Feed aggregator

College Football Playoff 2014: Final Four Predictions After 3rd Top 25 Rankings

Another week, another shakeup in the College Football Playoff rankings with yet another loss for a top team. Auburn fumbled away a golden chance to make the playoff—twice—and subsequently dropped out of the top four.

In the Tigers' place, TCU moved into the playoff picture for the first time this season. Meanwhile, Mississippi State, Florida State and Oregon all remain in the top four with the Ducks moving up two spots and knocking the Seminoles down a peg.  

Several weeks still lie ahead, so there's no telling how the final rankings will look. The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide battle this weekend in a highly critical showdown, and the outcome will have a major impact on the rankings.

Prior to another huge weekend of games, here's a look at the latest College Football Playoff rankings and projections for the final bracket.

 

Analysis

It may not have been billed as a huge matchup prior to the season, but Mississippi State at Alabama already looks like the biggest game of the year.     

Coming into the contest, the Bulldogs are the unanimous No. 1 across all polls and the only undefeated team in the SEC. The Tide roll in after their final road test with a 20-13 win over LSU in overtime, solidifying their place as one of the best in the country.  

Both programs have endured the toughest schedules to this point, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:

Throughout the last several weeks, I've projected that Mississippi State will go in as the No. 4 seed and Bama as No. 2 overall. That's been contingent on this game. Suffice it to say, there's a lot on the line in Tuscaloosa this weekend.

Outside of the SEC, potentially the biggest game is taking place in Coral Gables, Florida. Miami might not come in as a ranked team, but the Hurricanes come in with three straight wins by an average of 24 points.

Florida State enters with an unblemished record but has narrowly escaped games against Notre Dame and Louisville. Miami coach Al Golden still knows taking down the Seminoles will require near perfection, per Christina De Nicola of Fox Sports:

This is obviously a team that's executing at a high level that we're going against that's 25 straight now. That's elite. You've got to execute at a high level, and (it) really doesn't matter whom you grew up with or whom you played high school with. You've got to get the job done, and that's what our guys have to stay focused on this week.

On the West Coast, Oregon has emerged as the class of the Pac-12 after a convincing win over Utah.

The Ducks have taken down some of the top teams this season with one of the best offenses in the country. Scoring the fourth-most points (46 per game) and ranking inside the top 25 in both rushing (22nd) and passing (18th), Oregon has rolled since losing to Arizona.

Kevin McGuire of NBC Sports points out how dominant the Ducks have been against notable defenses:

Marcus Mariota continues to shine under center, combining for 38 total touchdowns and just two interceptions. Even with Pharaoh Brown now out for the season, per Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com, Mariota's legs along with Byron Marshall and Devon Allen can carry the team.

Unlike some quarterbacks who struggle under pressure, Mariota has been one of the best on the road. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports notes how well Mariota has played away from Autzen Stadium:

Meanwhile, other teams like TCU and Arizona State loom with hopes of taking one of the final spots. If the Tide, Ducks or Seminoles drop a game, it would leave an opportunity for either of those two programs to step up.

College GameDay passes along a look at the chances for several one-loss teams to win the rest of the way:

The weeks left of the regular season in college football can be counted on one hand, so a lot can change before the playoff.

Even with one loss, it appears Mississippi State might have built a strong enough resume to make the final cut. Having one of the best measuring sticks this weekend in Tuscaloosa, the Bulldogs might also solidify their spot.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages