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CFP debate could come down to Buckeyes vs. Oklahoma

On Tuesday night, college football fans finally get the rankings that matter. The first set of College Football Playoff rankings will be released at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN and fans will see what the selection committee thinks of the top-25 teams in the country.

Because of this, the question on everyone’s mind is who will be ranked where. It seems pretty clear that undefeated Alabama will be No. 1, as they have been in both the AP and Coaches Polls all season, and 8-0 Clemson is a near lock to be No. 2. That’s at least the way ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit sees, as he explained during his appearance with Scott Van Pelt during halftime of Monday Night Football.

“I agree with you on the top two,” Herbstreit began. “It’s got to be Clemson up there along with Alabama. You would think Alabama’s almost in their own jurisdiction at this point. I gotta believe that LSU and Notre Dame are going to be the teams. Many people put Notre Dame up there at three, but for this week, I’d give LSU the nod and I’d have Notre Dame right there, controlling their own destiny as they get ready without a conference championship game to continue to try to win. And if they’re 12-0, clearly the Irish are comfortably in.”

While the first rankings always provide interest and talking points, there remains four weeks of the regular season still to play plus the conference championship games. Like Herbstreit, most people believe LSU and Notre Dame will be No. 3 and 4, but the Tigers take on the Crimson Tide this weekend and are big underdogs. Who does Herbstreit believe will fill in in the top four if LSU does, in fact, lose on Saturday?

“It’s positioning now that Michigan would be the team that would benefit the most,” Herbstreit said. “And I think Michigan is the team that right now can control their own destiny because LSU does have to play that game against Alabama, and if they were able to win out, Michigan would have a very strong argument to be one of the teams in the top four. The other that’s still, maybe a little bit forgotten, is Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Sooners have an offense that can score on anybody. Kyler Murray is doing it in a very different way with his ability to scoot and make plays with his feet. It would help their cause to have Michigan lose.”

The big question on most Buckeye fans’ minds is, assuming the Scarlet and Gray can fix the issues that cost them the game at Purdue two weeks ago, what happens if Ohio State goes undefeated the rest of the way? That would include a win over a ranked Michigan team and a Big Ten championship. According to Herbstreit, a one-loss Oklahoma team would likely be the Buckeyes’ biggest challenger for the final Playoff spot if things go as expected.

“And if Michigan were to lose and Ohio State were to win out, that could be a really fun, heated debate between potentially Oklahoma, a Big 12 champ, and Ohio State, if they were to win out, the Big Ten champ,” Herbstreit said.

That could be problematic for the Scarlet and Gray, as Ohio State’s one loss was by 29 to an unranked Boilermakers team while the Sooners fell by three in a rivalry game to what is still a ranked Texas team.

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The good news for everyone is there is likely still plenty of chaos to come and time for all teams to prove they belong in the CFP to close out the college football season and it’s very likely that these rankings change quite a bit before the ultimate rankings come out in early December.

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