Ohio State heads into its bye week halfway through the season with a perfect 6-0 record and tied for third in the latest Associated Press poll.
It’s so hard to go unbeaten, yet three teams in major college football did so last season, forcing the College Football Playoff Committee to choose among a slew of one-loss teams for one vacant spot in the CFP semifinals. The voters chose Oklahoma, leaving out the Buckeyes.
There is a lot of football to be played and most of the current unbeatens (12 Power 5 programs including nine of the AP’s Top 10) will fall at some point. After all, every team in the latest Top 10 has to play another top-10 team except for Clemson, Oklahoma and Notre Dame — and the Sooners face No. 11 Texas this Saturday.
The CFP committee does not release its first rankings this year until Nov. 5 so we have a few more weeks to sort out which teams might be there at the end — and more important to Buckeyes fans, which teams are a threat to keep OSU locked out of the playoffs again.
So with Buckeyes fans able to take a relaxing Saturday spin around the TV dial this week, let’s look at the competition for those four precious CFP spots.
No. 1 Alabama
Biggest hurdle remaining: vs. No. 5 LSU, Nov. 9
Notable: The Crimson Tide rank in the nation’s top three in total offense, passing offense and scoring offense. That upcoming meeting against LSU, noted for its physicality and defensive prowess over the years, could wind up being a shootout of all things.
No. 2 Clemson
Biggest hurdle remaining: vs. No. 19 Wake Forest, Nov. 16
Notable: The dropoff in the ACC is so steep after Clemson, it’s fair to wonder how motivated the Tigers can remain. But the close call against North Carolina should wake up Dabo Swinney’s bunch just fine. When the Demon Deacons are your toughest challenge, anything other than 13-0 would be a shock.
No. 3 (tied) Georgia
Biggest hurdle remaining: vs. No. 7 Florida in Jacksonville, Nov. 2
Notable: Of all the SEC behemoths who remain unbeaten, the Bulldogs have the easiest path, relatively speaking. The Notre Dame game was the only one that was even close so far. UGA possesses the No. 13 rushing offense in the nation at 250 yards per game.
No. 5. LSU
Biggest hurdle remaining: at No. 1 Alabama, Nov. 9
Notable: If LSU makes the CFP it will have earned it. The Tigers are the only team on this list who have to face two other top-10 SEC teams plus No. 12 Auburn. Former Buckeye Joe Burrow has thrown for five touchdowns in a game three times this year.
No. 6 Oklahoma
Biggest hurdle remaining: vs. No. 11 Texas in Dallas, Saturday
Notable: One gets the feeling that if the Sooners topple the Longhorns on Saturday, nobody in the Big 12 can touch Oklahoma. That can cut two ways, though — Texas might get a rematch in the Big 12 title game and the CFP committee might not forgive a loss this time considering Oklahoma’s schedule.
No. 7. Florida
Biggest hurdle remaining: vs. No. 3 Georgia in Jacksonville, Nov. 2
Notable: The Gators shut down Auburn last week and now they have to turn right back around and go the Death Valley to face LSU. Florida’s defense is legit — No. 5 in scoring, No. 1 in red zone D — but faces its biggest challenge yet on Saturday against Burrow and LSU’s skill players.
No. 8. Wisconsin
Biggest hurdle remaining: at No. 3 Ohio State, Oct. 26
Notable: The Badgers are No. 1 in the nation in several defensive categories, lead in time of possession as well and rank 10th in rushing. In other words, they do Wisconsin things. The Badgers-Buckeyes showdown in a few weeks in Columbus could be a preview of the Big Ten championship game.
No. 9 Notre Dame
Biggest hurdle remaining: at No., 16 Michigan, Oct. 26
Notable: The only one-loss team on this list is out of margin for error in terms of the CFP race. A close loss at Georgia impressed enough AP voters to keep the Fighting Irish in the top 10, but how will the CFP committee view them? If they lose to the Wolverines it won’t matter.
No. 10. Penn State
Biggest hurdle remaining: at No. 3 Ohio State, Nov. 23
Notable: The Nittany Lions have quietly barged their way into the top 10 with the No. 4 total defense in the country (four of the nation’s top 5 reside in the B1G including the No. 3 Buckeyes). This week’s visit to Iowa will be very telling for Penn State’s chances of staying in the CFP race.