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College Football Playoff Watch: Michigan poised to move up

Last week, the first edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were released, and Michigan checked in at No. 5. This week, the Wolverines should move up at least one spot following LSU’s loss to Alabama, but we will find out for sure when the updated rankings are released Tuesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

Before the rankings are released, here’s a look at the cases for and against eight teams in playoff contention, ordered by their likelihood of appearing in the top four this week. (We’re using this week’s AP poll for rankings of opponents.)

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 57

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 44

Last Week: Won 29-0 at No. 9 LSU

This Week: vs. No. 18 Mississippi State

Best Wins: at No. 9 LSU

Losses: None

Case For: Alabama completely shut down LSU on the road to clinch first place in the SEC West. No team has been able to even compete with the Crimson Tide yet this season, and there may not be a team that can.

Case Against: None.

Consensus: This one is easy, Alabama will remain No. 1 when the rankings are released.

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 88

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 50

Last Week: Won 77-16 vs. Louisville

This Week: at No. 17 Boston College

Best Wins: vs. No. 13 Syracuse, vs. No. 22 NC State

Losses: None

Case For: Clemson bombed Louisville over the weekend in impressive fashion. After starting out at No. 2 last week, it surely will be there again.

Case Against: At this point there’s not much of a case against Clemson. The schedule isn’t very tough going forward, which could doom the Tigers if they lose, but for now there’s nothing to worry about.

Consensus: The Tigers will stay at No. 2.

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 53

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 46

Last Week: Won 31-21 at Northwestern

This Week: vs. Florida State

Best Wins: vs. No. 4 Michigan

Losses: None

Case For: Ever since changing quarterbacks, Notre Dame has looked impressive. Its win over Michigan is arguably the best in college football and ensures the Irish land in the top four.

Case Against: The wins we all thought were good at the time, like Stanford and at Virginia Tech, all of a sudden don’t look all that great anymore. Both teams fell out of the rankings and leave Notre Dame with only the one ranked win. The committee placed LSU ahead of Notre Dame last week, largely due to strength of schedule, but after LSU’s loss, I don’t see any teams with losses jumping the Fighting Irish.

Consensus: Notre Dame should be ranked No. 3.

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 23

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 18

Last Week: Won 42-7 vs. No. 21 Penn State

This Week: at Rutgers

Best Wins: vs. Wisconsin, at No. 24 Michigan State, vs. No. 21 Penn State

Losses: at No. 3 Notre Dame

Case For: Michigan is one of the hottest teams in the country, demolishing three quality opponents in a row. With Rutgers and Indiana on deck, everything sets up for a winner take all game against Ohio State at the end of the year.

Case Against: Alabama steamrolling LSU helps Michigan’s playoff chances immensely. Now, U-M fans should root for a Georgia and/or Oklahoma loss to lock in the Big Ten champion to the playoff. Like the other three teams ahead of Michigan, there’s not much of a case against and the team controls its own destiny.

Consensus: Michigan should be No. 4 this week.

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 50

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 24

Last Week: Won 34-17 at No. 12 Kentucky

This Week: vs. Auburn

Best Wins: vs. No. 19 Florida, at No. 12 Kentucky

Losses: at No. 9 LSU

Case For: The Bulldogs pushed around Kentucky to win the SEC East and now control their destiny to the playoff. The remaining schedule is easy, but a showdown with Alabama in the conference title game looms.

Case Against: The loss to LSU, while still not bad, looks a little less great. Georgia must beat Alabama to jump into the playoff.

Consensus: Expect to see Georgia at No. 5.

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 75

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 28

Last Week: Won 51-46 at Texas Tech

This Week: vs. Oklahoma State

Best Wins: at No. 23 Iowa State

Losses: vs. No. 15 Texas

Case For: The Sooners have an elite offense, but haven’t heard of defense. They lead the Big 12 though, which puts them here.

Case Against: Oklahoma has only one win against ranked opponents, struggled mightily with a Texas Tech team that was without its quarterback for the entire second half and continues to struggle in the strength of schedule department (at least in the S&P+, not sure why the Sagarin ratings like the Big 12 so much). With the chance to earn only one more win against a ranked team, it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see other teams jump the Sooners as the season goes on. It feels like they are ranked this high simply because of their name, and not because of their resume.

Consensus: Oklahoma will likely move up to No. 6 in the rankings. I would not put them there, but I believe that is what the committee will do.

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 1

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 1

Last Week: Lost 29-0 vs. No. 1 Alabama

This Week: at Arkansas

Best Wins: vs. No. 5 Georgia, vs. No. 18 Mississippi State, at Auburn

Losses: at No. 19 Florida, vs. No. 1 Alabama

Case For: LSU has the nation’s best strength of schedule, and given the edge SEC teams get in the rankings, the Tigers will be the country’s top ranked two-loss team. They have better wins than Washington State, West Virginia and Ohio State.

Case Against: LSU blew a huge chance against Alabama over the weekend, getting completely shut down. The loss ends LSU’s playoff chances, but winning out will be the team in a New Year’s Six Bowl.

Consensus: LSU will still be in the top 10, and based on its resume, I’d place the Tigers at No. 7.

Strength of Schedule (via S&P+): 80

Strength of Schedule (via Sagarin ratings): 58

Last Week: Won 19-13 vs Cal

This Week: at Colorado

Best Wins: vs. Utah, vs. Oregon

Losses: at USC

Case For: The committee gave Washington State a favorable placement last week at No. 8. There’s a chance it moves to No. 7, but the strength of schedule and ranked win aren’t there.

Case Against: Washington State’s strength of schedule is very poor and it’d take a miracle for the Cougars to make the playoff, but there’s still a chance. They need Oregon and Stanford to get back into the rankings to help their resume.

Consensus: West Virginia and Ohio State are breathing down its neck, but Ohio State just flat out doesn’t look good and West Virginia would have to jump up all the way from No. 13 just from beating Texas. Safe at No. 8 for now.

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