The College Football Playoff committee has released their penultimate rankings and it clear that there is one team that is the biggest winner and one conference that is the biggest loser.
First, here is the latest Top 10.
The top four teams are no surprise with Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Washington. They are followed by Michigan and the two teams that will play for the Big Ten championship, Wisconsin and Penn State.
The top four teams are all winners at this point because it would appear that both Alabama and Ohio State are already locked in and Clemson and Washington will be in if they win their conference championship games.
However, if Clemson or Washington lose this weekend, things get interesting. Things really get interesting if both Clemson and Washington lose.
Here are the teams that are in the best and worst positions heading into the final weekend.
The Biggest Winner — Michigan
Michigan fell two spots to No. 5 after losing to Ohio State in double-overtime. This was huge because it kept the Wolverines alive for the playoff. If Michigan had fallen below Wisconsin and Penn State, the Wolverines’ fate would have been sealed since they would not have been able to leap-frog over the winner of the Big Ten Championship game.
Now, at the very least, if a spot opens up in the top four, the committee has to debate the merits of Michigan vs the winner of the Big Ten and Michigan has wins this season over both Wisconsin (by 7 points) and Penn State (by 39 points).
In addition, Kirby Hocutt, the chair of the selection committee, told ESPN that Michigan is “very, very close” to No. 4 Washington, suggesting that the gap between Michigan and No. 6 Wisconsin is much bigger.
“I will tell you that the separation by the selection committee members between No. 4 Washington and No. 5 Michigan is very, very small.” Hocutt said on ESPN.
Other Winners — Ohio State, Washington, and the Big Ten
In addition to Michigan, there were three other winners, starting with Ohio State.
By keeping the Buckeyes at No. 2, they are almost certainly a lock to make the playoff at this point. If Ohio State were No. 3 or No. 4 there would be more talk about them not winning their conference and losing to Penn State. But it is hard to imagine a team falling from No. 2 to No. 5 or No. 6 without even playing a game.
Washington is also a winner here because they now seemingly control their own destiny. Even though the gap between them and No. 5 Michigan is close, there is no way for Michigan to jump ahead of Washington if the Huskies win the Pac-12. They will have added another quality win against a top-10 team (Colorado) while Michigan was sitting at home. In addition, it would seem that while the winner of the Big Ten will also add a quality win, it is not that much better to overcome the seemingly large gap between No. 4 and Nos. 6/7.
Finally, the Big Ten is in a strong position to be a huge winner. With four of the top seven teams right now, not only are they in a good position to get two teams into the playoff, there is actually a reasonable scenario in which they get three teams in. If both Clemson and Washington lose their conference title games, the next teams in could very easily be Michigan and the winner of the Big Ten championship.
The Biggest Loser — The Big 12 Conference
At this point, it seems clear that the Big 12 is out of the playoff. The biggest problem is that both Big 12 teams (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) are behind both teams in the Big Ten championship game (Penn State and Wisconsin) and both teams in the Pac-12 championship game (Washington and Colorado).
If we assume that Alabama and Ohio State are in the playoff. That means, at most, there will be two spots up for grabs if both Washington and Clemson lose. If that happens, the winner of the Big 12 would then need to leap-frog three teams: Michigan and the winners of the Big Ten and Pac-12 conference championship games.
That’s not happening.
Other losers — Penn State and Colorado
Penn State still has a shot to make the playoff, but at this point it seems more likely that they will be left out despite having the best win of any team in the top ten (over No. 2 Ohio State) and potentially being the champions of arguably the best conference in college football.
The biggest problem for Penn State at this point is that their head-to-head win over Ohio State no longer matters if Ohio State is a lock to get in. Now, the more important head-to-head matchup is Penn State’s 39-point loss to Michigan since those two teams would potentially be battling over a final spot in the playoff.
Finally, Colorado is also seemingly locked out of the playoffs. They needed to be ranked ahead of one of the Big Ten teams to have a shot and that did not happen.
Now, even if both Clemson and Washington lose, Colorado would need to jump over both Michigan and the winner of the Big Ten. The Buffaloes’ best hope at that point would be that the committee just decides that three Big Ten teams is too much.
Maybe it is. We’ll find out this weekend.
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