Football

Here comes The Eliminator, and there go the Irish

The last time we gathered here a mere two weeks ago, 17 teams remained in contention for the College Football Playoff.

And well, that was before the emergence of the Turnover Chain as a societal touchstone, before Bedlam produced 114 points, before Alabama nearly lost to another college football team and before Ohio State was blown out by Iowa, which one week later gained 66 yards. (Yes, in four quarters.)

So much has happened.

Also, the College Football Playoff selection committee released two sets of rankings, inserting a dose of reality into this season.

The Eliminator operates under the expectation that a lot will happen every week — but not that everything will happen every week. Yes, we know that The Citadel, technically, could beat Clemson. Same with Louisiana-Monroe over Auburn. But no need exists to parse every playoff scenario.

That considered, we believe this much to be true with three more playoff rankings due out ahead of the Dec. 3 unveiling of the semifinal pairings:

• The Pac-12 is essentially done, including USC, which stands little chance to atone for a 35-point loss to Notre Dame in Week 8. The Irish, by the way, on Saturday night at Miami did not help the Trojans’ bid to rise from the ranks of the eliminated.

• The Group of 5 isn’t getting into the playoff this year. Or likely any year, unless one of its teams conquers a stacked out-of-conference schedule en route to a perfect record.

• Only Alabama stands a chance to make the playoff as a team that fails to qualify for its own conference title game, a la Ohio State in 2016. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Buckeyes a 99.7 percent chance to win the Big Ten East, so say goodbye to Penn State — and Michigan, which was discarded by the Eliminator after a Week 8 loss in Happy Valley.

Here are the final 10:

Still in contention

Alabama Crimson Tide
Trending: EVEN
Nick Saban’s team is dealing with injuries, and Mississippi State tested the Tide like no other foe has this year, as Alabama failed to force a turnover for the first time in 37 games. Suddenly, Alabama looks vulnerable, heading toward an Iron Bowl visit to Auburn in two weeks. Isn’t this right where the coach wants his team?

Miami Hurricanes
Trending: UP
Quit doubting the Hurricanes. Long gone are the concerns over close wins in four consecutive ACC games. Miami has now inspired a phenomenon by forcing four turnovers in four straight games. It punctuated the resurgence with a dominant showing in a 41-8 win over Notre Dame that cemented one team as a contender and exposed another as something else.

Oklahoma Sooners
Trending: UP
The Sooners have gained more than 500 yards in all but one game — a win at Ohio State in which they went for 490. Baker Mayfield‘s lead in the Heisman race is huge, and OU has all but secured its spot in the Big 12 title game. It sets up nicely for the Sooners’ return to the playoff. And as we know, things always go as planned in this league. Right?

Clemson Tigers
Trending: UP
The Tigers never lost control of their destiny after a Week 7 loss to Syracuse, but losses Saturday by two teams ranked ahead of Clemson bode well for the ACC Atlantic champ. It must take care of the in-state competition before a matchup with Miami that looks like a standout even on a championship weekend full of meaningful games.

Wisconsin Badgers
Trending: UP
The Badgers’ defense is in cruise control despite key injuries, holding Iowa to the third-lowest yardage total gained by an AP-ranked team in the past 20 years. Suddenly, Wisconsin, after hearing questions about its worthiness as a playoff contender, controls its fate with Michigan headed to Madison, followed by a likely date with Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

Auburn Tigers
Trending: UP
The top two-loss contender, the Tigers may just control their own fate, which would rate as new territory in the playoff era. With Alabama looming, Auburn can earn a rematch with Georgia in the SEC title game with a win over the Tide. As Kerryon Johnson comes on strong, the Tigers look set to jump at least three spots this week in the rankings.

Georgia Bulldogs
Trending: DOWN
It’s not all bad for the Bulldogs. It’s not good, either, after Auburn ran all over the nation’s No. 1-ranked team. The margin for error is gone for Georgia, which gained just 230 yards in defeat and finally suffered consequences generally associated with reliance on a freshman QB, as Jake Fromm was sacked four times.

Ohio State Buckeyes
Trending: UP
Much to the dismay of Penn State and countless others, the Buckeyes are still breathing. Left for dead a week ago after a 31-point loss at Iowa, Ohio State remains a big favorite to face Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. The Buckeyes would need help as a two-loss league champ, but perhaps not as much as you think.

Oklahoma State Cowboys
Trending: EVEN
Like record-setting quarterback Mason Rudolph, who toils in the ever-present shadow of Mayfield, the Cowboys cannot be forgotten after a harrowing win at Iowa State. Oklahoma State must root for Texas Tech this week to beat TCU, opening the path to a Bedlam rematch in the Big 12 title game. But even with a win over Oklahoma, the Pokes would remain a long shot.

TCU Horned Frogs
Trending: DOWN
If Oklahoma State has hope, so does TCU. The Horned Frogs beat the Cowboys on the road in Week 4. Yes, TCU was outmatched against Oklahoma, but that can be corrected on Dec. 2 if the Frogs handle business against Texas Tech and Baylor. And what sweet justice it would provide for this program if it can slip in the door as a two-loss Big 12 champion.

Better luck next season

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The 41-8 loss on Saturday night at Miami, plagued by inefficiency at quarterback, is just too much to overcome for the Fighting Irish. It closes with a pair of solid opponents in Navy and Stanford, but the lack of a conference title game as other potential two-loss teams boost their résumés will prevent Notre Dame from gaining a final, necessary boost.

Penn State Nittany Lions
Life is not fair for PSU, which couldn’t muster enough support last year as a two-loss Big Ten champion — and now won’t make it if positioned in a spot similar to what earned Ohio State an invitation in 2016. The main difference? The Nittany Lions have lost twice, albeit by a total of four points.

Washington Huskies
A suspect nonconference schedule didn’t ultimately hurt the Huskies a year ago. No such luck this season, when the soft slate is combined with two Pac-12 defeats. The Huskies’ dreams of a repeat trip to the semifinals died at the feet of Bryce Love and his three TD runs Friday night.

Virginia Tech Hokies
Despite a September loss to Clemson, the Hokies remained alive until a Week 10 loss to Miami that ended their hopes in the ACC. Georgia Tech doubled down on the pain with a six-point win last weekend, rushing for 261 yards against Bud Foster’s vaunted defense.

NC State Wolfpack
Much like the aforementioned Hokies, NC State simply couldn’t keep pace in the second half of the season, falling on consecutive weeks to Clemson and Notre Dame without all-purpose star Nyheim Hines at full strength.

Stanford Cardinal
Before they sunk the Pac-12 into turmoil with their Week 11 win over Washington, the Cardinal lost a week earlier at Washington State. Already on playoff-contention life support after early season losses, Stanford used up its tiny margin for error.

UCF Knights
This just isn’t going to happen. Yes, the Knights remain unbeaten, with opportunities to make a statement ahead. But the committee ranked UCF at No. 18 in each of its first two polls. Dream about your chaos scenarios, but no matter what happens elsewhere, there’s simply too much ground to gain.

Others who won’t make it

Eliminated after Week 9:Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Michigan State Spartans, South Florida Bulls, Texas A&M Aggies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers.

Eliminated after Week 8:Kentucky Wildcats, Michigan Wolverines, USC Trojans, Utah Utes, Virginia Cavaliers.

Eliminated after Week 7:Florida Gators, Navy Midshipmen, Purdue Boilermakers, San Diego State Aztecs, Texas Longhorns, Texas Tech Red Raiders, UCLA Bruins.

Eliminated after Week 6:Duke Blue Devils, Florida State Seminoles, Kansas State Wildcats, Louisville Cardinals, Maryland Terrapins, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Oregon Ducks, UT San Antonio Roadrunners, Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

Eliminated after Week 5: Cal Golden Bears, Colorado Buffaloes, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, LSU Tigers, Memphis Tigers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Northwestern Wildcats, Ole Miss Rebels, South Carolina Gamecocks, Tennessee Volunteers, Vanderbilt Commodores.

Eliminated after Week 4:Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Eastern Michigan Eagles, Houston Cougars, Toledo Rockets.

Eliminated after Week 3:Air Force Falcons, Arizona State Sun Devils, Army Black Knights, Boston College Eagles, Central Michigan Chippewas, Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, Kansas Jayhawks, Missouri Tigers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Old Dominion Monarchs, Oregon State Beavers, Pittsburgh Panthers, SMU Mustangs, UConn Huskies.

Eliminated after Week 2:Boise State Broncos, BYU Cougars, Cincinnati Bearcats, Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors, Idaho Vandals, Fresno State Bulldogs, Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Marshall Thundering Herd, New Mexico Lobos, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Ohio Bobcats, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Syracuse Orange, Texas State Bobcats, Tulane Green Wave, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, UAB Blazers.

Eliminated after Week 1: Akron Zips, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Charlotte 49ers, Colorado State Rams, East Carolina Pirates, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, FAU Owls, FIU Golden Panthers, Kent State Golden Flashes, Louisiana Monroe Warhawks, Miami (Ohio) RedHawks, Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico State Aggies, Northern Illinois Huskies, South Alabama Jaguars, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Temple Owls, Troy Trojans, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Utah State Aggies, UNLV Rebels, UTEP Miners, Western Michigan Broncos, Wyoming Cowboys.

Eliminated after Week Zero:San Jose State Spartans, Rice Owls, UMass Minutemen.

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www.espn.com – NCF

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