Iowa is sitting pretty in the College Football Playoff rankings this week at number 4. That is exactly where you want to be. The good news, too, is that Iowa is number four despite Wisconsin falling out of the rankings after their tough loss against Northwestern, which leaves Iowa with just one win over a team currently in the top 25. So there is potential to go up or at least for some cushion from falling if some of Iowa’s past opponents make their way into the rankings.
While Iowa is a sure bet to be in the Playoff if they win their next two games, their placement in bowls (or even an outside shot at the Playoffs) if they lose one of the next two depend on the outcome of a lot of games this weekend. So let’s take a look at who we should be rooting for over the next few days.
Wisconsin at Minnesota - I have a hard time seeing a 9-3 Wisconsin not being ranked. There are already six 3-loss teams in the top 25, and two of them play this weekend (Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State). So that should provide a spot for Wisconsin to get back in. Their three losses were to the #2, #4, and #16 teams. And while they don’t have any really great wins, I think their reputation will carry them back into the top 25.
Rooting Interest: Wisconsin
Miami at Pitt - I don’t know that a 9-3 Pitt is as likely to be ranked as Wisconsin. Like Wisconsin, their three losses all came against top 25 teams. So it is possible. If Wisconsin and Pitt both end up in the top 25, that would be a huge boost to Iowa’s perceived strength of schedule in the committee’s eyes.
Rooting Interest: Pitt
Penn State at Michigan State - Who does Iowa want to play in the B1G title game? My vote is for Michigan State. Especially a Connor Cook-less Michigan State (though he might be fine by then…he’s a game-time decision this weekend). I think the Spartans are the best match-up for Iowa. Their defense hasn’t been quite what it was with Pat Narduzzi running it. Their offense is good, but isn’t the type that Iowa typically struggles against (and if Cook isn’t back, then it really isn’t that scary). Ohio State has more potential to be dangerous. And J.T. Barrett is the type of QB that really scares me. Michigan has the best defense of the three and I think Jake Rudock would be extra-motivated and could have a big game, given his familiarity with Iowa’s defensive schemes. So I want MSU.
Rooting Interest: Michigan State
#8 Ohio State at #10 Michigan - This one is really interesting. If MSU losses, then the winner of this game will play Iowa in Indianapolis. I think I’d rather have Ohio State at this point, but that is a really slim margin. If MSU wins, then Iowa could be competing with the winner of this game for a Rose Bowl spot (if MSU wins the B1G Championship Game and goes to the playoffs). In that case, it’d be better for Michigan to win and give both of those teams 2-losses. Even if Iowa lost the next two, they’d be 11-2 vs. 10-2 and it’d be close to see who got the better bowl. So I’m going to lean Michigan.
Rooting Interest: Michigan
#12 Florida at #13 Florida State - Florida doesn’t have a very strong resume as a 1-loss team right now, but if they beat FSU and Alabama they could rocket up the rankings and find their way in the playoffs. So it’d be better if they lose. Florida State already has two losses and won’t even win their division in the ACC, so they probably have no shot at moving up high enough.
Rooting Interest: Florida State
#6 Notre Dame at #9 Stanford - I think Stanford is overrated at #9 when they have two losses just like Northwestern. But having that loss to a team that Iowa beat by 30 is going to keep them behind Iowa even if they're able to add another big win to their resume. Notre Dame is starting to slip as they don’t have a strong resume and struggled to beat a bad Boston College team, but they are still squarely within striking distance. So let’s say Iowa lost to Nebraskam but won the B1G Championship Game. I don’t think a 2-loss ND or Stanford would jump them.
Rooting Interest: Stanford
#7 Baylor at #19 TCU - This one is a tough one. Having a 2-loss Baylor would be nice, but it might be better to have TCU get beat and fall out of the rankings. That would leave room for Wisconsin and Pitt. And it would make the resumes of the three top teams of the Big 12 (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor) that much worse. Each of those three teams would then at most have two wins over ranked teams. If Oklahoma State were to beat Oklahoma, then that would be their only good win. Oklahoma’s only good win would be over Baylor (and they’d have two losses). And Baylor’s only good win would be over Oklahoma State. That sounds pretty appealing and could leave the Big 12 on the outside looking in again.
Rooting Interest: Baylor
#3 Oklahoma at #11 Oklahoma State - As already mentioned, Oklahoma State winning would be good. Oklahoma would give up its spot in the Playoffs and I don’t know that Baylor or Oklahoma State has the resume to put them in without a lot of help.
Rooting Interest: Oklahoma State
#1 Clemson at South Carolina - South Carolina
Clemson would probably need to lose twice to be out, but they could lose in the ACC Championship Game, too.
#2 Alabama at Auburn - Auburn
It would be hilarious if Ole Miss ends up in the SEC Championship game with that loss to Memphis.
#14 North Carolina at North Carolina State - North Carolina State
North Carolina could still finish 12-1…so it’s better if they have another loss.
And in the make room for Wisconsin and Pitt boat:
- Oregon State at #17 Oregon - Oregon State
- #20 Washington State at Washington - Washington
- #22 UCLA at USC - USC
- Colorado at #23 Utah - Colorado
- Western Michigan at #24 Toledo - Western Michigan
- Connecticut at #25 Temple - Connecticut