The top 10
Here’s the path to the playoff for the top 10, with Tuesday’s full rankings listed below:
1. Ohio State (11-0): Saturday at Michigan, Dec. 7 vs. Minnesota or Wisconsin in Big Ten championship game
Could the Buckeyes lose one of their remaining two games and still earn a playoff berth?
2. LSU (11-0): Saturday vs. Texas A&M, Dec. 7 vs. Georgia in SEC championship game
One could ask the same question of LSU as of Ohio State.
3. Clemson (11-0): Saturday at South Carolina, Dec. 7 vs. Virginia or Virginia Tech in ACC championship game
Considering their soft schedule, the Tigers probably cannot afford a loss.
4. Georgia (10-1): Saturday at Georgia Tech, Dec. 7 vs. LSU in SEC championship game
The Bulldogs’ punchless offense might mean they’re not long for this spot.
The Iron Bowl is a slight step up in competition after Saturday’s romp against FCS Western Carolina.
6. Utah (10-1): Saturday vs. Colorado, potentially Dec. 6 vs. Oregon in Pac-12 championship game
The Utes are the Pac-12′s only hope after Oregon’s loss to Arizona State, but to keep it flickering they must avoid an upset of their own Saturday.
7. Oklahoma (10-1): Saturday at Oklahoma State, Dec. 7 vs. Baylor in Big 12 championship game
The Sooners’ past four wins were by a combined 15 points. A blowout might help their chances.
8. Minnesota (10-1): Saturday vs. Wisconsin, potentially Dec. 7 vs. Ohio State in Big Ten championship game
The Gophers would have a serious case if they win out. That’s a mammoth task, though.
The Bears have a rematch left with Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, but it’s hard to see them getting into the top four.
The Nittany Lions have lost two of three and could be thinking Rose Bowl.
Here’s a look at three outcomes, based on their varying levels of chaos:
- Ohio State, LSU and Clemson win out, giving the committee little to think about apart from seeding.
- Without Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama falters against Auburn to end its regular season.
- Utah wins out, defeating Oregon in the Pac-12 title game
Just like last week, this is the scenario that would give the committee the least amount of trouble. It would be hard to see the committee choosing two-loss Alabama — which didn’t even qualify for its conference championship game — or a one-loss Oklahoma or Baylor over the Utes, considering their dominant defense. (They’ve allowed seven points or fewer in five of their past six games.)
Perhaps the committee might weigh Georgia, with two losses and a title-game appearance in a stronger conference, but Utah would have a league title, one fewer loss and a less-lamentable defeat at that (at 8-4 Southern Cal, as opposed to the Bulldogs’ at home to 4-7 South Carolina).
- LSU and Georgia win out to close the regular season, but Georgia beats LSU in the SEC championship game. Alabama beats Auburn handily with a backup quarterback to finish with one loss.
- Ohio State loses to Michigan but beats Minnesota or Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game
- Clemson wins out to finish undefeated.
- Utah loses to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game.
- A one-loss champion emerges from the Big 12.
This scenario gives us three one-loss SEC teams — Georgia, LSU and Alabama — and only one undefeated team left standing nationally (Clemson). The committee almost certainly would not take all three of those SEC teams. Would it take Georgia and Alabama, even though LSU beat the Tide during the regular season? How would it regard Ohio State, with its one loss in a rivalry game to a Michigan team that has gotten a whole lot better over the past month?
- LSU loses to Texas A&M on Saturday and then to one-loss Georgia in the SEC title game. Auburn beats Alabama.
- Ohio State loses to Michigan and loses again to Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.
- Utah loses to Colorado and fails to qualify for the Pac-12 title game (USC would earn the berth by virtue of its win over the Utes earlier this season.)
- Clemson loses to South Carolina or in the ACC title game.
- The Big 12 champion finishes with two losses.
This would give us two one-loss teams in Georgia and Clemson, though the latter’s résumé would be seen as suspect by the committee. They would both probably get in, though. After that, the committee would have to sift through a number of two-loss teams: Alabama with a backup quarterback, LSU on a two-game losing streak, Ohio State, a Wisconsin team that just beat Ohio State, the Big 12 champion. Would two-loss Oregon reenter the picture if it beats USC to win the Pac-12 title?
The complete rankings
25. Appalachian State (10-1)