Played in/Played out: Ohio State, Penn State, Colorado make a case

Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY Sports

Each weekend during the regular season, USA TODAY Sports will be highlighting the race for the College Football Playoff. Here are three teams moving up and three teams moving down in the sprint for the four-team field after Week 13 of the regular season:

Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) celebrates with tight end Mike Gesicki.


Ohio State. Let the debate begin. Ohio State was No. 2 in last week’s Playoff rankings. Then the Buckeyes beat No. 3 Michigan. How is the selection committee going to drop them down? It’s hard to imagine. It would help the Buckeyes’ cause should Penn State lose the Big Ten title game to Wisconsin, but Urban Meyer’s bunch is still in very good shape.

Penn State. The Nittany Lions will force the committee to make a very difficult decision with a win against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship. After beating Michigan State, Penn State has at worst put itself in position to be a factor in the final rankings — and that’s a pretty huge understatement. What’s more likely is that the Nittany Lions are a very, very strong factor for No. 4, and with just a little bit of help (see right below for more on Colorado) is in the field. What an amazing season for James Franklin and the program.

College football's Week 13 winners and losers

Colorado. Now, Colorado can totally upend the race with a win against Washington in next week’s Pac-12 championship game. Doing so would eliminate the Huskies, obviously, while placing the Buffaloes, Penn State and either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State — and maybe even Michigan — in competition for the fourth spot in the national semifinals. Colorado’s rebirth has been one of the great stories in recent college football memory.


Michigan. There is simply too much pain to process. Losing to Ohio State? Losing in double overtime? Losing with some controversy? Losing the Big Ten East Division? Losing a shot at the Playoff? It’s almost overwhelming. Michigan will bounce back under Jim Harbaugh — and very likely be right there for the 2017 national title — but this loss will sting all offseason. Then again, maybe there’s room for Michigan to make a national semifinal in 2016?

Snap judgments from college football's Week 13

Louisville. It’s been hard to take Louisville too seriously as a title contender all season, since the Cardinals could tout wins against Florida State and … that’s it. Losing to Kentucky is embarrassing, humbling and humiliating. It also erases much of the goodwill Louisville accumulated during much of the regular season.

Florida. The Gators’ slim, slim Playoff hopes rested on a win against Florida State, a shocking upset of Alabama in Saturday's SEC title game and some help. That Florida lost to the Seminoles put those hopes to bed. The biggest key now will be showing up and remaining competitive against the Crimson Tide, with the payoff in that case being a shot at a New Year’s Six bowl.