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Mitchell Northam | NCAA.com | December 3, 2019

Alabama tumbles; Utah inching towards top four in Week 15 College Football Playoff rankings

5 college football championship games to watch in week 15

For the first time in the history of the College Football Playoff, it's looking like the Alabama Crimson Tide will not be part of the national championship picture.

In the penultimate rankings released by the playoff committee Tuesday, Nick Saban’s squad was ranked 12th. With seven teams between it and the playoff, it’s likely impossible for Alabama to crack the field. The Crimson Tide suffered their second loss of the season this past weekend, falling to rival Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl.

The top four remained the same heading into conference championship week, with Ohio State, LSU, Clemson and Georgia ranking first through fourth, in order. Utah and Oklahoma are looming at No. 5 and No. 6.

Let’s take a closer look at the rankings.

RANK TEAM RECORD PREVIOUS
1 Ohio State 12-0 1
2 LSU 12-0 2
3 Clemson 12-0 3
4 Georgia 11-1 4
5 Utah 11-1 6
6 Oklahoma 11-1 7
7 Baylor 11-1 9
8 Wisconsin 10-2 12
9 Florida 10-2 11
10 Penn State 10-2 10
11 Auburn 9-3 15
12 Alabama 10-2 5
13 Oregon 10-2 14
14 Michigan 9-3 13
15 Notre Dame 10-2 16
16 Iowa 9-3 17
17 Memphis 11-1 18
18 Minnesota 10-2 8
19 Boise State 11-1 20
20 Cincinnati 10-2 19
21 Appalachian State 11-1 25
22 Southern California 8-4 22
23 Virginia 9-3 NR
24 Navy 9-2 NR
25 Oklahoma State 8-4 21

A lot riding on SEC title game

The game that will likely have the biggest impact on the final playoff rankings is the SEC Championship game. In Atlanta on Saturday, No. 2 LSU will face-off against No. 4 Georgia.

Should the Bulldogs lose, they’ll likely be booted from the top four in favor of another champion from a Power 5 conference, like No. 5 Utah or the winner of No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 7 Baylor.

But if Georgia can pull off an upset and beat LSU, we might see these same four teams ranked in the top four again next week, but perhaps in a different order.

The Bulldogs and Tigers last played during the 2018 regular season, with LSU taking a 36-16 win. Georgia last beat LSU in Athens in 2013. LSU has won three of the last four meetings, going back to 2009.

UNDEFEATED TRACKER: When might each unbeaten team lose?

If Georgia loses…

The committee will have an interesting decision to make next week if each of the top three teams — Ohio State, LSU and Clemson — win their conference championships. That would mean Georgia would lose, picking up its second loss. And Georgia’s lone loss this season was a bad one, on paper, as the fell in overtime at home to South Carolina, which didn’t win enough games to be bowl eligible.

Should Georgia lose, the committee will likely decide between Utah — if it beats No. 13 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game — and the winner of No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 7 Baylor in the Big 12 title game. Each of those three teams only have one loss on their resume.

Essentially, the fight for four playoff spots is now down to about seven teams. No. 8 Wisconsin has a chance too, but they’ll need to pull off an upset over No. 1 Ohio State in the Big Ten title game and probably need some other upsets to occur too.

Utah is in an interesting spot at No. 5. The Utes will get Friday night all to themselves to show the committee and the larger college football world what it can do in the spotlight when it faces Oregon in the Pac-12 title game at Levi's Stadium. That game kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY: Locations, all-time appearances and most times hosting the show

Memphis in the driver’s seat for the Cotton Bowl

After beating Cincinnati last week, Memphis moved up to No. 17 in the playoff rankings, making them the highest ranked Group of Five team and putting them in the driver’s seat for the G5’s bid to the Cotton Bowl.

Should Memphis beat No. 20 Cincinnati again this week in the American Athletic Conference Championship, they’ll wrap up that bid. But if Memphis loses, the committee will have a debate over a few teams for that G5 bid.

A one-loss Boise State team is ranked 19th this week, a one-loss Appalachian State team is ranked 21st, and Navy — whose two losses are only to Memphis and Notre Dame — is ranked 24th. The Midshipmen still have one game left to play too, facing Army in Philadelphia on Dec. 14.

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