As we enter the final stretch of the season with conference championship weekend, the next-to-last College Football Playoff rankings have been revealed, with just one more week before the final selection to see who makes the top-4.
This week's rankings had a significant change with Ohio State falling out of the top-4 after losing to arch-rival Michigan last Saturday. The Buckeyes, with only one loss, are now positioned at No. 6, just behind one-loss Oregon, with the four undefeated Power-Five teams in the top-4, including Florida State, who had dropped out the week before after losing Jordan Travis.
This could be one of the more important conference championship weekends in recent memory, where the stakes couldn't possibly be any higher, and the top 8 teams all have playoff aspirations on the line. Each conference championship game, which includes the SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, holds the potential to reshape the final College Football Playoff rankings and determine the national championship contenders.
But the committee, who has been wildly inconsistent with their rankings, could be in for a massive challenge for the final selection. The conference championship games, while they could help dwindle down and clarify the top-4, they could also cause major chaos in selecting the final four teams. Let's take a look at what could be one of the more memorable College Football Playoff rankings in history.
SEC Championship Game — Could Georgia be left out? Does Alabama automatically get in with a win?
Let's deal with Georgia football first, who will be facing Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Being the No. 1 team in the country with a solid resume that's backed by three ranked teams, the Bulldogs definitely have some wiggle room, though not much. Plus, even though it's technically not a consideration with the committee's voting, would they really keep a team out that only has one loss to the No. 8 team in the country, after winning 29 games in a row up to that point, including the last two national championships?
Of course, you have to consider the Bulldogs' competition on Saturday, that being the Alabama Crimson Tide under Nick Saban, who has bested Kirby Smart five out of the last six times. There's no guarantee that if Alabama beats Georgia, they are in the playoff, although it would be difficult to see the committee not putting the SEC Champion in the top-4.
Under Saban, Alabama has the history and prestige on their side, just not the higher ranking, which happens to be because of Texas, the team in front of them, who likewise has major implications on the playoff. But if Alabama truly has a shot, they have to 1.) beat Georgia and 2.) hope that Texas, Oregon, Florida State all lose their conference championship games.
Big 12 Championship — Can Texas still make the top-4?
It's pretty simple: Texas has to beat Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game. That's step number one. However, the rest is independent of them. With their loss to Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry Game, most still believed they could find their way back into the playoff. That was until no one else was upset and lost. It also didn't help Texas football that current No. 12 Oklahoma lost two games and fell out of the Big 12 title game, and now they have to face a so-so No. 18 Oklahoma State team with three losses.
Imagine if Texas and Alabama both win this weekend. You would think that the Longhorns would have the advantage with their win over the Crimson Tide. But then again, Alabama would have beaten the No. 1 team in the country. So who is favored?
It's a little trickier with Texas than some other teams. They more than likely need Oregon to lose to Washington in the Pac-12 title game, along with Alabama losing to Georgia, and Florida State losing to Louisville in the ACC title game. But remember, Ohio State is ahead of them at No. 6.
There's no way Ohio State gets back in again, right?
All Ohio State had to do last year was lose to Michigan, keeping them out of the Big Ten title game, and then wait to be let back into the top-4. At No. 6, that's going to be hard to accomplish this season with all the competition ahead and behind them. But don't count it out. Ohio State's only loss is to now the No. 2 team in the country. They still have a great resume as well. Not to mention, they are a massive ratings draw.
There would be an outright riot nearly if the Buckeyes got back into the playoff.
Big Ten Championship Game — Michigan wins and they're in
Jim Harbaugh will finally be back on the sidelines when Michigan heads to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game to face a surprisingly 10-2 Iowa team. Though anything could happen, Michigan should easily handle the Hawkeyes. But if they, for some reason, don't, then the Wolverines are for sure out, as it's unlikely the committee would show any sort of sympathy to them losing to a far less superior team, even if they are a 10-win team. But that's also when things could turn into utter chaos in the voting.
Who knows how far Michigan would actually fall, but it would most likely put them out of the top-4. That would then move everybody up. The question is, who is moving up? What if every favored team in their respective conference championship game — minus Washington, who is a 9.5 underdog, according to FanDuel — loses? Then what?
Florida State is hanging on by a thread, with winning the ACC Championship not a certainty for a playoff appearance
It would be difficult for the committee to have much ground to leave this year's Florida State football team out of the College Football Playoff if they remained undefeated by beating Louisville in the ACC Championship Game. They would still most likely be the underdog against probably any of the other top-8 teams, but going undefeated in a Power-Five conference is deserving for making the playoff. That's with their backup quarterback or not.
However, should Florida State win close in a low-scoring game, it will be interesting to see how the committee would judge that. They climbed back into the top-4 in this week's rankings, all because Ohio State lost. But they have to worry about all the one-loss teams behind them jumping ahead of them, especially Texas and Alabama.
Pac-12 Championship — Washington gets in with a win, but Oregon…
No. 3 Washington football's path is clearer than Oregon's, who they will face in a rematch from earlier this season in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Oregon looks like the best one-loss team in the country, as they have all but blown out their opponents since they faced the Huskies. But now some are arguing that the Ducks' resume isn't as impressive as those below them, like Ohio State, Texas, and Alabama.
Washington has nothing to worry about if they win, as they are set. It seemed Oregon was the same, and they should be if they are able to beat the No. 3 team in the country for the Pac-12 title. But Alabama and Texas could throw a wrench in the whole thing, especially Alabama.
Would the Crimson Tide get an advantage over the Ducks by beating the best team in the country and move up a whopping four places to steal their playoff spot? Or would Texas have the advantage over Alabama, and their conference title win propel them over Oregon? Does Ohio State have a say at all, or do they just keep getting jumped in this scenario since they are idle?
Good luck to Boo Corrigan and the rest of the committee in making their final selection next week. Whatever their decisions, they'll be heavily criticized either way.