The College Football Playoff committee will announce its first rankings of the season on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). How do Mel Kiper and Todd McShay see their top four after Week 9?
Kiper's top four for the playoff:
The Crimson Tide are the clear best team in college football. Their 33.3-point margin of victory per game is tops in FBS, they rank No. 2 in yards allowed per play (3.9), and they rank No. 3 in offensive points per game (42.1). This is a balanced juggernaut of a team with NFL talent all over the field. LSU at home next weekend will be fun to watch, but I don't think the Tigers have the offense to keep up. Then there's the final regular-season game at Auburn. Again, I think Alabama is too good. The SEC title game is setting up to be a play-in game for the College Football Playoff with two undefeated teams in Alabama and Georgia.
Let's see where the Bulldogs stand in the stats I used for Alabama. Georgia's margin of victory per game (26.3) ranks No. 6, it is No. 3 in yards allowed per play (4.1), and it is 16th in offensive points per game (37.3). So the Bulldogs stack up well on paper. And that win at Notre Dame early in the season might be the best win in all of college football so far. Georgia has a super-talented team, too -- I've already picked its linebackers as the best in college football -- but Alabama has an edge at quarterback. Freshman Jake Fromm has limited his mistakes, but he's still green. The Bulldogs have an easier road to the SEC title game than the Crimson Tide, but the game at Auburn in two weeks will be tough.
3. Notre Dame
McShay and I discussed Notre Dame last week, so you know where I stand. And the Fighting Irish crushed a really good NC State team on Saturday. Still, it won't be easy with games at Miami and Stanford to close out the season. If Notre Dame wins out, it deserves to be in the playoff.
4. Ohio State
This is where the controversy starts. Yes, Ohio State lost to Oklahoma. At home. But the Sooners' lone loss was as a 30-point home favorite to Iowa State. Ohio State's loss is much better than Oklahoma's, and I think the playoff committee will take that into account. Plus, this is a ranking for right now, and I think the Buckeyes -- and particularly quarterback J.T. Barrett -- are much better than they were in September. Let's see if the Sooners still have one loss after a trip to Stillwater this weekend.
As for the other teams that have a case for No. 4, I'm not buying 8-0 Wisconsin. In fact, on the radio I called them the most overrated team in college football with that ridiculously easy schedule. Clemson has a loss at Syracuse and hasn't played well on offense. The Big 12 could clear up over the next two weeks. And talk to me about Miami when it plays Virginia Tech and Notre Dame the next two weeks.
McShay's top four teams:
This team continues to handle its business, seemingly year in and year out. It is the best team in college football right now and the clear favorite to make the College Football Playoff.
The Bulldogs are loaded on defense, and the front seven swarms. This is more of a physical offensive line than I can remember seeing in years at Georgia, and Kirby Smart has this program well ahead of schedule. If Georgia is undefeated heading into the SEC championship game and loses a tight game (presumably to Alabama), I wouldn't have an issue with them still getting in the playoff.
This team is too talented and well-coached to not bounce back from a tough loss a few weeks back against Syracuse. The Tigers have a huge game coming up this weekend against an NC State team that lost a physical game against Notre Dame over the weekend. Collapses by FSU and Louisville don't help Clemson's schedule argument, but Boston College is better than people thought, and at Virginia Tech, at NC State, South Carolina and the ACC title game would all be strong wins. If this team goes 12-1, I think it should be in.
4. Notre Dame
As I talked about last week, there is a complete culture change under Brian Kelly from last season. It's neat to see successful leadership at work. Brandon Wimbush continues to improve as a passer and Josh Adams has impressed me lately at running back. Confidence is growing for this team, as it took care of business at home against NC State on Saturday.
Prospect on the rise
Kiper: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Nelson was ranked No. 11 in my updated Big Board, but he's going to jump a couple more spots. He dominated NC State. He's a rare talent. Guards rarely go in the top 10 of the draft, but the 6-foot-5, 330-pound Nelson has a chance to do it. As of now, he's going to have one of the best grades for a guard that I've given out in my 35 years of doing this. He has tremendous agility and quickness, can pull on the move and is incredibly physical. Nelson is like a brick wall. And with 31 career starts, Nelson has experience. He's just an outstanding football player.
McShay: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, OLB, Oklahoma
A natural pass-rusher, Okoronkwo now has 13.0 TFL and 7.0 sacks on the season. He has really matured, and Mike Stoops told me he can't remember a player doing a bigger 180. Okoronkwo can continue to improve with his power, but he has a nice array of pass-rushing moves and plays with really good effort. He looks like a Day 3 pick who could outperform his draft slot.
Kiper: P.J. Hall, DL, Sam Houston State
Hall has had an incredible career. He just makes so many plays. We talk often about living in the backfield -- Hall was credited with 67.5 tackles for loss from 2014 to 2016, and he already has 11 this season. That's 78.5 tackles for loss in his career, which is crazy. Even more crazy: He has blocked 12 kicks in his career. The special-teams ability is a bonus. Hall takes on double-teams and is still able to be disruptive. He's a powerful defender. At 6-1, 270 pounds, Hall might be an end in a 3-4 defense at the next level. He's likely a Day 3 pick with upside and versatility, but his stock could rise if he gets an invite to the Senior Bowl and plays well.
McShay: Jake Wieneke, TE, South Dakota State
I know I had a San Diego State pass-catcher last week, but Wieneke caught eight passes for 97 yards and three TDs in a 52-24 win over Western Illinois. He has 11 TDs in eight games this year and 54 for his career.