Oklahoma, Iowa replace OSU, ND in playoffs top 4

Posted at 4:13 AM, Nov 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-25 04:13:00-05

Oklahoma moved into third and Iowa was fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings as Notre Dame slipped to No. 6 and Ohio State fell to No. 8 on Tuesday night.

Clemson and Alabama remained the top two teams in the third-to-last selection committee rankings. Michigan State is fifth, with Baylor seventh, Stanford ninth and Michigan 10th.

The Sooners (10-1) seem to be in solid shape with only one game to play. Oklahoma is at Oklahoma State on Saturday with a chance to win the Big 12. The Cowboys dropped to 11th after losing for the first time this season.

The committee is not hung up on the Sooners' October loss to Texas.

"They have performed at a high level since then, so they've overcome that loss with their play on the field and the success they've had and the wins they've accumulated, with now six wins over teams with .500 or better records," said committee chairman Jeff Long, the Arkansas athletic director.

Long said the committee took into account that Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield sat out the second half of the Sooners' victory against TCU last Saturday. Oklahoma was in control of the game when Mayfield was playing, Long said.

Notre Dame (10-1) also plays its last game of the season Saturday, a possible resume-builder against Stanford, which is ninth in the rankings.

Unbeaten Iowa (11-0) and No. 5 Michigan State (10-1), which knocked off Ohio State last weekend, can set up a possible playoff play-in game in the Big Ten championship if both win this weekend.

What else you need to know about the latest rankings with two weeks left in the season:

Oklahoma Is Not TCU

Last season TCU was third in the second-to-last playoff rankings and slipped to sixth in the final rankings, behind Ohio State and Baylor.

That has Big 12 fans understandably wondering if the league is setup for another fall from No. 3 even if the Sooners take care of business in Stillwater.

It is not the same situation. Oklahoma is in better position. Here's why:

Last season the committee liked TCU more than Baylor all season, despite the Bears beating the Horned Frogs in October. In the very last rankings, when Baylor's and TCU's schedule were almost identical, the committee finally honored the head-to-head result and placed Baylor ahead of TCU. The Bears and Frogs shared the Big 12 title.

The Sooners won't get tangled in that mess. The Big 12 is now using head-to-head tiebreakers. Oklahoma is set to be the conference's one true champion.

Baylor's very weak nonconference schedule last season also left it susceptible to being slighted by the committee. The Sooners have no such problem, with a win at Tennessee (7-4) to their credit.

If committee members were looking for an alternative to Baylor on championship weekend last year, they found it in Ohio State. The Buckeyes' 59-0 victory against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game with a backup quarterback was maybe the most impressive performance of the season by any team.

Notre Dame would be in the role of Ohio State this season, but it's not quite the same. First off, the Irish don't have the extra game to make a last and lasting impression with the committee on championship weekend.

Also, Stanford and Oklahoma State are similar opponents.

Last season TCU finished with a weak Iowa State team. Baylor faced a good Kansas State team at home, posted a solid win, but still was being dragged down by its nonconference schedule.

Unless the Irish can do to the Cardinal what the Buckeyes did to the Badgers, it would be hard for the committee to explain reversing course on the Sooners at this point.

Big Ten vs. Notre Dame

When Ohio State was unbeaten, it looked as if the final spot would come down to Notre Dame or the Big 12 champion.

Now it looks as if the Irish's path to the playoff goes through the Big Ten. They could be blocked without an upset or two over the next couple weeks.

Michigan State plays Penn State on Saturday and Iowa is at Nebraska on Friday. If both win, that sets up a Big Ten championship game with unbeaten Iowa against Michigan State at 11-1. Again, unless Notre Dame posts a monstrous blowout of Stanford, jumping the Big Ten champ looks very difficult.

The Irish might be able to get some help from their rivals. USC plays UCLA on Saturday for the Pac-12 South. Also, Navy will play for the American Athletic Conference championship if it beats Houston on Friday. Victories for the Trojans and Midshipmen would enhance two of Notre Dame's best wins.

Still Lurking

Stanford and Baylor looked done a couple of weeks ago when they both lost on the same Saturday night.

A couple weeks later both are lurking and the two could combine to make a fascinating decision for the committee.

An Oklahoma loss and a Notre Dame loss could leave Baylor (9-1) and Stanford (9-2) vying for the last playoff spot as conference champions. This might not bode well for the Big 12, again. Stanford's schedule strength would trump Baylor's and could give the committee ample reason to look past the number in the loss column — which it has shown it is more than willing to do.