Michigan jumps to no. 2 in JV's Week 14 Top 25 NCAAF rankings
Hot off their 56-7 thrashing of the Michigan State Spartans, the Ohio State Buckeyes left Ann Arbor stunned a week later.
For the first time since 2011, the Michigan Wolverines, led by Jim Harbaugh, defeated Ohio State 42-27, in one of the most storied rivalries in sports. Ohio State was weighing in at no. 2 after last week's College Football Playoff rankings' release, but it now appears the Buckeyes will miss the playoff for the first time since 2018. The Buckeyes will be watching this weekend's Big Ten championship from home, while the Wolverines compete in their first ever Big Ten title game, vs. Iowa in Indianapolis Saturday night.
We now have yet another top four shake-up in my weekly rankings. Michigan (11-1) moves to no. 2, the highest that I have ranked a 1-loss team all season. As my past rankings have shown, I put a premium on results, and winning. Games and outcomes should matter. I don't do power rankings; I do resume rankings. I don't rank based on what could happen, but rather, what has happened.
Prior to Saturday, Cincinnati was my no. 2 team. Following Michigan's big win in the big house, I've dropped the Bearcats to no. 3. The SEC and the Big Ten are clearly the two best conferences this year. The SEC will be sending all of its teams but Vanderbilt to bowl games, while the Big Ten has the best record (8-4) among power five conferences, in interconference play vs. the other power five conference teams. Winning the Big Ten and the SEC should be valued at a premium, and it appears Michigan and Georgia will do just that. If each team wins this weekend, they should be the top two seeds in the College Football Playoff. Georgia would be doing so at a perfect 13-0 clip, worthy of the tournament's top seed. Michigan, with one-loss, would be no. 2. I'd expect the committee to think the same.
At this point, I think Michigan's resume has surpassed Cincinnati's. While I've been a defender of the Bearcats and their right to play in the CFP, a one-loss Big Ten team with the 26th-toughest strength of schedule (according to ESPN's Football Power Index) and a win vs. THE Ohio State is a more compelling resume than an unbeaten AAC team with the 96th-toughest strength of schedule and a win at Notre Dame. We shouldn't take anything away from what Cincinnati has accomplished this year. An 11-point victory in South Bend over a top-6 Notre Dame team is one of the most impressive wins any team has had all season. The Bearcats are my no. 3 team, and if they beat Houston this week (which they should), they'll be the first group of five team to make the College Football Playoff. If they win and DON'T make the Playoff, well, the roars for CFP expansion will get even louder.
All eyes will be on the Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday afternoon. Alabama is a 6.5 point underdog vs. Georgia, the first time Coach Saban's team has been an underdog since 2015 — when they played (you guessed it) Georgia, and won. Alabama has been a top-four team ever since the committee started releasing its rankings four weeks ago, but realistically, this seems to be an Alabama team that has built its credibility based primarily on reputation and potential. The Crimson Tide have shown clear cracks, beating Florida, LSU, Arkansas and most recently, Auburn, by just one score. They could have very lost each of those games. Add on Alabama's loss at Texas A&M, and you find yourself asking the question, "What exactly has Alabama really done this year?" Three of its wins have come from the lowly trio of Southern Mississippi, Mercer and New Mexico State. They did beat top-10 Ole Miss (at home) and they handled Mississippi State and Tennessee pretty easily. We know what Alabama is capable of. Last year's team was one of the most dominant in college football history. This weekend vs. Georgia is put-up or shut-up time for the Crimson Tide. Either two SEC teams will go to the College Football Playoff, or Alabama will miss the playoff for the second time in three years.
Don't sleep on Oklahoma State. If Georgia beats Alabama, there will be room for two teams that aren't Georgia and Michigan, the CFP's biggest locks. Undefeated Cincinnati should get in. That leaves room for one more team. If Oklahoma State beats Baylor for the second time this season, on Saturday — after capturing its first victory over Oklahoma since 2014 last weekend — the Cowboys should be team no. 4. They'll be a one-loss champion from the nation's third-best conference this year, with a win over Oklahoma (no. 14 in my rankings this week) and two wins over Baylor (no. 9). In this hypothetical scenario where Georgia, Michigan, Cincinnati and Oklahoma State all win this weekend, the Pac-12 and ACC's champs are out of the running, if they weren't already. Either Wake Forest or Pittsburgh will be a two-loss ACC champion. Utah (9-3) is tasked with the challenge of beating Oregon (10-2) for the second time in three weeks. Barring a truly chaotic weekend where Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Cincinnati all lose, the Pac-12, ACC and all power-five non-conference champions are effectively dead. Neither will a one-loss group of five team (a la Houston, San Diego State, Louisiana or UTSA) make the playoff. The only other realistic playoff contender is Notre Dame.
Notre Dame will receive serious consideration if Alabama AND one of either Oklahoma State or Michigan lose. In this scenario, the Irish should be in as the highest-profile and best-resume one-loss team remaining. Their one loss came vs. Cincinnati, who in this case would be an established playoff team. If Cincinnati were to lose, the Bearcats should receive priority above the Fighting Irish based on head-to-head record. Placing the Irish in over the Bearcats would be a sham.
Wouldn't it be wild if Notre Dame makes the CFP without Brian Kelly coaching? Brian Kelly has agreed to be the next LSU head coach. Among the list of rumored replacements for Kelly at Notre Dame is Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell. What if Fickell agrees to coach the Irish, and Cincinnati make the playoff? What if both teams make the playoff? This sport would be so much more pure if these coaching changes came AFTER the conclusion of the season. At least Billy Napier will coach the Ragin' Cajuns this weekend before relocating to Gainesville.
If Oklahoma State loses, there probably won't be a Big 12 team in the Playoff. In a nightmare situation (for the committee) where Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati and Oklahoma State all lose, the Playoff will be a sloppy mess. Would the committee reward the two-loss conference champion Iowa Hawkeyes, Baylor Bears or Oregon Ducks? Or would the committee favor a two-loss Alabama or Ohio State team? I really hope we don't have to find out. It's much cleaner and simpler if each of this week's favorites win.
After San Diego State's come-from-behind victory over Boise State on Friday, the Aztecs are now my no. 12 team in the nation, my highest-ranked group of five team not-named "Cincinnati". The Aztecs have emerged from a highly competitive (and entertaining) Mountain West Conference 11-1, with non-conference victories over Utah and Arizona. Their strength of schedule ranks better than the three other one-loss group of five teams (Houston, Louisiana and UTSA). UTSA looked awful vs. North Texas this past weekend, but I still believe the Roadrunners are one of the nation's 25 best teams. I guess we'll see what they're made of against Western Kentucky in the Conference USA championship Friday night.
With Texas A&M and Wisconsin collecting their fourth losses this past weekend (vs. LSU and Minnesota), I had an easy time dropping them out of my rankings and inserting three-loss Kentucky and Fresno State. The Bulldogs could very easily be 11-1 right now, with victories over three ranked teams (Oregon, UCLA and San Diego State). I hope we get to see them against a power-5 team this bowl season.
Before getting to Jack's Top 25 Rankings for week 14, here's a look at how the Associated Press and the coaches voted this week, courtesy of ESPN:
Jack's Top 25 Rankings for Week 14
#1 Georgia (12-0) — Week 13: W, 45-0 @ Georgia Tech (3-9). Week 14: SEC Championship vs. #4 Alabama (11-1)
#2 Michigan (11-1) — Week 13: W, 42-27 vs. Ohio State (10-2). Week 14: Big Ten Championship vs. #16 Iowa (10-2)
#3 Cincinnati (12-0) — Week 13: W, 35-13 @ East Carolina (7-5). Week 14: AAC Championship vs. #17 Houston (11-1)
#4 Alabama (11-1) — Week 13: W, 24-22 @ Auburn (6-6). Week 14: SEC Championship vs. #1 Georgia (12-0)
#5 Oklahoma State (11-1) — W, 37-33 vs. Oklahoma (10-2). Week 14: Big 12 Championship vs. #9 Baylor
#6 Notre Dame (11-1) — W, 45-14 @ Stanford (3-9). Week 14: None
#7 Oregon (10-2) — W, 38-29 vs. Oregon State (7-5). Week 14: Pac-12 Championship vs. #15 Utah (9-3)
#8 Ohio State (10-2) — Week 13: L, 42-27 @ Michigan (10-2). Week 14: None
#9 Baylor (10-2) — Week 13: W, 27-24 vs. Texas Tech (6-6). Week 14: Big 12 Championship vs. #5 Oklahoma State (11-1)
#10 Ole Miss (10-2) — Week 13: W, 31-21 @ Mississippi State (7-5). Week 14: None
#11 Michigan State (10-2) — Week 13: W, 30-27 vs. Penn State (7-5). Week 14: None
#12 San Diego State (11-1) — Week 13: W, 27-16 vs. Boise State (7-5). Week 14: Mountain West Championship vs. Utah State (9-3)
#13 BYU (10-2) — Week 13: W, 35-31 @ USC (4-7). Week 14: None
#14 Oklahoma (10-2) — Week 13: L, 37-33 @ Oklahoma State (11-1). Week 14: None
#15 Utah (9-3) — Week 13: W, 28-13 vs. Colorado (4-8). Week 14: Pac-12 Championship vs. #7 Oregon (10-2)
#16 Iowa (10-2) — Week 13: W, 28-21 @ Nebraska (3-9). Week 14: Big Ten Championship vs. #2 Michigan (11-1)
#17 Houston (11-1) — Week 13: W, 45-17 @ UConn (1-11). Week 14: AAC Championship vs. #3 Cincinnati (12-0)
#18 Louisiana (11-1) — Week 13: W, 21-16 vs. UL-Monroe (4-8). Week 14: Sunbelt Championship vs. #23 Appalachian State (10-2)
#19 Pittsburgh (10-2) — Week 13: W, 31-14 @ Syracuse (5-7). Week 14: ACC Championship vs. #21 Wake Forest (10-2)
#20 Clemson (9-3) — Week 13: W, 30-0 @ South Carolina (6-6). Week 14: None
#21 Wake Forest (10-2) — Week 13: W, 41-10 @ Boston College (6-6). Week 14: ACC Championship vs. #19 Pittsburgh (10-2)
#22 UTSA (11-1) — Week 13: L, 45-23 @ North Texas (6-6). Week 14: Conference USA Championship vs. Western Kentucky (8-4)
#23 Appalachian State (10-2) — Week 13: W, 27-3 vs. Georgia Southern (3-9). Week 14: Sunbelt Championship vs. #18 Louisiana (11-1)
#24 Fresno State (9-3) — Week 13: W, 40-9 @ San Jose State (5-7). Week 14: None
#25 Kentucky (9-3) — Week 13: W, 52-21 @ Louisville (6-6). Week 14: None
Dropped from last week's rankings: #18 Texas A&M (8-4), #20 Wisconsin (8-4)
Catch this week's football episode of the Jack Vita Show, recapping the 13th week of college football season, previewing championship week, talking Heisman picks and College Football Playoff scenarios with Andrew Stem:
Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Amazon | iHeartRadio | Stitcher | Pandora | TuneIn | Listen Notes | Podtail | Podchaser | Hubhopper | Audio junkie | Himalaya | Podcast Addict | Available wherever podcasts are found.
Follow Jack on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
For more sports and entertainment analysis, follow me on Twitter @JackVitaShow, and subscribe to the Jack Vita Show on iTunes or wherever podcasts are found.
(Image via Patrick Semansky / AP)