Is Notre Dame still in the playoff forecast?

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Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (6) has played his way into the thick of the Heisman race. (AP/Tony Gutierrez)

One thing we all should’ve learned from Ohio State’s 2014 rise in the College Football Playoff rankings — from 16th in the opening version, to fourth in the one that really mattered — is that the selection committee has, overall, a very open mind.

That’s why I can’t wait to see how far one-loss Oklahoma skyrockets following its 44-34 victory at Baylor. The Sooners were 12th last week, which some believed was undeservedly high in light of their loss to an awful Texas team. Now, it won’t surprise me at all if they jump ahead of Notre Dame, knocking the Irish out of the top four.

Iowa — 10-0 — undoubtedly would raise its hand in protest at being leapfrogged by another one-loss team. But the committee seems to be less about perfect records than it is about opinions, “eye tests” and all that. That’s why one-loss Alabama, which has played incredibly strong football the last two games, has a chance to knock unbeaten Clemson out of the No. 1 spot this week.

Just remember, Florida State was 13-0 and the defending national champion as it entered the 2014 playoff. Yet the Seminoles were the No. 3 team in the rankings, behind one-loss Alabama and one-loss Oregon. The committee wasn’t afraid to view things through a broad lens. That’s a good thing.


Here’s my best guess at how the committee will call it when the new rankings come out on Tuesday:

1. Alabama: There’s no question this team has played the best football in the country since losing to Ole Miss in Week 3. The last two outings, against LSU and Mississippi State, were very compelling. But the committee loves it some Clemson, so it could go either way.

2. Clemson: Truth is, the Tigers could win out, sit at 13-0 after the ACC title game and still be third or even fourth in the rankings. See: 2014 ACC champ FSU.

3. Ohio State: Lost in the criticism of the unbeaten Buckeyes this season is that their defense is pretty spectacular right now. No. 3 seems like a lock this week. No. 1 could happen eventually even if Alabama and Clemson keep winning.

4. Notre Dame: But here’s the sad part — if Oklahoma or Oklahoma State wins out, the Irish are getting passed for certain. Stanford loss Saturday didn’t help.


My top five if I were voting today:

1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama: Back-to-back 200-yard games against LSU and Mississippi State fired his candidacy into the stratosphere. No player in America is more intimidating than this 240-pounder with sprinter’s speed.

2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Two straight 100-yard rushing games have added a layer of greatness to a season of terrific throws and rock-steady leadership.

3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: Here he comes, moving up the charts. Elliott is heating up, and it has never been clearer that he’s the Buckeyes’ MVP.

4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: His competitiveness and toughness were off the charts in the win at Baylor. And how about 31 touchdown passes and only five interceptions on the season? Mayfield has a sneaky shot to win the award.

5. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor: Who knew it was possible for this guy to be shut out of the end zone? Coleman is stuck on 20 receiving TDs — still an absolutely sick number.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg


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