With the College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday, it’s time to examine the prospects for teams still looking for a four-team home. There are five teams competing for those spots with only four of them actually competing in the conference championship games played on Friday and Saturday.
Because of such a shortlist this year, we’ve expanded this annual story to include a look at the odds out there for the remaining six games in the new year outside of the playoffs. There’s not a lot of flexibility with a lot of conference connections involved, but there’s still some intrigue.
Without further ado, here’s a list of the remaining CFP contenders in their current standings along with an explanation of what each team can achieve this weekend. Let’s take a look at how these teams stack up with the Championship Week and final CFP rankings.
College Football Playoff Tracks
Six tracks for the new year
The six options for the New Year are more numerous. After the CFP pairs are assigned, the Rose, Sugar, and Orange Bowls will select teams for their games. Here’s how that would go down.
If the Big Ten and/or Pac-12 champions advance to the playoff, the bowl will select their replacements. Traditionally, these would be the highest-ranked teams remaining from those conferences. However, the Rose Bowl has the option of selecting its participants from a “pool” of similarly ranked teams.
If Michigan and USC both won this weekend, the Rose Bowl could have been left with a rematch of last year featuring Ohio State and Utah. This would have been less than ideal. The rose seemed ready to enter number 8 Pennsylvania state Big Ten and/or No. 12 Washington of the Pac-12 to ensure the game does not repeat. The Buckeyes have played in the Rose Bowl twice in the past four years, while the Nittany Lions haven’t been in the game since 2016. If the Huskies were as likely a Pac-12 as the Utes, in addition to playing the Rose Bowl last year, they would have suffered their fourth loss.
However, that all became moot Friday night with Utah’s victory over USC to ensure the Pac-12 champion advanced to the Rose Bowl. With Ohio moving into the playoff and Michigan already booked, Penn State is now expected to participate in the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten representative. The wildcard is Purdue, which would be automatic in this game if the Boilermakers go against Michigan.
- Michigan win: Pennsylvania vs. Utah
- Bordeaux win: Purdue vs Utah
Likewise, the Sugar Bowl features the conference champions from the SEC and the Big 12. Big 12 status is set. Since TCU will be a win-or-lose team, Kansas State will be in the Sugar Bowl either as the Big 12 champion or as an alternate for the Horned Frogs. If Georgia wins, No. 6 Alabama He will replace Bulldog in this game. Unlike that, LSU Enters as conference champion.
- Georgia wins: Alabama vs. Kansas State
- LSU wins: LSU vs. Kansas State
This bowl only gets one conference champion. The ACC title winner is the anchor with No. 9 Clemson against No. 23 North Carolina berth determination where no team can reach the playoff. The opponent is the highest-ranked team remaining from the SEC, Big Ten, or Notre Dame Not in the playoff, Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl. That representative would come from the SEC and be either Alabama or No. 7 Tennessee.
- Georgia wins: Tennessee vs. Clemson or North Carolina
- LSU wins: Alabama versus Clemson or North Carolina
This is the only game with large locations. One of those will go to the Group of Five automatic qualifiers, which will be the winner of the AAC Battle of No. 18 Tulane and No. 22 UCF. The other spot simply goes to the highest ranked team remaining who was not already in the New Year’s Six game.
These choices would be USC, Tennessee, or Washington. It’s unknown where USC will fall, but at 11-2 the Trojans are the team with the most potential for a sixth-place finish for the new year.
The highest-ranked team that has absolutely no chance of playing in the New Year’s Six is ranked No. 13 Florida. However, this does not mean that all of the top 12 teams will qualify. In fact, an AAC champ wouldn’t be in the top 12, and Purdue wouldn’t rank that high either even as a Big Ten champ.
Along with this list of contenders, CBS Sports has released my updateon Friday night. A reminder: This outlook is not how things are now but rather how I expect them to look after the conference championship games on Saturday.
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