Four strong teams — Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama and Notre Dame – are in the new College Football Playoff rankings, but there’s still way too much football left to be played for their fans to get too excited.

Bert Caldwell, one of the principle owners of The Kickoff, said big games against rivals should make predicting the outcome of the committee’s final rankings interesting.

“Top-ranked Clemson still has to play at South Carolina and No. 2 Alabama will play in Auburn in the Iron Bowl,” Caldwell said, noting that big rivalry games can inspire teams having bad seasons to rise to the occasion. Although defeat is unlikely the Tigers and the Tide could struggle in the final week of the regular season if they are caught looking too far ahead and underestimate their opponents.

“You do not necessarily have to lose a game to slip in the poll. No. 11 Florida — which had a tight win last week against Vanderbilt — still has to play No. 16 Florida State. No. 6 and undefeated Baylor still has to play No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 15 TCU, and Texas. No. 3 Ohio State, while also undefeated, still has to play Michigan State and Michigan, which come in at Nos. 13 and 14, respectively, on the committee’s Top 25,” Caldwell said.

In other words, an upset or two and some hard-nosed, high stakes elimination football could shake things up pretty quickly.

“One stumble and some teams could be out of it,” he said. “These teams are definitely not a lock on finishing where they are ranked now. The playoff committee will have a full body of work from these teams before making their final decisions.”

Speaking of upsets, last week we saw Auburn beat Texas A&M 26-10, Arkansas defeated Ole Miss 53-52, Nebraska beat Michigan State 39-38, and Oklahoma State defeated TCU 49-29. LSU was ranked at No. 2 on The Kickoff’s own Top 25, behind only TCU. After Alabama’s convincing win, we have the Tide ranked No. 5 (behind undefeateds Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Baylor) with LSU tumbling to No. 8 and TCU coming in at No. 9. Stanford and Notre Dame are Nos. 6 and 7, respectively, while Utah rounds out our Top 10 teams.

Our Kickoff Games of the Week are No. 13 Oklahoma at No. 4 Baylor and Memphis at No. 16 Houston. We’re expecting Baylor and Houston to prevail in those contests. Both series have been pretty lopsided in the past, with Oklahoma leading Baylor 20-3 and Houston leading Memphis 14-9.

In this week’s issue, The Kickoff shared a conference breakdown through issue 11, presented our Kickoff Thermostat, listed FBS and select FCS standings, shared schedules and scores for teams throughout the country, charted the legacy of retiring Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer, examined overall trends for home and road favorites, presented our Power Ratings for this week’s games, and more.

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