With the arrival of Week 10, and the release of the first College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings, the college football landscape is beginning to take shape.
The Associated Press (AP) has had Alabama (8-0) as its top-ranked team all year, but per the CFP’s calculations, the Crimson Tide trails a fellow SEC heavyweight in AP second-ranked Georgia (8-0).
Notre Dame (7-1) and defending national champion Clemson (7-1) are ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, by the AP – but the CFP formula puts the Fighting Irish in third and the Tigers in the fourth and final spot.
Sufficed to say, there’s still much to be decided on the field, beginning with an action-packed Week 10.
Alabama hosts 19th-ranked LSU (6-2), and both teams should be well rested coming off their bye week. The Tigers take a three-game winning streak to Tuscaloosa, but the Tide haven’t lost since last year’s heartbreaker to Clemson in the title game.
Online sportsbook Bovada doesn’t expect that to change anytime soon, as Alabama holds a healthy edge as 21-point home favorites.
After destroying Florida (3-4) in a 42-7 laugher, second-ranked Georgia hosts another SEC rival as South Carolina (6-2) comes to town. The Gamecocks have won three straight, but the last two victories were too close for comfort with a margin of 7 points or less.
That simply won’t cut it against a Bulldogs team that has blown out seven of eight opponents on the year. Georgia is scoring a gaudy 38.1 points per game, while allowing only 11.9 points per (3rd in the nation) on the other side of the ball. With a chance to show the country why they deserve top billing in the CFP, Georgia is favored by 23 points at home.
Third-ranked Ohio State (7-1) is feeling itself after winning one of the most thrilling games of the year. The Buckeyes stormed back from 15 down in the fourth quarter to beat then second-ranked Penn State (7-1), ending the Nittany Lions’ unbeaten season in the process. That win puts Ohio State at sixth in the CFB rankings, but they’ll need to win out and hope for help to secure a spot.
That path to the postseason begins this week at Iowa (5-3), a team that has alternated wins and losses in its last four contests. The Hawkeyes were victorious last Saturday, which puts them on schedule for a loss this time around. Accordingly, Iowa has been installed as 17.5-point home underdogs in this one.
Fourth-ranked Wisconsin (8-0) hasn’t suffered defeat as of yet, but the Badgers are suffering from a relatively weak Big Ten West schedule. Despite their AP ranking, Wisconsin sits at ninth in the CFP hierarchy, and visiting perennial doormat Indiana (3-5) isn’t likely to change things.
The Badgers hold a 14-point advantage as road favorites over the Hoosiers.
For fifth-ranked Notre Dame (7-1), every game remaining represents a chance to secure their current CFP position.
Since losing a 20-19 nail-biter to Georgia in Week 2, the Fighting Irish have demolished every opponent they’ve faced – and that’s not likely to change when Wake Forest (5-3) comes to South Bend. Per the linemakers’ lean, Notre Dame holds a 14.5-point edge as home favorites.
Sixth-ranked Clemson (7-1) faces a similar spot, needing to win out to maintain its hold on the fourth and final CFP placement. That won’t be easy on a trip to North Carolina State (6-2), a team which had reeled off six straight wins before falling to Notre Dame last week.
The line suggests as much, with defending champ Clemson just a 7.5-point road favorite in what should be the Tigers’ toughest remaining test.
Finally, after last week’s agonizing defeat at Ohio State, seventh-ranked Penn State faces another Big Ten powerhouse visiting 24th-ranked Michigan State (6-2). The Spartans had won four in a row before dropping a triple-overtime shootout to Northwestern last Saturday.
Both teams will be looking for redemption, but the Nittany Lions are favored by 9.5 points on the road.