Georgia, Michigan, TCU and USC are all poised to make the College Football Playoff with wins in their conference championships this weekend after the selection committee unveiled its penultimate rankings on Tuesday.
There was no change at the top as Georgia (12-0) remained No. 1. But after Michigan (12-0) beat Ohio State 45-23 last Saturday, the Wolverines jumped one spot to No. 2. TCU (12 – 0) remained at No. 3 and USC (11-1) appeared in the top four for the first time after the Buckeyes and LSU lost.
“Lots of talk about the top four,” said Boo Corrigan, CFP committee chair, NC State’s athletic director, on ESPN’s release show. “We didn’t see any reason to take Georgia out of first place.”
Ohio State dropped to No. 5 and must now hope for disruptions and mayhem in the upcoming title games to possibly get a chance to get back into the playoff mix. But a lot of that will depend not only on the results, but how the committee would view an undefeated team losing in the conference title game because Ohio State will not play an extra game. Alabama landed just behind the Buckeyes at No. 6.
“It was a tough call,” Corrigan said of the call to put Ohio State ahead of Alabama. “There are four teams ahead of them and plenty of games to play this weekend.”
The Conference Championship weekend could bring little drama if the top four teams win. It all kicks off Friday night when No. 11 Utah (9-3) and USC play in the Pac-12 championship game in Las Vegas. Utah handed USC its only loss of the season in October, 43–42, when quarterback Cam Rising ran for a 1-yard touchdown and successfully converted the 2-point conversion attempt with 48 seconds remaining.
On Saturday, Georgia will play No. 14 LSU (9-3) in the SEC championship game; TCU plays No. 10 Kansas State (9-3) in the Big 12 championship game and Michigan plays Purdue (8-4) in the Big Ten championship game. The top four CFP teams are preferred to win.
If one or more teams lose, the committee can make more difficult decisions. But consider this: Outside of the top five, every other ranked team has two or more losses, and no team with two losses has ever made the College Football Playoff.
“College football always pays off,” said Corrigan, looking ahead to the weekend. “As a group, we are excited to have the opportunity to get together and watch these games. We look forward to evaluating everything.”
The highest ranked of the teams with two losses is Alabama, followed by Tennessee at No. 7. Penn State at No. 8, Clemson at No. 9 and Kansas State at No. 10 round out the top 10. Clemson also plays No. 23 North Carolina (9-3) in Saturday’s ACC championship game, but after the Tigers lost 31-30 to South Carolina last Saturday, they were essentially eliminated from the playoffs.
That win over Clemson helped South Carolina (8-4) go from unranked to the No. 19 spot this week. In addition to beating Clemson, the Gamecocks beat Tennessee 63-38 the previous week – becoming the first unranked team to win consecutive games against AP Top 10 opponents since Auburn in 2003.
Tulane (10-2) is just ahead of South Carolina at No. 18 and hosts No. 22 UCF (9-3) in Saturday’s American Athletic Conference championship game. The winner would almost certainly be the highest ranked team of Group of 5 and earn a spot in a New Year’s Six match.
The final standings will be released on Sunday, followed by bowl announcements for the teams that don’t make it.
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