Less than a week stands in the way of the final College Football Playoff rankings, which will determine the four-team field that will compete for the national championship.
It’s conference championship week, and while a few teams should clinch a playoff spot with a win, a few upsets could create complete chaos.
Here are my predictions for the top four spots. To view the latest CFP rankings that were released Tuesday night, click here.
The Crimson Tide are 23-point favorites to beat Florida in the SEC Championship Game after destroying Auburn in the Iron Bowl last weekend. They deserve a playoff spot even if they suffer a shocking upset loss to Florida because it would be their first defeat. Alabama has several quality wins, along with an elite defense and a Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback Jalen Hurts. Win or lose Saturday, there’s no question Alabama is the best team in the nation.
2) Ohio State
The Buckeyes beat No. 3 Michigan in double overtime Saturday, and even though they won’t be in the Big Ten Championship Game because of their loss to Penn State, no other Big Ten school is more deserving of a playoff spot.
Ohio State beat Michigan and Wisconsin (the other conference title game participant), and its loss to the Nittany Lions was a result of a late blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown. The Buckeyes also beat likely Big 12 champion Oklahoma 45-24 on the road.
Ohio State has the second-best strength of record and only one loss, whereas Penn State and Wisconsin both have two entering Saturday. It’s difficult to envision any scenario that doesn’t include the Buckeyes among the four playoff teams.
All the Tigers have to do is beat Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game to make the playoff. Last season’s playoff runner-up is 11-1 with its only blemish being a 43-42 defeat to Pittsburgh. Clemson has quality wins over Louisville and Florida State, and a potential conference title, which the playoff committee values above most factors, should be the final bullet point on a playoff-worthy résumé.
Washington is another team likely facing a win-and-you’re-in situation. The Huskies play No. 9 Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday, and another victory would improve the Huskies to 12-1 from a deep, competitive conference. Washington ranks fifth in strength of record, and the only teams ahead of them are Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Wisconsin.
The Wolverines’ losses were to Ohio State and Iowa, the latter of which doesn’t look very good. However, they beat both Big Ten title game teams (Penn State and Wisconsin) and Pac-12 title game participant Colorado. Therefore, Michigan could end up having wins over two major conference champions. Still, having two losses and not winning its own conference championship probably will cost the Wolverines a playoff spot. Michigan had its chance against Ohio State last weekend and blew it.
If Clemson and Washington both lose, it’s unlikely either school earns a playoff spot. That event would give the Big Ten champion and Oklahoma a chance of making the top four. Michigan probably would be the first team to get in if Clemson and/or Washington lose Saturday, though.
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