The committee has spoken. Iowa landed at #9 in the first College Playoff Committee Poll, squarely in striking distance of the top 4 if they win out. But there are a lot of things that could happen that would make those of us waiting for those final rankings a lot more comfortable. Even with one loss, Iowa could find its way into the Rose Bowl or one of the other New Year’s Six Bowls if they're ranked highly enough. So who are we rooting for this weekend?
Wisconsin at Maryland - First and foremost I want Iowa to win the West. As great as this season has been, it’d be a huge disappointment if the Hawks went 2-2 down the stretch and Wisconsin won the division. A Badger loss would give Iowa ample breathing room. But what’s the fun in that? We want Wisconsin to work its way into the top 25 giving Iowa another ranked win. They’re lacking quality wins of their own, but a 10-2 Wisconsin is definitely in the top 20.
Rooting interest: Wisconsin
Penn State at (21) Northwestern - Northwestern has a couple of quality wins that helped them land in the first CFP Poll. They can probably afford one more loss this year and end the season ranked at 9-3. I’m not sure that 8-4 gets them there, though, and with Wisconsin left on the schedule a loss to Penn State on Saturday could take away Iowa’s best win in the committee’s eyes right now.
Rooting Interest: Northwestern
(7) Michigan State at Nebraska - It’s kind of easy to forget that Michigan State could beat Ohio State and win the East. That would probably be a good thing for Iowa, as I think they’d have a better shot against the Spartans than the Buckeyes. Assuming, though, that OSU wins out, Iowa could be in direct competition for the Rose Bowl spot with MSU. In that case, Iowa will likely need to be ranked higher in the final CFP rankings to get that spot. While Nebraska has found every way to lose this year and is pretty beat up, they still have some talent there and may be able to at least challenge the Spartans.
Rooting Interest: Nebraska
(5) Notre Dame at Pitt - This is the biggest game of the weekend for Iowa’s chances to move up. Pitt had a tough loss last week, but with only two losses would very likely jump into the poll with a win over Notre Dame and could stay there with a remaining schedule of Duke, Louisville, and Miami. Notre Dame still has Stanford on their schedule, so if they win out will have enough quality wins, even without a conference title game, that they will be a factor. Two losses, though, and they are out of the picture.
Rooting Interest: Pitt
(16) Florida State at (1) Clemson - I don’t know that a 1-loss ACC team will end up in the top 4 at the end of the year. Clemson does have a win over Notre Dame on their resume, and if FSU only had one loss it would mean they also had wins over Clemson and Florida. But the point is, get rid of the other undefeated teams and Iowa should move up.
Rooting Interest: Florida State
(2) LSU at (4) Alabama - The SEC West has two teams in the top 4 and this game feels like a play-in game to the playoffs. There are a lot of big games left in the division, though, and if Ole Miss wins out, then they are the team in the SEC Championship game. Would a 2-loss SEC champ make the playoffs? Would they take a 1-loss LSU or Alabama even if they didn’t win their division? 2-loss Alabama would drop out of contention. LSU could still lose to Ole Miss or to Florida in a rematch (the first game was close) in the title game. Plus, I'm married to an Auburn fan, so I can’t root for Bama.
Rooting Interest: LSU
(8) TCU at (12) Oklahoma State - Chaos in the Big 12 would leave them on the outside looking in again. The three undefeated teams in the Big 12 are 6th, 8th and 12th in the current CFP rankings. The B1G, also with three unbeaten teams, have rankings of 3rd, 7th, and 9th. The difference has been the extremely soft schedules thus far for the Big 12 teams. That changes in November though, as the top 4 teams in the conference all play each other. So the winners of those games are in a good spot to rise in the rankings. But if they all end up with a loss, then Bob Bowlsby is probably an unhappy camper again in December.
Rooting Interest: Oklahoma State
(11) Stanford at Colorado - Unlike the AP Poll, the committee took at look at Iowa vs. Stanford and got it right. Iowa has the better record and the two share a common opponent in Northwestern: a team Iowa dominated and Stanford lost to. So the Pac-12 (without an undefeated team) is sitting at the bottom of the pecking order for the Power 5 conferences. This one is tough for me. Will the committee continue to like Iowa over Stanford if both teams keep winning? If yes, then we want Stanford to keep winning. They move up and Iowa moves up. I don’t know that the committee will keep it that way, though. They had TCU over Baylor for the majority of November last year, even though Baylor had a head-to-head win over TCU. Stanford could still get a win over Notre Dame that would boost their resume. So for now, I think one more Stanford loss would be good.
Rooting Interest: Colorado
- (6) Baylor at Kansas State - Kansas State
- (12) Utah at Washington - Washington
- Minnesota at (3) Ohio State - Toss Up (It’s probably best that either OSU or MSU is undefeated going into Indy…we also don’t need Minnesota to come in to next week's game with momentum.)
- Iowa State at (15) Oklahoma - Iowa State
- Vanderbilt at (10) Florida - Vanderbilt
- Navy at (13) Memphis - Navy (Memphis isn’t passing Iowa if neither lose, but Ole Miss could still win the SEC, which would make Memphis' win over Ole Miss look better.)