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Five Thoughts on the Nov. 10 College Football Playoff Rankings

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Since the selection committee last met, five undefeated teams took their first loss of the season. In theory, this should give greater clarity to the weekly proceedings, but the week-to-week horse race is never short on surprises.

This week, the new top four of Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame separated themselves from the competition in the eyes of the committee. That’s not too far off popular sentiment.

But the committee also jumped Iowa into its top eight, seemingly giving the Hawkeyes a shot at the playoff if they can win out. The committee also continued to punt on making any strong statements about the Big 12.

Oklahoma State jumped from No. 14 to No. 8, a sizable move in a vacuum, but this is also an undefeated Power 5 team that just beat the No. 8 team by 20 points.

1. Iowa’s not in as much trouble as we thought

The Hawkeyes moved up from No. 9 to No. 5 and one spot out of the Playoff scenario. The snarky response is that Iowa’s 35-27 win over Indiana must have been impressive for the committee. Perhaps. More than likely, the committee reevaluated wins over No. 18 Northwestern and No. 25 Wisconsin, both on the road. Committee chair Jeff Long stated that Iowa had a better strength of schedule to date than Baylor, Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Houston. A week after Long mentioned Baylor’s “explosive” offense as part of the reason the Bears were ranked sixth last week despite a weaker schedule, Long said Iowa is “not flashy (but) they’ve been solid on both sides of the ball.”

2. The Big 12’s backloaded schedule gamble is indeed a gamble

Long called Oklahoma State’s 49-29 win over TCU to be the "first piece of real strength" the committee had seen out of the undefeated Cowboys. Long also has stressed for two weeks in a row the difficulty of evaluating a Baylor team that hasn’t faced a team with a winning record. Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma all will face each other in the final month of the season. And it may not help that the league is top heavy — Texas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Kansas State and Kansas are a combined 11-24 in the league, and only one of those wins (Texas over OU) is over the top four teams in the conference. Long also let slip that Ohio State is ranked in the top three in part on the eye test. The Buckeyes haven’t played a significantly tougher schedule than Baylor, TCU or Oklahoma State, yet they’re securely in the top four.

3. Notre Dame-Stanford is setting up to be a CFP elimination game

Other than Iowa, the two biggest beneficiaries from two top 10 teams losing last week were Notre Dame and Stanford. Notre Dame moved into the top four — and Long said the top four was clearly better than teams ranked fifth through eighth. Stanford moved from No. 11 to No. 7 with a 42–10 win over a bad Colorado team. The Cardinal face Oregon and Cal at home, so Stanford’s schedule before a Nov. 28 matchup with Notre Dame (which faces Wake Forest and Boston College). If both teams win their next two games before that meeting in Palo Alto, that could be a play-in game for Notre Dame and erase any doubt that a one-loss Pac-12 champion Stanford gets into the Playoff.

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4. Speaking of Stanford...

This week’s top 25 confirmed what we kind of suspected: Stanford is getting a bit of a pass for its 16-6 loss at Northwestern in Week 1. Long noted that Stanford played that game at 9 a.m. Pacific time with an 11 a.m. kickoff in Evanston. The toll on Stanford’s body clocks was “significant,” Long said, though individual committee members weighed it differently. It probably doesn’t hurt Stanford’s case that the Cardinal have been dominant for most of their ensuing eight-game winning streak.

5. Navy’s win over Memphis must have been mighty impressive

Four Group of Five teams were ranked last week, but the highest-ranked a week later was one that wasn’t in the top 25. Navy debuted at No. 20, ahead of No. 21 Memphis, No. 22 Temple and No. 24 Houston. The Cougars, curiously, are the only undefeated team of the bunch. Navy defeated the former No. 13 team, Memphis, 45-20.

CFP Bowl Projections

National Semifinals

Orange: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Notre Dame

Cotton: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Ohio State

CFP Host Bowls

Rose: Iowa vs. Stanford

Sugar: Baylor vs. LSU

Fiesta: Oklahoma State vs. Utah

Peach: Navy vs. Florida