In Tuesday’s release of the second College Football Playoff rankings, the Texas Longhorns remain at No. 7 following Saturday’s 29-26 win over the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.
With the top eight teams all winning this week, those rankings remained the same, in the following order — Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, Florida State, Washington, Oregon, Texas, and Alabama. But No. 9 Ole Miss dropped to No. 13 after losing to No. 2 Georgia and No. 10 Penn State dropped to No. 12 after losing to No. 3 Michigan.
No. 16 Kansas also lost to Texas Tech in Lawrence, albeit while dealing with an injury to quarterback Jason Bean, dropping the Jayhawks to No. 25 and decreasing the quality of that win by the Longhorns in Austin to some extent. Kansas State, meanwhile, moved from No. 25 to No. 21 by blowing out Baylor.
There could finally be movement ahead of Texas this week without having to wait for the conference championship games. No. 5 Washington travels to Corvallis to face No. 11 Oregon State and the No. 6 Ducks also play the Beavers this month. For No. 8 Alabama, the hopes of hopping Texas prior to the SEC title game look slim with a remaining schedule of Chattanooga and Auburn. Georgia still has to beat No. 18 Tennessee in Knoxville after dispatching with Ole Miss. The Volunteers just took a tumble after getting stomped by the Tigers in Columbia.
Since the Pac-12 doesn’t have divisions, even if Washington and Oregon finish the regular-season undefeated, a matchup in the conference championship game would ensure that one program has at least one loss.
Similarly, the Nov. 25 game at the Big House between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan has huge playoff ramifications as a de facto play-in game because the Big Ten still has divisions for one final season.
For the Longhorns, the concern is that the loss to the Sooners hasn’t aged any better after this week’s blowout of the Mountaineers, increasing the possibility that some combination of the Buckeyes, Wolverines, Huskies, and Ducks with one loss could remain ahead of Texas in the rankings. Presuming a potential loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship game, it’s possible that the committee would rank Georgia more highly than Texas while vaulting the Crimson Tide above the Longhorns, too.
So while Texas does have some semblance of control to the extent that winning out in the regular season and then winning the Big 12 Championship game would put head coach Steve Sarkisian’s program in contention for a spot in the playoffs, it’s far from a guarantee.
In fact, here’s a stark look at where the Longhorns are positioned:
30 of 36 teams to make @CFBPlayoff at this point of season ranked in top 5 w/3 regular season games left. Lowest ranked teams at this point of year to make playoff— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) November 8, 2023
No. 13 Mich St (2015)
No. 12 OU (2015)
No. 10 OU (2019)
No. 8 Ohio St (2014)
No. 6 OU (2018)
No. 6 Michigan (2021)
Texas can only help itself so much, and more convincingly holding into significant leads would be a good place to start.