CFP Top 25: Washington is No. 5; Colorado, Utah and Washington State also ranked
Washington’s No. 5 ranking leads a group of four Pac-12 teams ranked in the first College Football Playoff Top 25 of the 2016 season. In addition to the fifth-ranked Huskies, Colorado is No. 15, Utah is No. 16 and Washington State is No. 25. If the College Football Playoff started today, No. 1 Alabama would play No. 4 Texas A&M in one national semifinal, while No. 2 Clemson would play No. 3 Michigan in the other.
Pretty much everyone expected the Huskies to be a top-4 CFP team come Tuesday, but the No. 5 Dawgs are on the outside looking in at the moment. The hurdle to clear now appears to be fourth-ranked Texas A&M, a 7-1 SEC squad that has defeated the likes of UCLA, Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee and lost by 19 to top-ranked Alabama. Fear not, though, Husky fan – Washington still appears to be in the driver’s seat. This is what the playoff looks like today, and is not a projection of how the rest of the season will play out. The CFP committee in the past has jumped teams over others that didn’t lose the previous week (think Ohio State/Baylor/TCU 2014), so it still stands to reason that the committee would likely take an undefeated Pac-12 champion over a one-loss SEC team that didn’t qualify for its conference championship game. Also, the Aggies have three non-resume-building games before its season finale against No. 13 LSU, while Washington still has to play a rising USC squad and No. 25 Washington State before a potential conference championship game. If the Dawgs run the table, they will be very tough to keep out of the semifinals. That said, running the table won’t be easy, and first things first- a Cal squad that hasn’t lost at home.
The Buffs get their first-ever CFP ranking, checking in at No. 15. Of course, the CFP rankings only date back to 2014, but it is a sign of how far the Buffs have come under Mike MacIntyre in 2016. After winning just two conference games in Mac’s first three years at the helm, the Buffs control their own destiny to the Pac-12 Football Championship Game heading into the final month of the regular season. And, with struggling UCLA and Arizona next on the ledger, the Buffs have a very good shot of entering a showdown with Wazzu at 8-2 and likely closer to the top 10. Beat the Cougs to get to 9-2, and that Nov. 26 game against Utah will likely be for all the marbles. Get to 10-2 and book a ticket to Santa Clara? The Buffs will likely have just a one-digit ranking.
The Utes did not get penalized for its close loss to Washington, actually moving up a spot in the AP poll to No. 16 and getting that same ranking in the first CFP Top 25 of 2016. If it wasn’t for a goal-line stand by Cal’s defense, the Utes would still be very much alive in the College Football Playoff race. As it stands, no two-loss team has made the College Football Playoff yet, but crazy things can happen (after all, it’s college football). Arizona State and Oregon likely won’t be resume-boosters, so the Utes gotta hope Colorado wins out until the regular-season finale to give a Utes-over-Buffs result more weight to the SLC crew. It’s a shortened bye week for the Utes, with a Thursday-nighter next week in Tempe.
Raise your hand if you had the Cougs sneaking into the initial CFP rankings after two three-point losses to Eastern Washington and Boise State to start the season… How ‘bout the in-season turnaround for Washington State, huh? The Cougs are riding a six-game winning streak after edging out Oregon State in Corvallis to secure its second-straight season of bowl eligibility. With Arizona and a winless-in-true-road-contests Cal up the next two Saturdays, 8-2 is very likely heading into a game in Boulder against what could very likely be an 8-2 Buffs squad pushing the top 10. If the Cougs win two out of the next three, they guarantee themselves a chance to win the Pac-12 North heading into the Apple Cup.