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The Playoff Picture: Week 11

JT Barrett

We knew the College Football Playoff picture would look different by now, just not like this. Auburn went down. TCU put a TKO on Kansas State, and Ohio State did the same to Michigan State. Alabama rallied on the road from a three-point deficit inside the final minute. And Oregon used some sort of hex to beat Utah.

With the understanding that Mississippi State and Florida State are as good as in until they lose a game, here's how the Playoff picture stacks up through 11 weeks of the 2014 season.

"Win out and you've got nothing to worry about."

Oregon (9-1, No. 4)
This week:
Beat Utah
The case for: Has a strong argument for best non-conference win in college football with 19-point win over otherwise-undefeated Michigan State. Blew out UCLA and Washington, and handled Utah on the road. When it's all said and done, Ducks could have wins over five teams that were ranked at the time. Loss to Arizona could fall under injury considerations in the eyes of the committee. Oregon's remaining schedule - bye week, vs. Colorado, at Oregon State - means the Pac-12 Championship is more or less their College Football Playoff quarterfinal game.
The case against: Lost at home, unlike other one-loss front-runners Alabama and TCU.

Alabama (8-1, No. 5)
This week: Won at No. 16 LSU, 20-13 in overtime
The case for: Finally earned a win over a Top 25 team, though LSU will fall from 16, and West Virginia will fall outside the Top 25 thanks to that loss to Texas. They've obviously impressed the committee already, as Jeff Long admitted the eye test pushed the Tide above TCU. Mississippi State and Auburn coming to Tuscaloosa, plus a trip to the SEC Championship with wins in those games, puts Alabama's destiny firmly in Nick Saban's ring-laden hands.
The case against:Just one win over a team that will be ranked by Tuesday night, but the committee has said that doesn't matter in Alabama's case.

TCU (8-1, No. 6)
This week:
Beat No. 7 Kansas State, 41-20
The case for: Win over Minnesota is the best non-conference win by a Big 12 team. Frogs' play against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech makes fourth quarter against Baylor look like a major aberration. Gets Kansas State at home. Win over West Virginia will look better before the committee than it would with the computers.
The case against: Leaving the state of Texas twice all season, plus the Baylor loss, means their only impressive road win will be West Virginia. TCU's remaining schedule (at Kansas, at Texas, vs. Iowa State) gives the Frogs a great shot at finishing 11-1, but as far as impressing the committee they're reduced to rooting for the rest of their schedule (i.e. Minnesota, Kansas State, Oklahoma, West Virginia) to win out. Considering Alabama's future schedule and that Oregon/Arizona State and Ohio State/Nebraska have possible dates against each other coming, TCU should not rest easy.

Arizona State (8-1, No. 9)
This week:
Beat No. 10 Notre Dame, 55-31
The case for: There's a lot to love here. The Sun Devils have consecutive wins over USC, Stanford, Washington, Utah and Notre Dame, and still have dates against Arizona in Tucson and Oregon (likely) in Santa Clara. Win and you're in, Sun Devils.
The case against: UCLA continues to win, putting that loss much more on TCU's level than, say, Ohio State's.

Ohio State (8-1, No. 14)
This week:
Beat No. 8 Michigan State, 49-37
The case for:
This team looked every bit like a top four team since loss to Virginia Tech, beating likely bowl teams Cincinnati, Maryland and Rutgers by nearly 30 points per game, until struggling with Penn State. Still, a conference win on the road is a conference win on the road. Chance to earn impressive road win at Michigan State. Play of J.T. Barrett since Virginia Tech loss creates a discussion point for the committee.
The case against: That Virginia Tech loss has aged like a carton of milk on a Las Vegas sidewalk in the middle of July.

Baylor (6-1, No. 12)
This week:
Beat No. 15 Oklahoma, 48-14
The case for: The only team to beat TCU, and did something TCU did not do - dominate Oklahoma in Norman. Has a chance to close with an impressive win over a possible 9-2 Kansas State squad on Dec. 6. The Bears re-entered the conversation Saturday, though they are at risk of repeating 2008 Texas, coming out on the wrong end of a tiebreaker and watching a team they beat play for the national title, they're at least back in the conversation now.
The case against: Non-conference schedule of SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo is essentially begging for a slap on the wrist from the committee, and does not compare to TCU's win over 7-2 Minnesota.

"You're going to need some help."

Nebraska (7-1, No. 13)

This week: Off
The case for: Favorite for Big Ten West championship, one upset away from becoming Big Ten champion.
The case against: Loss to Michigan State means Huskers may not beat a ranked team until Big Ten championship. Best non-conference win was Miami. Needed Heisman-worthy play by Ameer Abdullah to avoid overtime with McNeese State..

"We're glad you're here, now go ahead and take a seat at the back of the room."

Duke (8-1, No. 22)
This week:
Beat Syracuse, 27-10
The case for: If they can win out and beat an undefeated Florida State in the ACC championship....
The case against: Will likely finish regular season with zero wins over ranked teams. Played Elon, Troy, Kansas and Tulane in non-conference. Even if they win the ACC Coastal, it's still the ACC Coastal. Is Duke.

"Dearly departed, until proven otherwise."

Auburn, Ole Miss, Michigan State, Kansas State, Notre Dame

I'm not going to declare any of these teams dead dead, but I wouldn't place a nickel on their Playoff chances, either. Getting back into contention would require winning a conference championship, which is obviously impossible for Notre Dame, and next to impossible for Auburn, Ole Miss and Michigan State. Kansas State can still forge a three-way tie for the Big 12 crown, but the team that played in Fort Worth on Saturday isn't winning in Waco.