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Three-Point Stance: CFB Playoff rankings, Midwest linemen, Big Ten race

Hendon Hooker
Hendon Hooker (USA Today Sports Images)

Rivals.com's Clint Cosgrove weighs in on a trio of topics in the recruiting and college football world.

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1. HOW THE FIRST PLAYOFF RANKINGS SHOULD LOOK

1. Tennessee - The Volunteers have been hands-down the most impressive team in all of college football this year. The Vols' offense appears to be unstoppable with playmakers across the board and a Heisman Trophy candidate behind center. They play fast, keep defenses off-balance with their tempo and have found ways to schematically expose every defense they have played against. The Tennessee offense rightfully gets the credit thus far, but the defense is no slouch and has the playmakers to be a dangerous unit in their own right.

2. Georgia - We are going to find out pretty quickly which of these top two deserves to be No. 1 when Tennessee plays at Georgia this weekend. The Bulldogs are probably the most balanced team of the top group and if any team is capable of knocking off Tennessee it is the defending champions. The Bulldogs have been lights out on defense and proven capable of scoring at will on offense. Should Georgia find a way to knock off the Vols in a game they are favored in, the committee will be hard pressed not to have Georgia as the consensus No. 1 team.

3. Ohio State - The Buckeyes have been nothing short of spectacular while dominating the competition through eight games this season. While fully understanding their strength of schedule to this point is out of their control, the Buckeyes have not had a serious test outside of this past weekend's win over Penn State. The Penn State win was a big one though as they did it on the road in a game that was contested into the fourth quarter. There is a chance that the Buckeyes will not be tested again until their final game at home against Michigan which has a chance to be one of the best regular Big Ten contests we have seen in recent memory. Ohio State has the talent to win it all and the way it finished on Saturday showed me enough to put it in the top three.

4. Michigan - This was a tough choice as TCU and Clemson both have an argument for this spot in their own right, but it is Michigan that has looked the best of the three. While Michigan hasn't played the same caliber of schedule that Georgia has, the Wolverines are the other team of this top group that appears to be the most balanced with few weaknesses that could be exposed by other elite teams. They are strong on defense, can run the ball with the best of them and although the passing attack may not be considered lethal, quarterback JJ McCarthy is more than capable. This is a dangerous team that plays a physical brand of football and the Wolverines have the makeup to match up with any team in the country.

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2. IMPRESSIVE UNDERCLASSMEN DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Justin Scott
Justin Scott (Rivals.com)

The Midwest has long been known for producing linemen on both sides of the ball, and while the region's caliber of talent on the defensive line has ebbed and flowed over the years, there are some special underclassmen coming up through the ranks in the next few recruiting cycles.

Five-star defensive tackle Justin Scott leads the way and is a phenomenal talent on both sides of the ball. Chances are he won't remain the lone five-star defensive lineman from the Midwest as there are a number of defensive ends in both the 2024 and 2025 classes who are legit five-star candidates by the time their respective classes are finished being ranked.

Jayshawn Ross, Williams Nwaneri, Brandon Davis-Swain and Marquise Lightfoot are all special talents with varying skillsets who should be part of the five-star conversation in the 2024 class. Ross is athletic and a terror for opposing offenses, Nwaneri is a physical freak with the athleticism to match and looks like a college player right now, Davis-Swain moves incredibly well with a ton of tools in his pass rush repertoire and Lightfoot is just a pure talent who could have the most upside of the entire group.

The 2025 class is shaping up to be impressive in its own right, especially when you consider the fact that many new names will emerge in the coming year. Gabe Kaminski is already a certified butt kicker off the edge and plays beyond his years, Iose Epenesa has the genes and talent to be a future five-star player, and Jaylen Williams is already a grown man who gets better every time I see him.

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3. BIG TEN RECRUITING RACE IS FAR FROM OVER

Kadyn Proctor
Kadyn Proctor (Rivals.com)

Ohio State's recruiting classes have been the class of the Big Ten for the better part of a decade and the 2023 recruiting cycle doesn't appear to be deviating from the norm. Penn State also looks to have a firm lock on the No. 2 spot and while the Nittany Lions should be able to hold onto their current standing, a lot can change between now and signing day

Things could get interesting further down the rankings as teams jockey for positioning and fight for the third, fourth and fifth spots. Current No. 3 Iowa has an impressive class boosted by five-star offensive tackle commit Kadyn Proctor but will need to finish strong in order to hang on to a top-three Big Ten ranking. Current No. 4 Northwestern has been punching above its weight class on the recruiting trail and, with its odds of landing a five-star prospect in 2023 appearing to be low, it may be hard for the Wildcats to maintain their current ranking. Michigan, currently ranked No. 5 in the conference team recruiting rankings, could see making a run down the stretch. The Wolverines have an impressive group and a chance to add to it even further with prospects such as five-star Nyckoles Harbour. Michigan could make a massive move as we close in on the Early Signing Period.

Michigan State, which has a 3.5 average star rating but only 12 commits, could make a run depending on how many players it takes from the high school ranks and how much it dips into the transfer portal. Illinois has been spectacular on the field and has a chance to finish strong, especially if the Illini can close on in-state four-star prospects Malik Elzy and Jyaire Hill. Then you have the wildcards in Wisconsin and Nebraska which could ride some new coach momentum into recruiting victories but they will need to name coaches sooner than later.