USA TODAY Drama and intrigue took a one-week break in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, which featured little variation inside the top 20 and no change at all to the top seven. Maybe there was a little controversy. After losing to No. 17 Iowa, Minnesota fell two spots to No. 10, behind No. 8 Penn State and No. 9 Oklahoma.
There’s reason to ask why the Golden Gophers are behind Penn State despite owning the head-to-head tiebreaker. In the Big Ten, at least, all should be resolved by Sunday. This weekend pits the Nittany Lions against No. 2 Ohio State, with the winner taking firm control of the East Division and very likely meeting one of Minnesota or Wisconsin — though Illinois has a road to the top of the West, somehow — to decide the conference championship.
Here are the winners and losers from the latest release:
LSU was able to hold onto the top spot despite the tempting option to swap the Tigers and Ohio State. That’s because of LSU’s terrible performance on defense in last weekend’s 58-37 win against Ole Miss, which saw the Tigers continue to excel offensively — 714 yards on 8.9 yards per play — but allow the Rebels to rack up 614 yards, 402 of them on the ground. Maybe it was understandable: LSU was just coming off a ripple-causing win at Alabama, so a letdown might’ve been predicted in advance.
Still, the Tigers have a clear rival for No. 1 in Ohio State.
The Buckeyes have been dominant on a historic level: After ripping past Rutgers, OSU joined Nebraska in 1971 as the only teams in the past century to beat each of its first 10 opponents by 24 or more points. What LSU has is a stronger overall schedule and, in beating the Crimson Tide, a marquee moment. But the Buckeyes might add a moment of their own against the Nittany Lions.
And why does it matter who gets the No. 1 seed? Well, it’s good for recruiting. It’s a nice achievement for the program. Most of all, however, is this: No. 2 faces No. 3 in the national semifinals and no one should want to face Clemson anywhere but in the championship game.
Memphis: The committee rightfully promoted No. 18 Memphis past No. 19 Cincinnati and into the front seat in the Group of Five chase for a New Year’s Six bowl. While only a temporary recognition — the two teams are scheduled to meet in December to decide the American, with the winner the odds-on pick to gain the access-bowl bid — the shuffle fairly represents the Bearcats’ recent struggles and the Tigers’ impressive play since an earlier loss to Temple.
Cincinnati has struggled in its past two road games, with an easy win against Connecticut coming between a shootout win against East Carolina and Saturday’s escape against South Florida. Meanwhile, Memphis has scored at least 40 points in its last four games and touts strong wins against Navy, Tulane and SMU.
As it turns out, Saturday’s comeback win at No. 14 Baylor did little to move the needle for Jalen Hurts and the Sooners. Part of the reason is the logjam of one-loss Power Five teams angling for position behind the top three. Another reason is the perception that Oklahoma is unbalanced toward its offense, even if the defense has made enormous strides since last season and effectively put the clamps on Baylor’s offense for the final two-plus quarters on Saturday night.
But to say the committee doesn’t respect the Big 12 would be inaccurate. There are four Big 12 teams in this week’s rankings, with the Sooners and Bears joined by No. 21 Oklahoma State and No. 22 Iowa State. Baylor only fell one spot from last week’s rankings, meaning Saturday’s loss seemed to validate the Bears’ postseason standing in the eyes of the committee. It may just be as simple as the committee not feeling overly positive about Oklahoma.
Admittedly, Minnesota’s slate of wins didn’t look great until that victory at home against Penn State. On the other hand, the Nittany Lions own wins against Iowa, No. 13 Michigan and Indiana. Nonetheless, head-to-head tiebreakers are supposed to mean something, especially when comparing teams from within the same conference with identical records. The Golden Gophers have a gripe over being two spots behind Penn State.AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext Slide