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College Football Playoff: Who's making a case for the final four?

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

Clemson has rolled to an 8-0 record.
Clemson has rolled to an 8-0 record. (AP Images)

Week 9 of the college football season is in the books, and that means the first edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings is set to be revealed on Tuesday. The top four teams will face off in the national semifinals on Dec. 29, with the winners advancing to the national championship game.

There is a fairly clear picture of which teams will make the top four this week, but still plenty of teams have their playoff hopes alive. We asked our Rivals team site experts to explain whether the schools they cover should be in the College Football Playoff.

MORE: Three-Point Stance on UCF, burning questions

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

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Current record: 8-0

AP ranking: 1

Rivals team recruiting ranking: No. 1

Why they should be in the College Football Playoff: "This is a no-brainer. Alabama is the defending champion with an offense that has piled up 500 or more yards in each of its eight wins this season. The Crimson Tide are led by the Heisman front-runner Tua Tagovailoa, who looks to be in a league of his own. As good as Alabama is on offense, its defense ranks No. 12 in the nation, allowing just 15.9 points per game.

"Right now, there are only a couple of teams who could even keep it close against Alabama. Things might change as the season progresses, but if the playoff were held today, the Crimson Tide would be a two-touchdown favorite over any team in the nation." – Tony Tsoukalas, BamaInsider.com

*****

CLEMSON TIGERS

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Current record: 8-0

AP ranking: 2

Rivals team recruiting ranking: No. 4

Why they should be in the College Football Playoff: “I can't think of a reason why Clemson wouldn't be in the top four when the initial ranking is released. To me, at least, it's Alabama and Clemson and everyone else at this point.

“Actually, it's not just me. That's pretty much the consensus after the Tigers curb-stomped NC State in a game that wasn't as close as the 34-point margin indicated. The defense is rounding into the form most folks anticipated before the season. The offense is finding a high gear with Trevor Lawrence and his receivers are more comfortable and confident.

Dabo Swinney's team appears headed right back where it's been the past three years: To the CFP.” – Larry Williams, TigerIllustrated.com

*****

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH

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Current record: 8-0

AP ranking: 3

Rivals team recruiting ranking: No. 13

Why they should be in the College Football Playoff: “There is no doubt that Notre Dame has earned a spot in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings. The Fighting Irish have one of the three best resumes in the country, and their impressive victories over ranked opponents pass the eyeball test as well. Since junior QB Ian Book was inserted into the lineup the Irish have faced four Power 5 opponents and their average margin of victory in those four games is 19.3 points.

“Notre Dame has three wins over teams that were ranked when the game was played, and only LSU (four) has more. Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan and Texas only have one.” – Bryan Driskell, BlueandGoldIllustrated.com

*****

LSU TIGERS

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Current record: 7-1

AP ranking: 4

Rivals team recruiting ranking: No. 8

Why they should be in the College Football Playoff: “Based on strength of schedule alone, LSU has shown the type of team it is and its ceiling overall. Ed Orgeron's club has knocked off five opponents ranked inside the Top 25, including wins over No. 2 Georgia and No. 7 Auburn on the road. That resume could obviously be enhanced with a defeat of No. 1 Alabama, but so far, there is plenty of evidence to show that LSU has successfully navigated through a rigorous conference and non-conference slate, and has come out the other side in good standing. Based on that resume alone, LSU is certainly one of the best four teams in the country.” – Sam Spiegelman, TigerDetails.com

*****

MICHIGAN WOLVERINES

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Current record: 7-1

AP ranking: 5

Rivals team recruiting ranking: No. 9

Why they should be in the College Football Playoff: ”I personally don’t think Michigan is going to be in the top four for the first College Football Playoff rankings, but they’ll be right there at five or six, and that’s just fine. Michigan has just one loss to Notre Dame, which is still undefeated and will be in the top four, so it isn’t hurt by that. The teams who will be listed ahead of them – likely Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and LSU – deserve to be there.

“Of course, all of that is going to change, since LSU and Alabama play this coming weekend. More than likely Alabama will win, making the second round of rankings to be released Michigan’s chance to get in. If things play out like they should – which always happens, right? – Michigan will be sitting at No. 4 behind Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame during the second installment of College Football Playoff rankings. If U-M can take care of business and win out, which would include a win over Ohio State in the regular season finale and a Big Ten title against a hapless Big Ten West opponent, it will certainly reach the playoff.” – Brandon Brown, TheWolverine.com

*****

GEORGIA BULLDOGS

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Current record: 7-1

AP ranking: 6

Rivals team recruiting ranking: No. 6

Why they should be in the College Football Playoff: ”You won’t find Georgia in the top four when the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings are announced, but the Bulldogs still control their own destiny, assuming of course Kirby Smart’s team can finish the rest of the regular season undefeated and win the SEC championship.

“Although that’s probably a long shot, considering Alabama is playing as well as it is, an opportunity it is, and that’s certainly something for the Bulldogs to hang their hats on.” – Anthony Dasher, UGASports.com

*****

OKLAHOMA SOONERS

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Current record: 7-1

AP ranking: 7

Rivals team recruiting ranking: No. 5

Why they should be in the College Football Playoff: "The knocks on Oklahoma are easy, and well, singular. The defense is a concerning point, but as you look for the fourth team, outside of Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson, what one-loss team doesn't have a side of the ball with very real questions?

"Yet, somehow Oklahoma's issues on defense tend to cloud just how special this offense is, yet again, in 2018. What Kyler Murray is doing with his arm would be truly special if he wasn't also one of the most dynamic running quarterbacks in recent memory. Just check his late touchdown run against Texas as evidence.

"The Sooners are far from a perfect team, but there seems to be few teams that can make such a claim. If Oklahoma's offense were to get in a shootout – is anyone really going to bet against them?" - Josh McCuistion, SoonerScoop.com

*****

OHIO STATE BUCKEYES

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Current record: 7-1

AP ranking: 8

Rivals team recruiting ranking: No. 18

Why they should be in the College Football Playoff: ”Ohio State should not and will not be in the top four when the first rankings come out for the College Football Playoff, based on a huge loss at Purdue and coupling that with a 7-1 team that appears to be extremely flawed. Ohio State attempted 73 passes against Purdue in a losing effort and has lost its way not only on the ground but also in the red zone with just six points scored on four trips (not including one that occurred as time expired at the end of the game). Couple that with this team still giving up too many big ‘chunk’ plays, a problem that arose in Week 1 and through the next seven weeks and never really seemed to get better, and this team has a lot of questions. People are going to want to see how the Buckeyes respond in the next four games, including a season finale with Michigan.

”If Ohio State is able to run the table through the next four games, show improvement, go to the Big Ten Championship and win there, then we can talk about Ohio State’s worthiness of being in the top four (Spoiler alert: Win the next five games and the Buckeyes are in, sorry to tell you). But for now, the Buckeyes won’t even be in the top six graphic as they try to do a full self examination and get things going Saturday against Nebraska.” – Kevin Noon, BuckeyeGrove.com

*****

UCF KNIGHTS

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Current record: 7-0

AP ranking: 9

Rivals team recruiting ranking: No. 54

Why they should be in the College Football Playoff: ”I know UCF won't be in the top four on Tuesday and even for somebody who covers the program that would be a hard sell at this point when there are teams that have played tougher schedules. However, I do believe UCF should be in the discussion at season's end – provided that current winning streak extends to 25. If a team can go undefeated in back-to-back seasons and still not sniff the playoff – a process that Bill Hancock has tried to portray as equitable to all conferences – something is definitely wrong with the system. It's one reason why UCF AD Danny White is vocally calling for an expanded playoff.

“What I am most interested in is how the committee treats UCF in this initial poll. Will it mirror their AP and Coaches polls with a ranking in the No. 10 range? Will it be higher? Lower? Last year's CFP rankings were infuriating to those at UCF and the AAC as the committee moved the goalposts each week in trying to explain away UCF's low ranking. Examples included ranking an undefeated UCF below a three-loss Mississippi State because the Bulldogs had "quality losses" while punishing UCF for what they called a weak strength of schedule and completely ignoring that data for Wisconsin, a team that was ranked for a period in the top five but had a similar strength of schedule to UCF.” – Brandon Helwig, UCFSports.com

FOR MORE UCF SPORTS NEWS GO TO UCFSPORTS.COM

*****

KENTUCKY WILDCATS

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Current record: 7-1

AP ranking: 11

Rivals team recruiting ranking: No. 31

Why they should be in the College Football Playoff: "I think some people have a hard time wrapping their minds around the possibility of Kentucky being in playoff consideration, but let's look at the facts. Kentucky has a win on the road in The Swamp against a Florida team that is much better than anyone realized. If you watch the game you know it wasn't even as close as the final score indicated. The Wildcats have a 21-point victory against Mississippi State. This team handled South Carolina and was winning that game 24-3 at halftime. The Wildcats just went on the road and beat Missouri. Their only loss this year was on the road to Texas A&M and that game went to overtime. Kentucky has a legitimately elite defense with arguably the best defensive player in the country in Josh Allen and a rushing attack that is a problem for almost any team it will face." – Justin Rowland, CatsIllustrated.com

*****

WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS

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Current record: 6-1

AP ranking: 12

Rivals team recruiting ranking: No. 42

Why they should be in the College Football Playoff: "West Virginia has one slip-up at Iowa State, but still has a back-loaded schedule ahead of it. If the Mountaineers take care of business by beating Texas in Austin, TCU, Oklahoma State in Stillwater, and Oklahoma they have a very good chance of winning the Big 12 championship. If they can get that done they’ll be in the mix for College Football Playoff. The offense, despite a couple hiccups, is still one of the most explosive in the country and there isn't one team out there that should be excited about facing them." – Keenan Cummings, WVSports.com