Clemson leads college playoff pack, but Alabama is lurking

Thursday, 30 Nov, 2017

UW (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten) moved up one spot to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings revealed Tuesday.

Auburn, which lost to Clemson on September 9, slid up to No. 2 after knocking off the Crimson Tide. Alabama's nine Power Five victims are 53-54 this season, set against numbers such as that of Clemson (a marvelous 67-39), Auburn (54-30, with just seven Power Five victims but two top-tier ones in Georgia and Alabama), Oklahoma (57-51) and Georgia (57-49). Auburn previously beat Georgia when the Bulldogs were No. 1.

In this less likely scenario, it does not matter if Clemson or Oklahoma is No. 1.

Two ACC teams in the playoff puts the next highest-ranked team from that conference in the Orange Bowl. That's your current top four. Though they didn't earn a Big Ten championship game berth, they matched the best single-season turnaround in wins in program history.

Even though they'd have the Big 12 championship, it's hard to envision a scenario where a two-loss TCU team gets in over Alabama.

Putting Alabama in fifth place might have been a sign that if any of the teams above it goes down this weekend, coach Nick Saban has his team right back in the College Football Playoff picture. Having fallen to No. 5 this week in the CFP rankings, Alabama must hope a favorite such as Oklahoma or Clemson loses; if that happens, the Crimson Tide's résumé might lift them back into the playoff mix. The next best result for the Tide would be a Wisconsin loss to Ohio State.

The Badgers opened at No. 9, moved up to No. 8 in Week 2, moved up to No. 5 in Week 3, stayed at No. 5 in Week 4 and moved up this week thanks to losses by then-No. Miami slipped after taking its first loss of the season last week from No. 2 to seventh, just ahead of Ohio State at eighth. The No. 7 Hurricanes will play defending champion Clemson in the ACC title game, and the victor of that one will be part of the four-team field.

Each of the top four teams plays a conference title game this Saturday against another highly ranked team, creating potential play-in playoff games.

Trojans have won 38 Pac-12 titles, by far the most in the conference, but none since 2008 before the league expanded from 10 to 12 teams. That game will be a rematch of a September 9 USC victory at the Coliseum.

It's fairly simple: All the teams in the top eight that don't make it into the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl semifinals will land in one of the other major bowls: Peach, Fiesta, Cotton and Orange. LSU (9-3), 18. Washington State (9-3), 19. Ohio State would be coming off four straight wins and a highly-valued conference championship, but one of its two losses was an unexpected beatdown at the hands of a lesser team.

The Spartans also came in at No. 16 last week before beating Rutgers over the weekend. The Big 12 championship game could join that group if the selection committee's rankings on Tuesday night elevate TCU into the top 10 as the AP top 25 did this week.

So how would these rankings shake out if they were to hold?

Oklahoma and Wisconsin control their own playoff destiny, but the same can't be said for their conference championship opponents. 1 Alabama and then-No.

Alabama fans need to root for TCU and Ohio State to win their respective conferences.

The AAC victor is probably going to the Peach Bowl. Ohio State would own a conference championship, but Oklahoma decisively beat the Buckeyes in Columbus on September 9. USC could get into a major bowl with a loss.

If Oklahoma wins, it's in.

Big Ten: No. 4 Wisconsin vs.