weeks, Washington will need to win the Pac-12 title game to have a legitimate chance to end up in the Playoff when the final set of rankings come out on December 3rd.
For those looking for a semi-realistic path if UW doesn’t win the Pac-12 title game though, here it is:
-Washington loses a close game to Oregon (preferably in overtime)
-Ohio State beats Michigan by multiple scores on Saturday
-Georgia beats Alabama by multiple scores in SEC title game
-Louisville loses to Kentucky then beats Jordan Travis-less FSU in the ACC title game
-Texas loses the Big 12 title game
That would almost certainly give 13-0 Georgia the #1 seed, 13-0 Ohio State the #2 seed, and a 12-1 Pac-12 champ Oregon the #3 seed. Your debate for the 4th seed would come down to 12-1 Washington, 11-1 Michigan, and 12-1 Florida State. The Huskies would presumably have been the higher ranked team going into the weekend and lost to a better opponent than Florida State. Otherwise, win that game in Vegas!
Here’s a look at the paths for the other teams that have 0 or 1 losses with most recent SP+ rank in parentheses.
#1 Ohio State: at Michigan (1)
If they beat Michigan they will likely play Iowa (28) in the Big Ten title game
#2 Georgia: at Georgia Tech (68)
Will face Alabama (6) in the SEC title game
#3 Michigan: Ohio State (3)
If they beat Ohio State they will likely play Iowa (28) in the Big Ten title game
#4 Washington: Washington State (50)
Will likely play Oregon (4) in Pac-12 title game
#5 Florida State: at Florida (47)
Will face Louisville (19) in the ACC title game
#6 Oregon: Oregon State (12)
If they beat Oregon State they will play Washington in the Pac-12 title game
#7 Texas: Texas Tech (44)
Will play...someone in the Big 12 title game
#8 Alabama: at Auburn (38)
Will play Georgia (2) in the SEC title game
#10 Louisville: Kentucky (33)
Will play Florida State (5) in ACC title game