Analyzing Week 11’s AP Top 25 Poll Ahead of the Next College Football Playoff Rankings

    The AP Top 25 poll voters and College Football Playoff selection committee don't see eye to eye on everything, but we might be able to use the latest AP

    November 4, 2018

    The AP Top 25 poll voters and College Football Playoff selection committee don’t see eye to eye on everything, but we might be able to use the latest AP poll to analyze how the next CFP rankings will look after Week 10.

    Here are the biggest takeaways from the AP Top 25 as we look ahead to Tuesday’s playoff rankings.

    Michigan moves up to the No. 4 spot

    It’s expected that the Wolverines will slide up one spot from No. 5 to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings after No. 3 LSU’s loss to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. That’s what happened in the AP poll on Sunday.

    Michigan leads a pack of one-loss teams that also includes Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Washington State and West Virginia. With its only loss coming by a touchdown at Notre Dame in Week 1, Michigan’s loss arguably keeps it ahead of those other schools just as much as its wins (Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State).

    With three regular season games left, plus the conference championship games, the only one-loss school currently ranked below Michigan that has a chance to beat a team ranked higher than the Wolverines is Georgia. That’s a potential win that could allow the Bulldogs to jump the Wolverines in the playoff rankings, even if both schools win out.

    West Virginia leapfrogs Ohio State, Washington State, UCF

    The Mountaineers earned one of the biggest wins of Week 10 with a 42-41 comeback victory at Texas. Meanwhile, Ohio State and Washington State struggled with Nebraska and Cal, respectively.

    The AP voters moved West Virginia up five spots in the rankings to No. 7, ahead of No. 8 Ohio State, No. 10 Washington State and No. 11 UCF. The committee had the Mountaineers at No. 13 in its first rankings of the season, one spot lower than the AP poll last week, so it’ll be interesting to see how high they climb on Tuesday.

    Outside of where Washington State falls in the pecking order of the one-loss teams, the hierarchy of that group beyond which team is ranked No. 4 doesn’t necessarily matter in the big picture until after Michigan-Ohio State, Oklahoma-West Virginia and the conference championship games have played out. Until then, there are too many potential outcomes in upcoming games between top-10 teams to overreact to the rankings in Week 11.

    LSU falls to No. 9

    Eventually, a two-loss team will make the playoff. It didn’t happen in the first four years of the College Football Playoff era but it will some day. We’re not saying LSU will be the first but it’ll be interesting to see how far the Tigers fall after getting shut out at home by No. 1 Alabama.

    Where the committee ranks the Tigers will essentially answer the question “How much does it hurt a good team to get blown out by the No. 1 team that blows out everyone?”

    The latest AP poll ranked LSU ahead of 8-1 Washington State and 8-0 UCF. It would give college football fans some valuable insight into the committee’s thinking if the committee does the same.

    Since the loser of Michigan-Ohio State and Oklahoma-West Virginia is guaranteed to have at least two losses, LSU could still potentially finish the season ranked in the No. 6-No. 8 range in the CFP rankings.

    In short, does the committee think LSU is better than teams that have a better record?

    UCF falls two spots…after a win

    After earning a No. 9 ranking in the AP poll in Week 10, the Knights fell outside of the top 10 this week despite a 52-40 win against Temple. It might hurt for UCF fans, but that’s the unfortunate reality of playing in the AAC and having a fairly soft non-conference schedule.

    Even as one of the four remaining undefeated teams in the country, there’s still a limit to how high UCF can climb in the rankings, barring multiple teams ranked ahead of the Knights losing three games this season.

    There are inherent scheduling difficulties for a successful program from outside of a Power 5 conference because traditional football powers are less likely to agree to a home-and-home series. UCF would likely have to beat one, if not multiple, top-25 opponents as part of its non-conference schedule in order to break through that glass ceiling.

    Think back to when Houston beat then-No. 3 Oklahoma on a neutral field in Week 1 of the 2016 season. The Cougars started 5-0 and later beat then-No. 5 Louisville, but they finished just 9-3 in the regular season. Those three losses prevented Houston from being a serious playoff contender. It might take an undefeated season, including a pair of wins of that caliber, for a team from outside the power structure to make the four-team playoff field.

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