In five days, we'll know the four teams that will play for the College Football Playoff. Actually, in four days, we'll likely know at least a couple of them.
All Alabama, Florida State, and Oregon have to do is beat really good teams this weekend. Each one that pulls that off and thus wins its conference will be sure to land a spot in the Playoff. The fourth spot's where the drama is, though upsets along the way could create even more.
This week's big surprise is undefeated Florida State falling yet again, this time to No. 4 behind TCU. That might raise some doubts that the Noles could make it in if they look ugly against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship, but it shouldn't. There is a zero percent chance of an undefeated power-conference champion missing the Playoff, and if I end up being wrong about that, I will walk to your house and apologize. Besides, beating the Jackets would count as a quality win, even if it's close.
Here's the new Playoff picture, with the final version coming Sunday afternoon:
|Rank||Team||Last week||Week 14 result||Final opponent||If the season ended today ...|
|1||Alabama (11-1)||1||Won 55-44 vs. No. 15 Auburn||Missouri||Sugar Bowl vs. Florida State|
|2||Oregon (11-1)||2||Won 47-19 at Oregon State||Arizona||Rose Bowl vs. TCU|
|3||TCU (10-1)||5||Won 48-10 at Texas||Iowa State||Rose Bowl vs. Oregon|
|4||Florida State (12-0)||3||Won 24-19 vs. Florida||Georgia Tech||Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama|
|5||Ohio State (11-1)||6||Won 42-28 vs. Michigan||Wisconsin||New Year's bowl|
|6||Baylor (10-1)||7||Won 48-46 vs. Texas Tech||Kansas State||New Year's bowl|
|7||Arizona (10-2)||11||Won 42-35 vs. No. 13 Arizona State||Oregon||New Year's bowl|
|8||Michigan State (10-2)||10||Won 34-10 at Penn State||None||Orange Bowl vs. Georgia Tech*|
|9||Kansas State (9-2)||12||Won 51-13 vs. Kansas||Baylor||New Year's bowl|
|10||Mississippi State (10-2)||4||Lost 31-17 at No. 19 Ole Miss||None||New Year's bowl|
|11||Georgia Tech (10-2)||16||Won 30-24 (OT) at No. 9 Georgia||Florida State||Orange Bowl vs. Michigan State|
|12||Ole Miss (9-3)||19||Won 31-17 vs. No. 4 Mississippi State||None|
|13||Wisconsin (10-2)||14||Won 34-24 vs. No. 18 Minnesota||Ohio State|
|14||Georgia (9-3)||9||Lost 30-24 (OT) vs. No. 16 Georgia Tech||None|
|15||UCLA (9-3)||8||Lost 31-10 vs. Stanford||None|
|16||Missouri (10-2)||17||Won 21-14 vs. Arkansas||Alabama|
|17||Arizona State (10-2)||13||Lost 42-35 at No. 11 Arizona||None|
|18||Clemson (9-3)||21||Won 35-17 vs. South Carolina||None|
|19||Auburn (8-4)||15||Lost 55-44 at No. 1 Alabama||None|
|20||Oklahoma (8-3)||20||Idle||Oklahoma State|
|21||Louisville (9-3)||22||Won 44-40 vs. Kentucky||None|
|22||Boise State (10-2)||23||Won 50-19 vs. Utah State||Fresno State||New Year's bowl|
|23||Utah (8-4)||25||Won 38-34 vs. Colorado||None|
|24||LSU (8-4)||NR||Won 23-17 at Texas A&M||None|
|25||USC (8-4)||NR||Won 49-14 vs. Notre Dame||None|
* Assuming we'd count Ohio State as the Big Ten champion if the season ended right now.
- The Pac-12 Championship is darn near a Playoff play-in game, if the Wildcats can get just a bit of chaos elsewhere around the country. Bet you didn't see that coming, back when Oregon and Arizona were goofing around with Washington State and UTSA, respectively! Life's funny.
- Baylor would seem to be in bad shape, with the team it's beaten rising to No. 3. But note Minnesota is no longer ranked, which hurts both Ohio State and TCU a little bit. Also note that the Bears have a game against No. 9 this Saturday. Beating No. 9 by any margin would top anything TCU could possibly do against Iowa State and a comparable showing by OSU against No. 13 Wisconsin. I don't think the Bears are quite as doomed as they appear -- beat K-State, and then strengths of schedule are just about equal, and head-to-head becomes a factor -- but obviously TCU has the advantage right now.
- It does matter that TCU has the better loss, though, even if that loss came against a team it's holding off. If Baylor doesn't want TCU to get credit for losing to a good team by one score, it can't lose to a mediocre team by two scores.
- Florida State is No. 4, with chairman Jeff Long saying FSU's "struggling" weekly. Whatever. Win and in. Also, ranking No. 4 would mean less travel for fans and players, if Alabama ranks No. 1. I don't know if that's intentional, and it would be concerning if it is. But FSU's fine.
- Either Michigan State, Ohio State, or Wisconsin will surely rank ahead of Mississippi State and a hypothetical Alabama that loses to the No. 16 team. That means the Big Ten is all but assured of an Orange Bowl bid. And, due to complicated ramifications, that means the Big Ten gives the ACC its spot in the Citrus Bowl. That could be good for either Clemson or Louisville.
- Ole Miss is about to go from losing 30-0 to a 6-6 Arkansas to landing in a New Year's bowl, all in the matter of just a few weeks. It's already one spot out, with multiple teams ahead of it set to lose. Life's funny.
- Missouri didn't rise anywhere near as high as I expected it to (not that I thought it should, just that it would). The SEC really only has one team that can make it in.
- Your other longshot Playoff dark horses, if chaos strikes: No. 9 Kansas State and No. 11 Georgia Tech.
(Also, this part is funny: an ESPN graphic leaked the news of FSU falling to No. 4. ESPN's studio hosts say each week that they haven't seen the rankings ahead of time, but obviously the graphics people have to prepare images.)