Oklahoma (12-1), the Big 12 winner, is the only other power conference team with less than two losses. Georgia (11-2) didn’t win its league and has a home loss to 4-8 South Carolina. Baylor (11-2) lost to the Sooners twice. Pac-12 champion Oregon (11-2) and runner-up Utah (11-2) just don’t have enough at the top of their respective résumés, not to mention one more loss than the Sooners.
And with that, any bickering that arises will center on who lands the No. 1 seed. Ohio State was the top team in the committee’s weekly edict, though how much that matters is perpetually up for interpretation. LSU would also be a worthy No. 1 with its Joe Burrow-led offense.
Either way, one of them is playing Clemson, and the other will face Oklahoma. On this Selection Sunday, that’s about as much suspense as there is.
Ohio State (13-0): The Buckeyes trailed in the second half for the first time all season in the Big Ten title game. Then they rattled off 27 points in a row to bury Wisconsin, 34-21, and remain undefeated. Ohio State has a pair of victories over the Badgers (10-3), plus defeats of Penn State (10-2), Michigan (9-3) and Cincinnati (10-3) and encountered little difficulty prior to Saturday.
Verdict: The No. 1 or No. 2 seed, depending on whether the committee punishes the Buckeyes for the closest thing to an off-day they’ve had all season.
LSU (13-0): The Joe Burrow-for-Heisman train made its final stop in Atlanta, where he threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns in the Tigers’ blowout defeat of Georgia. While LSU’s defense could be leaky at times, the Tigers probably own the best set of victories: Georgia (11-2), Florida (10-2), Alabama (10-2) and Auburn (9-3), as well as a since-devalued road defeat of Texas (7-5) early in the season.
Verdict: The No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the playoff.
Clemson (13-0): Besides a scare at 6-6 North Carolina, Clemson breezed through the ACC yet again. The Tigers capped carving up their league with a 62-17 rout of Virginia as Trevor Lawrence threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns and Tee Higgins hauled in nine catches for 182 yards and three scores. As good as Clemson is, it doesn’t have the same level of high-end wins as Ohio State or LSU. The Tigers’ top triumphs are against Virginia (9-4), Wake Forest (8-4), Louisville (7-5) and Texas A&M (7-5).
Verdict: Clemson has now won 28 in a row, and everyone should expect to see it pop up as the No. 3 seed Sunday.
Oklahoma (12-1): It turns out CeeDee Lamb, who didn’t play in the Sooners’ first game against Baylor but had eight catches for 173 yards in the Big 12 title game, is pretty valuable. It also turns out Oklahoma’s decision to hire Alex Grinch as its defensive coordinator after last season paid off when it mattered most, since the Sooners yielded just 265 yards.
Oklahoma is in the clubhouse with two victories over Baylor (11-2), plus defeats of Oklahoma State (8-4), Iowa State (7-5) and Texas (7-5). The Sooners haven’t always dominated, but it’s not a terrible set of victories.
Verdict: Everything broke right for Oklahoma this weekend, including losses by Utah and Georgia. The Sooners did their part, outlasting Baylor to get into the barn at 12-1.
Georgia (11-2): The Bulldogs aren’t going to become the first two-loss team to make the playoff. Their set of victories are nice enough (10-2 Florida, 10-2 Notre Dame and 9-3 Auburn), but that overtime home loss to South Carolina coupled with a lopsided SEC title game loss to LSU will be too much to overcome.
Verdict: Pencil the Bulldogs into the Sugar Bowl as the SEC’s representative in that New Year’s Six game.
Baylor (11-2): The Bears nearly made the most of their second shot at Oklahoma, even as they were nudged into using third-string quarterback Jacob Zeno, who completed two passes for 159 yards and a touchdown in the second half. But Baylor was too reliant on big plays and couldn’t muster anything in overtime.
Nonetheless, Baylor more than acquitted itself well against the Sooners. The Bears won’t be in the playoff, but it’s still been a fine season in Waco — especially since Matt Rhule’s team was 1-11 just two years ago.
Verdict: If Oklahoma winds up in the playoff, the Bears will have a fine landing spot in the Sugar Bowl.
Utah (11-2): The Utes had quietly demolished nearly everyone in their path since a September loss to Southern California, but were badly overmatched early in their Pac-12 title game loss to Oregon on Friday night. The first quarter was an abject disaster for Utah, from getting stuffed on a fourth and one at the Oregon 33 to allowing a touchdown drive on the Ducks’ first possession to a blocked punt to a Tyler Huntley interception.
By early in the second quarter, Utah was already down 17 after never having trailed by more than 11 all year. Instead of adding a victory over a 10-win team, the Utes head into the postseason with triumphs over an assortment of 7-5 outfits (Arizona State, Brigham Young, California and Washington).
Verdict: Conventional wisdom has the Utes tumbling to the Alamo Bowl as a result of their loss. Oregon will almost certainly be the Pac-12’s lone representative in the New Year’s Six structure.
Wisconsin (10-3): The Badgers gave it a good run, leading Ohio State by two touchdowns at halftime before the Buckeye buzz saw asserted itself in the final 30 minutes of the Big Ten title game. A two-loss Wisconsin team was a long shot for the playoff; the three-loss version might not be ranked in the top 10 (though there’s a case to be made it should be).
Verdict: The best case is a trip to the Rose Bowl to face Oregon, which is a fine consolation prize for making a better run than anyone else has at attempting to spoil Ohio State’s perfect season.
Memphis. A 29-24 defeat of Cincinnati — the Tigers’ second in the last nine days at home against the Bearcats — should be enough to get them into the Cotton Bowl as the Group of Five’s representative in the New Year’s Six games.
Lane Kiffin. After helping Florida Atlantic blast UAB, 49-6, to claim its second Conference USA title in three years, Kiffin was announced as Mississippi’s new coach.
So Kiffin gets a blowout victory with a championship on the line, an undoubtedly lucrative new contract and the chance to go rile up the SEC with his attention-seeking antics? It’s tough to imagine anyone in the sport who had a more satisfying Saturday — and that includes the teams that locked up playoff berths.
Oregon. The Ducks simply dominated Utah, out-toughing the Utes from pretty much start to finish. Running back CJ Verdell piled up 208 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, including what amounted to a game-sealing, 70-yard gallop with 7:09 to play.
Oregon (11-2) won the Pac-12 for the first time since 2014, when it appeared in the first playoff. Two years later, the Ducks bottomed out at 4-8, but climbed back to 7-6 in 2017 (under Willie Taggart) and then 9-4 under Mario Cristobal last season. The Ducks won’t make the playoff, but their trajectory remains impressive, and they now have hardware to show for their progress.
Appalachian State. The Mountaineers (12-1) got an early jump in the Sun Belt title game, leading by as many as 25 before ultimately earning a 45-38 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. It’s Appalachian State’s fourth Sun Belt title in a row, the last two coming in league championship games.
It’s unlikely the Mountaineers jump whoever emerges from the American Athletic Conference title game for a spot in the Cotton Bowl as the Group of Five’s representative in the New Year’s Six structure, but it’s hard to quibble with a program defined by its sustained excellence.
Ranking the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy by factoring historical voting trends (in favor of quarterbacks, players on top-five teams, against receivers and defensive players) as much as on-field performance. Statistics and summaries entering Saturday’s games.
1. QB Joe Burrow, LSU (4,366 yards, 44 TDs, 6 INTs passing; 248 yards, 3 TDs rushing). He plays on an undefeated team, ranks second in the country in passing yards and needs two passing touchdowns to take over the national lead in that category. That’s Heisman-voter catnip. (Last week: 1)
2. QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (3,347 yards, 31 TDs, 6 INTs passing; 1,217 yards, 18 TDs rushing). Threw for only 308 yards over his last two games, but on the bright side, he did catch a touchdown pass in the Sooners’ Bedlam defeat of Oklahoma State. (LW: 2)
3. QB Justin Fields, Ohio State (2,654 yards, 37 TDs, 1 INT passing; 470 yards, 10 TDs rushing). In the end, he’ll be hurt by the fact the Buckeyes were so dominant that he has yet to throw more than 25 passes in a game and his backup has attempted a pass in eight of 12 games to date. (LW: 3)
4. RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (1,761 yards, 20 TDs rushing; 22 receptions for 201 yards and 5 TDs). Didn’t wrap up the regular season with four consecutive 200-yard rushing days, but no matter. Taylor scored three touchdowns as the Badgers locked up the Big Ten West at Minnesota. (LW: 5)
5. RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State (1,657 yards, 19 TDs rushing; 17 receptions for 200 yards and 2 TDs). A monster day at Michigan — 211 yards and four touchdowns on the ground plus 49 receiving yards — gets Dobbins on the board entering the Big Ten title game. (LW: Not ranked)
6. RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State (1,936 yards, 21 TDs rushing; 21 receptions for 183 yards). A late push was reliant on posting a gaudy number against Oklahoma. A 24-carry, 104-yard day is good, just not gaudy. It’s still been a heck of a season for the nation’s top rusher. (LW: 6)