Playoff will likely crown new champion after Ohio St upset
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Unless something really strange happens over the last two weeks of the season, the second College Football Playoff will crown a new champion.
Ohio State had its 23-game winning streak snapped 17-14 on a last-second field goal by Michigan State, putting the Spartans on the road to the Big Ten championship game and leaving the Buckeyes with only pride to play for next week at Michigan.
Even Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer was not talking playoffs after his first regular-season loss to a Big Ten team in his four years at Ohio State.
''No disrespect, but that's certainly not any conversation - you're right, a lot of things happen, but we've got to fix some obvious problems,'' Meyer said.
The Buckeyes had been third in the last playoff ranking.
Who will take their spot Tuesday?
It might be unbeaten Iowa (11-0). The Hawkeyes, who clinched the Big Ten West, were ranked fifth last week. Only Nebraska stands between them and entry to the conference title game as an undefeated team. If they get there, they have a playoff spot right in their grasp.
Michigan State might not crack the top four this week, but the Spartans (10-1) have to like where they stand. They already have wins against Oregon - maybe the best team in the Pac-12 over the last month of the season - Michigan and now Ohio State. Add Iowa to that resume and the Spartans would have to get strong consideration.
Even with the Buckeyes out of the mix, the Big Ten championship looks like it could be the only de facto playoff quarterfinal of all the conference title games. Win and go on to the playoff.
The Southeastern Conference could have that, too, though SEC East champion Florida doesn't look like a team capable of beating Alabama, if that's the matchup in Atlanta two weeks from now.
The Gators beat Florida Atlantic 20-14 in overtime. They play Florida State next week, and if they lose that, there is a good chance that the best they can do in the title game is knock the SEC out of the playoff picture entirely.
Baylor bounced back. Oklahoma survived without its quarterback. The Big 12 will need two games to decide one champion next week.
The Bears (9-1) crept back into the playoff race by handing Oklahoma State (10-1) its first loss of the season, 45-35 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Sooners (10-1) beat TCU 30-29, batting down a 2-point conversion pass in the final minute when the Horned Frogs went for the lead after a touchdown instead of a tying PAT.
So it will be Baylor at TCU on Friday night and Oklahoma at Oklahoma State on Saturday, with championship implications in both. The Sooners win the Big 12 with a victory. The Big 12 has the tiebreaker it lacked last season, so OU's win against Baylor would give it the title no matter what Baylor does.
Just as important as the result in Norman, Oklahoma, on Saturday night was the status of Sooners star quarterback Baker Mayfield, who sat out the second half with an apparent head injury. Oklahoma is a different team without its Heisman Trophy contender quarterback.
If Baylor wins and Oklahoma loses, the Bears would be champs if they beat Texas on championship weekend. If that happens, coach Art Briles will put his team's playoff fate in the selection committee's hands and hope for better than last year.
Notre Dame trudged its way to a 19-16 victory against Boston College at Fenway Park that won't help keep the Irish fourth in the rankings, where they've held steady the last couple weeks.
Having Ohio State out of the mix could aid the Irish in the long run. Before the Buckeyes lost, Ohio State, Clemson and Alabama had three of the four spots all but locked up if they won out. The Ohio State loss puts two spots in play down the stretch.
Of course, the Fighting Irish (10-1) still have to win at Stanford (9-2) next week in what amounts to a playoff elimination game. The loser is done.
GROUP OF FIVE
The American Athletic Conference championship is likely to decide the team from the Group of Five conferences that will play in a New Year's Six bowl.
Houston (10-1) lost for the first time this season, on the road at Connecticut, but the Cougars and Navy (9-1) will still play next week for the AAC West title and a spot in the league title game. Temple (9-2) will be the East representative if it beats UConn next week.
One potential problem for the AAC: If UConn upsets Temple, USF would win the East with a victory against winless UCF. The Bulls have been the best team in the conference late in the season, but with four losses already, if they win the AAC championship it would open the door for other G5 champions.
So if you're a fan of teams such as Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, Air Force and Western Kentucky, root hard for UConn and USF.
PREDICTING THE NEXT RANKINGS
5. Notre Dame
6. Michigan State
PROJECTING THE FINAL FOUR
Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State, Oklahoma.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP