Ohio State will go into championship weekend as the top team in the College Football Playoff selection committee’s rankings, followed by LSU, Clemson and Georgia.
Utah, Oklahoma and Baylor are on deck, and that could turn out to be the great debate by Saturday night.
Utah was fifth, Oklahoma sixth and Baylor seventh in the committee’s second-to-last top 25 released Tuesday. The final rankings to set the pairings for the national semifinals come out Sunday after each FBS conference plays a championship game. The most pivotal games will be LSU-Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday; Oklahoma-Baylor in the Big 12 championship Saturday; and Utah-Oregon — 13th this week — for the Pac-12 title Friday night.
Wisconsin was eighth, followed by Florida and Penn State. Alabama was 12th, its lowest ranking in the six years the committee has been doing a weekly top 25 over the final third of the season.
Alabama’s drop after losing to Auburn, which was 11th, means the Crimson Tide will not only miss the playoff for the first time in its six-year history, but it won’t even play in a major bowl. The last time Alabama played in something other than a New Year’s Six or BCS bowl was after the 2010 season. The Tide beat Michigan State 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.
Among teams outside the Power Five, Memphis was highest ranked at 17th. Boise State is 19th and Cincinnati, which faces Memphis in the American Athletic Conference title game, was 20th. Appalachian State out of the Sun Belt is 21st. The highest ranked conference champion from this group will earn a spot in the Cotton Bowl.
A team has never lost its conference championship game and made the College Football Playoff. Conventional wisdom suggests that could happen this season with LSU and Ohio State. Clemson might be in the same situation, but a loss to a four-touchdown underdog might give the committee some pause. It is also really unlikely Clemson will lose to Virginia, so let’s not waste too much energy debating that unlikely hypothetical.