The penultimate College Football Playoff rankings are live, and as expected, there was a lot of movement up top.
Here’s the full top 25:
We’ll start with Clemson, which jumps to No. 1 after Alabama and Miami fell last week. The Tigers demolished South Carolina and are rolling heading into their ACC championship matchup against the Hurricanes. Win, and they’re in. Simple as that.
No. 2 Auburn, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Wisconsin will all play in conference title games this weekend – in other words, they also control their own destiny. There’s a reasonable chance the top four looks exactly like it does now on Sunday. Maybe the committee’s job will be easy.
Then again, college football is probably going to college football, and one could make the argument that there are 10 teams that still have a chance to make the College Football Playoff — the top 11 sans No. 9 Penn State, which won’t play in the Big Ten championship game.
No. 5 Alabama is the most fascinating case, because outside of Penn State, it’s the only top-11 school that isn’t playing this weekend. Georgia is ranked sixth, but it’s in a much better position than the Crimson Tide – if the Bulldogs win, they’re almost certainly in. What would it take for Alabama to, essentially, back its way into the CFP?
Here’s what Alabama should be hoping for: Clemson, Auburn and Wisconsin take care of business; Oklahoma gets blown out by TCU. For what it’s worth, the Horned Frogs may have an argument against Alabama in that scenario. But it’s the Tide’s best shot. Scenario two: if Clemson, Auburn and Oklahoma win, and Wisconsin loses, Alabama vs. Ohio State feels like a coin flip.
Miami and Ohio State are fringe “control their own destiny” teams — meaning, if the Hurricanes or Buckeyes win, they may not need outside help in order to reach the Playoff, but they’re going to make the committee’s job complicated. USC and TCU fall a notch below that — they’re not dead, but they’ll need to win decisively, and they’ll need chaos to occur at the top of the rankings.
Here’s a quick hit on each conference championship game that could affect final College Football Playoff field.
Pac-12 - Stanford vs. USC: The least-likely Power Five conference to send a team to the Playoff, but the Trojans have an outside chance with a blowout win. It would probably take that, losses by Wisconsin and Oklahoma, and some favorable judgment from the committee.
Big 12 – TCU vs. Oklahoma: Win, and Oklahoma is in. Lose big, and the Sooners are likely out. Lose close, and it will depend on what happens with the other games. If TCU wins big, it would need an ugly Big Ten title game where Ohio State prevails – but even that might not be enough.
SEC – Auburn vs. Georgia: The winner is in. The loser isn’t. Even though Auburn is No. 2 and riding high after beating two No. 1 teams, it’s hard to see the Tigers making it with three losses – especially with all of the other worthy candidates.
ACC – Clemson vs. Miami: Clemson is in with a win. If Miami wins a close game, there’s an argument to be made that both schools should get in. The SEC (championship game winner, and Alabama with some help) and the ACC are the two conferences that have the best chance to send two teams in the CFP.
Big Ten – Wisconsin vs. Ohio State: Wisconsin is in with a win. An Ohio State win would really complicate things for the committee. It could very well come down to the Buckeyes vs. the Crimson Tide if the rest of the top four goes chalk.
Reserve a comfy spot for Saturday – and if things get hectic, Sunday. This is the best part of the college football calendar.