CFP takeaways: How 2-loss Stanford can still make playoff

The Pac-12's playoff hopes may not be on their deathbed after all. That, and some other takeaways from Tuesday night's latest committee rankings.

Hmm … so you're saying there's a chance. Stanford (8-2) dropped just four spots, from No. 7 to No. 11, following its home loss to Oregon. That puts the Cardinal four spots higher than they are in the AP poll, presumably due to their strong schedule. Most notably, they're the highest two-loss team, and that's with games remaining against current No. 4 Notre Dame and, if they beat Cal this weekend, either No. 13 Utah or No. 24 USC in the Pac-12 title game.

A couple of dominoes would have to fall its way, but enough teams ahead of it are already guaranteed to lose that an 11-2 Stanford team would likely check in no lower than fifth. It needs the Big 12 teams to keep cannibalizing each other. Better yet, it needs Clemson to lose in the ACC title game. An 11-2 Pac-12 champ would likely get in before a 12-1 ACC division champ.

Oklahoma's in … decent shape. The seventh-ranked Sooners moved up to right about where I thought they would following last weekend's big win at Baylor. If it beats both TCU this weekend and current undefeated Oklahoma State in its finale, the Sooners would be 11-1 Big 12 champs with a very good case to pass No. 4 Notre Dame even if the Irish beat Stanford.

It's hardly a given, though.

For one thing, injury-depleted TCU dropped to 18th this week after struggling with winless Kansas and will fall even further if the Sooners beat them handily. Also, playoff chairman Jeff Long reaffirmed Tuesday that the committee does discuss common opponents and that "certainly we're aware [of] the Notre Dame win and the Oklahoma loss" to Texas.

This much is certain: The Sooners are likely the only Big 12 team that can still get in with one loss. Even at 10-0, Oklahoma State is still stuck down at No. 6. Baylor fell to 10th, and while Long was complimentary of the Bears ("Even though they lost the game, they stood in there toe-to-toe with an Oklahoma team and played well), they have quite a bit of ground to make up. TCU is apparently toast.

Better luck next year, UNC. Buried all the way down at No. 17, behind five two-loss teams and a one-loss Group of 5 team (Navy), are the 9-1 Tar Heels. Asked about that low rating, Long said North Carolina's season-opening loss to a now 3-7 South Carolina team and two games against FCS opponents are "weighing them down." Mind you, the Heels will go their entre regular season without playing a Top 25 opponent, so even upsetting No. 1 Clemson in the ACC title game likely won't be enough to close a 13-spot deficit.

North Carolina QB Marquise Williams -- who threw three red zone interceptions against South Carolina -- took the committee's message hard. "That's my fault we not getting the respect," he tweeted. "I'll fix that."

Stewart Mandel is a senior college sports columnist for He covered college football and basketball for 15 years at Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter @slmandel and Facebook. Send emails and Mailbag questions to