CFP rankings analysis: Alabama, Clemson strengthen hold on top 2
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Surprise! For the first time in its five-year history, the top 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings are completely unchanged from the previous week.

You could be forgiven for being a tad confused. Isn't the committee supposed to get together and re-evaluate every candidate from scratch every week? Yes. And they just so happened to pull the exact same schools in the exact same order?

Indeed, the committee really got together in a fancy hotel with all kinds of spreadsheets and decided, "We nailed it last week." I feel like that could have been done over an email chain. Heck, they could have accidentally printed last week's rankings and nobody would have noticed.

Meanwhile, there’s now a 15 percent chance the top four all win out. And it's easy to argue that - even with a loss in their respective championship games - Alabama and Clemson are locks to make the CFP semifinals.

So, unless you support one of the top four teams, you're rooting for chaos and matchups.

Perhaps Syracuse or Ohio State can deliver a waft of change. But the former's a tough ask, and the latter's hardly an underdog. For us to get the playoff we deserve this season, we need to find a way - any way - to get one of Oklahoma, West Virginia or Washington State into this thing.

Top 4

1. Alabama (10-0, LW: 1)

Back-to-back shutouts against quality SEC opponents have only added to the Tide’s specter of dominance.

Sure, the defense looked a little shaky at times this season. Back in Week 10, we were still on the precipice of something that hasn't been seen during Nick Saban's tenure in Tuscaloosa - a Bama defense finishing outside the top 10 in S&P+. The unit wasn't bad, but it was gifting big plays and closer to 20th than 10th.

Not anymore. Alabama's front absolutely waxed both LSU and Mississippi State. That classic "those other guys don't belong on the same field" feeling was back with a searing certainty. Bama's now fourth in defensive S&P+. Some things never change.

2. Clemson (10-0, LW: 2)

Despite Alabama's dominance, Clemson continues to close the gap.

"These are complete teams," committee chair Rob Mullens said of the Crimson Tide and Tigers. "We spent a lot of time talking about it. They are both top-10 offenses, top-10 defenses, but at this point, everyone has Alabama one, Clemson two."

S&P+ paints an even closer picture. Clemson's just over one rating point back of Alabama. The third-place team, Georgia, is nearly four points (!) behind Clemson.

The top two teams in the country are so clear it's almost laughable.

3. Notre Dame (10-0, LW: 3)

Notre Dame’s win over Michigan kept the Irish comfortably ahead of the Wolverines for the No. 3 spot. A popular narrative is that Michigan's actually the superior team, and that Notre Dame's been living off that Week 1 head-to-head win and a mundane schedule (this argument, by the way, would only see the Irish tumble from three to four).

However, a deeper examination proves otherwise. Michigan owns the best defense in the country, sure, and by a pretty decent margin. But it's not like Notre Dame's been struggling with minnows or barely scraping by to reach 10 wins.

In fact, the Irish's "worst" win this season was a 10-point victory over a Northwestern team that just clinched the Big 10 West title.

Again, Michigan's been mighty impressive, and I'm here for a discussion about which team would win on a neutral field now that both are fully formed. Hopefully, we'll find out. For now, the Irish are where they belong.

4. Michigan (9-1, LW: 4)

Here's an extra thought on the Michigan-Notre Dame debate. If the Wolverines beat Ohio State, they’re in. But what if Notre Dame slips up against Syracuse or USC?

We've been conditioned to think that Notre Dame must go undefeated to crash the playoff party. But is that true?

If the Irish finish 11-1 with a win over Michigan - presumably the No. 3 team in the country in this scenario - would they still get in? Who would usurp them? A flawed Oklahoma team? A West Virginia roster with a loss to Iowa State?

Notre Dame not having a championship game might serve it well this year. Any of the potential challengers - Washington State, West Virginia, and Oklahoma - will face tough asks on championship weekend. Even with a loss down the stretch, I think Notre Dame's in.

That means for true chaos, Michigan will have to go down somewhere. And I just don't see it. Going on the road to Columbus is a tall task. But there still isn't a more efficient, impactful defense than Don Brown's right now.

The top four is the top four. Let's just hope for some mayhem in the semifinals.

Other notables

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UCF is still on the outside of the top 10 looking in. GameDay comes to town this week. Will a big win finally vault this team into the upper echelon of the discussion?

Meanwhile, 7-3 Penn State is up to No. 14, which is, umm, interesting. James Franklin's team looked impressive against Wisconsin on Saturday, particularly on defense, sporting the elite speed we've been waiting to see all season. But is one win by 12 points over a bad Wisconsin team enough to wash away the stench of a blowout loss to Michigan and other defeats to Ohio State and Michigan State?

And let's not forget the Nittany Lions only beat Indiana and Iowa by one score apiece. Their combined point differential over the last five games? Minus-29. It just doesn't feel like the 14th-best team in the country.

Similarly, the 6-4 Northwestern Wildcats are the No. 22 team in the country! I'm not sure anything else better illustrates that the committee's just another poll system with some iPads and an hour-long weekly television snoozefest.

Aren’t they supposed to pick the 25 best teams? Anybody who's watched college football this season will tell you - and rightfully so - that Fresno State's better than Northwestern. Its record is better. It ranks ninth in S&P+. Northwestern is 77th.

The Wildcats are only in the top 25 because they won some arbitrary division. Again, this team is 6-4! I thought this was supposed to be a new, improved selection system. But Florida's still 13th, so I guess not.

Dark horse

Here comes Boise State. The 8-2 Broncos beat a brilliant Fresno side at home on Friday night, knocking the Bulldogs out of the committee's thinking.

With that, Boise State's now the fourth-ranked Group of 5 team at No. 25, but is right behind Utah State and Cincinnati. If UCF slips up down the stretch, the Broncos will be there to pounce.

CFP rankings analysis: Alabama, Clemson strengthen hold on top 2
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