Georgia, Michigan, TCU and USC are all set to enter the college football playoffs with victories in their conference championship games this weekend after the selection committee released their preliminary draft. last ranking 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 No. 3 and USC (11-1) made its first top-four appearance after losing the Buckeyes and the USL.
“A lot of talk about the top four,” CFP committee chairman Boo Corrigan, NC State’s athletic director, said on ESPN’s rankings publication show. “We saw no reason to remove Georgia from the top spot.”
Ohio State fell to No. 5 and must now hope for upheaval and mayhem in future title games to potentially have the opportunity to get back into the playoff mix. But much of that will depend not only on the results, but also on how the committee would view an undefeated team losing in the conference title game, since Ohio State won’t play an extra game. Alabama landed just behind the Buckeyes at No. 6.
“It was a tough decision,” Corrigan said of the call to put Ohio State ahead of Alabama. “There are four teams ahead of them, and there are still a lot of games to play this weekend.”
Conference championship weekend could offer little drama if the top four teams win. It all starts Friday night when Utah No. 11 (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 managed to convert the 2-point conversion attempt with 48 seconds left. to play.
On Saturday, Georgia will face No. 14 LSU (9-3) in the SEC Championship Game; TCU faces No. 10 Kansas State (9-3) in the Big 12 Championship Game and Michigan faces Purdue (8-4) in the Big Ten Championship Game. The top 4 CFP teams are favored to win.
If one or more teams lose, the committee may have more difficult decisions to make. But consider this: Beyond the Top 5, every other ranked team has two or more losses, and no two-loss team has ever made the college football playoffs.
“College football always delivers,” Corrigan said during the weekend preview. “As a group, we’re delighted to have the opportunity to come together and watch these games. We can’t wait to assess it all.”
Top-ranked among two-game losing teams 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 plays No. 23 North Carolina (9-3) in Saturday’s ACC Championship game as well, but after the Tigers lost to South Carolina 31-30 last Saturday, they were essentially knocked out of the playoffs.
That win over Clemson helped South Carolina (8-4) move from unranked to 19th place this week. In addition to beating Clemson, the Gamecocks beat Tennessee 63-38 the previous week – becoming the first unranked team to win back-to-back games against AP Top 10 opponents since Auburn in 2003.
Tulane (10-2) is just ahead of No. 18 South Carolina and hosts No. 22 UCF (9-3) on Saturday in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. The winner would almost certainly be the top-ranked team in the 5-man group and earn a place in a New Year’s 6-man game.
The final standings will be released on Sunday, followed by bowl announcements for teams that don’t make it.