Week 13 was arguably the most impactful this season in regards to its effect on the College Football Playoff. Three teams ranked in the top eight lost, Notre Dame completed an undefeated regular season and Ohio State is back in the heart of the playoff conversation.
We analyzed the latest AP Top 25 poll that was released Sunday to see what we could learn before Week 14’s College Football Playoff rankings are announced Tuesday.
Here are the main takeaways.
There are six teams still in playoff contention
Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame,
Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma, Washington State and Ohio State.
That’s the updated list of true playoff contenders after Saturday. Michigan and Washington State have to settle for second place in the Big Ten East and Pac-12 North after losses to Ohio State and Washington, respectively.
Alabama, Clemson and Georgia are in “win and in” positions as they enter the SEC and ACC Championship games. Things are trickier in regards to Oklahoma and Ohio State. Those two teams could be competing head-to-head for the No. 4 seed in the playoff if they both finish as 12-1 conference champions. The playoff picture only gets muddier if Georgia beats Alabama.
If Northwestern wins the Big Ten Championship or Texas wins the Big 12 Championship – but not both – that makes the playoff selection committee’s job of selecting and seeding the four playoff teams pretty easy.
Notre Dame (likely) clinched a playoff berth
OK, it’s not official but Notre Dame likely clinched its first-ever College Football Playoff berth with its 24-17 win at USC. The Fighting Irish overcame a 10-point deficit in the second quarter to finish the regular season undefeated.
UCF is the only other currently undefeated team that’s ranked behind Notre Dame and it’s nearly impossible to imagine two teams jumping the Fighting Irish between Week 13 and the final rankings.
Assuming one of the four spots in the playoff is locked up, that creates a different kind of drama during conference championship weekend that we haven’t experienced in the last four years of the playoff era.
Oklahoma faces a better opponent than Ohio State
Oklahoma was ranked ahead of Ohio State entering Week 13 and if the Sooners are still ahead of the Buckeyes after both schools picked up big wins over the weekend, Oklahoma should feel confident about its chances finishing ahead of Ohio State if both schools finish 12-1.
That’s because Texas is ranked No. 9 in the latest AP Top 25 poll and Northwestern fell to No. 21.
If you set aside your personal feelings about Oklahoma and Ohio State, it’s hard to imagine how the Buckeyes could jump the Sooners in the CFP rankings. Oklahoma is ranked higher entering its conference championship game and if the Sooners beat a higher-ranked opponent than Ohio State to win a conference title, they’ll finish higher than the Buckeyes.
The most notable final-week change historically in the CFP rankings was when TCU entered Week 15 of the 2014 season ranked No. 3 and beat Iowa State 55-3 in its regular season finale but fell to No. 6. But that was before the Big 12 had a championship game.
If the No. 4 seed comes down to Oklahoma or Ohio State, the difference in the rankings between Texas and Northwestern could be what seals the Sooners’ playoff bid if both schools win a conference title.
Is there any realistic playoff hopes for UCF?
UCF moved up to No. 7 in the latest AP Top 25 after a 38-10 win against South Florida. The Knights sit behind No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Ohio State.
What happens if Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC Championship, Texas beats Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship and Northwestern beats Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship?
It’s hard to imagine all three of those teams losing next weekend, but that would potentially open the door for UCF to seriously enter the playoff conversation. The Knights would then be competing with those three teams that would have two losses and no conference championships and three-loss conference champions.
The rest of the Power Five teams would have far and away better wins that UCF so the committee’s final decision would stress either the importance of good wins or the absence of losses.