Everything is in place for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.
Just four weeks ago, there were 13 teams undefeated or one loss away in the Power Five conference. That number was reduced to 11 a week later, while adding a two-game playoff contender to 14 LSU.
Of those dozen teams, only five have emerged as realistic playoff options with a Saturday remaining in the regular season.
Georgia No. 1 is a lock ahead of the SEC Championship game against the Tigers. Likewise with No. 2 Michigan entering the Big Ten Championship against Purdue. The No. 3 TCU is in great shape even with a loss in the Big 12 Championship Game. The Southern California No. 4 is set for a rematch with the Utah No. 11 to settle the Pac -12.
And at No. 5, the committee weighed Ohio State and Alabama and landed on the Buckeyes, who didn’t fall far after an ugly loss to the Wolverines.
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The penultimate standings for the 2022 playoffs show just how easy deliberations have become for the committee, which should be able to avoid much, if any, controversy in this year’s field pick. These teams on the verge of making the playoffs lead Tuesday night’s winners and losers:
Georgia, Michigan, TCU and Southern California
At least two of that quartet are locked into the playoffs regardless: Georgia and Michigan can lose on Saturday and still land in the semifinals. Last weekend’s rout of Iowa State, combined with No. 9 Clemson’s loss to No. 19 South Carolina, dramatically increased the odds of TCU losing the rematch against No. #10 Kansas State and still finishes in the top four. The only one in this group without that kind of backstop is USC, but even the Trojans have room for error heading into the Pac-12 Championship game.
The only debate that mattered before Tuesday’s release was whether Ohio State or Alabama would land at No. 5 and be ready to potentially fill the void if USC suffered a second loss to Utah. . The fact that they were selected for this key ranking does not mean the Buckeyes are a lock for No. 4 if the Trojans lose; even with a loss, USC could hold OSU at bay with a deeper win summary and better performance against a common opponent in No. 21 Notre Dame. But these penultimate rankings strongly suggest that there are only five teams that have a chance of making the semis – and the Buckeyes are the fifth and final team in the conversation.
As expected, both teams in the U.S. Championship Game were ranked by the committee: Tulane at No. 18 after beating Cincinnati and Central Florida at No. 22 after an emotional win over South Florida. This ensures Saturday’s winner will win the New Year’s Six bowl bid as the best team in the group of five, fending off a challenge from members of Sun Belt Troy and Coastal Carolina.
Coming in behind Ohio State officially ends No. 6 Alabama’s chances of reaching the playoffs, as there’s no reasonably plausible scenario that could play out this weekend and open up two spots in the field of four. teams. Doomed by narrow losses to No. 7 Tennessee and LSU, wins in just one of those games would have given Crimson Tide the SEC West crown and a berth in the conference championship game. As the 11-1 winner of the West, Alabama would have already entered the top four on Saturday and could have secured a playoff spot by beating the Bulldogs or losing USC to the Utes.
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With four teams in the playoff standings but two trailing — No. 23 North Carolina and No. 25 North Carolina — and none above No. 9, the ACC brings up the rear among the Power Five. The SEC has six teams in the Top 25, including three in the top seven. The committee has ranked six Pac-12 teams, all in the top 17. The Big Ten has three ranked teams, all in the top eight: Michigan, No. 8 OSU and Penn State. And while the Big 12 also only has three teams in the Top 25, two are in the top 10 at TCU and Kansas State.
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