Breaking Down Latest CFP Rankings: Can the Big Ten Get Two Playoff Spots?

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Nothing changed. Nothing changed at all. Exactly as we expected.

The College Football Playoff field remains No.1 LSU, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Clemson, and No. 4 Georgia. The next group is still Alabama, Oregon and Utah. With that in mind, here are a few things to consider as we head into Week 13 of the regular season.

Can the Big Ten Get Two Playoff Spots?

We constantly talk about the SEC securing two playoff spots for two reasons: duh and it’s happened before. As things stand right now, Georgia and LSU will meet in the SEC Championship. And we’re once again looking at the potential of the conference getting two of the four spots if UGA wins a close one against LSU.

But what about the folks up north? Ohio State faces Penn State this weekend in what looks like the Big Ten East title game. The winner of that game will probably meet Minnesota in the Big Ten Championship. Let’s say 12–0 Ohio State and 11–1 Minnesota face off for the conference title; and let’s also assume LSU beats Georgia convincingly in Atlanta that same weekend while Clemson finishes 13–0 as ACC champs. Could a close, upset win by the Gophers put two B1G teams in the playoff? LSU would obviously be No. 1 as an undefeated SEC champion. Clemson, despite its meh schedule, would likely follow at No. 2. One-loss Big Ten trophy holder Minnesota slides in for the third spot … and then what? It would come down to 12-1 Ohio State, a potentially 12-1 Pac-12 champion in Oregon or Utah, 12-1 Big 12 champ Oklahoma, or 11-1 Alabama (as long as the favorites win out). We’d put our money on the Pac-12 champ winning that argument, but it’s not exactly ironclad. Now add a shocking loss to the Pac-12 winner, and things could get very interesting.

Bottom-Feeding Résumé Boosters

Playing games against quality, a.k.a. Top 25, opponents is a key component to the playoff rankings and two new “quality opponents” find themselves at the tail end of this week’s rankings.

Iowa State came in at No. 22, helping make the case for Oklahoma or Baylor, were either of them to seriously enter the discussion as a one-loss conference champ in a few weeks. Right after the Cyclones is USC. The Trojans have had quite the up-and-down season, but can finish ranked if they close things out against UCLA. This is excellent news for Oregon, which blew out USC in L.A., and good news for Utah as well, ensuring that Friday night loss no longer looks like that much of a wart on the schedule.

Oklahoma Needs a Prayer

We pretty much already knew this, but the Sooners need a lot of help to reach the playoff. Just look at that “Can the Big Ten get two teams in?” scenario above that tries to minimize the insanity and doesn’t result in one-loss OU making it. The best-case scenario for Oklahoma involves surprising losses by the teams directly ahead of them, i.e. getting a two-loss Pac-12 champ and Auburn beating Alabama. Oh, and also no real chance for two teams to make it out of the same conference. It’s hard to stay on the wagon when you’re not really in control.

Here are the full rankings:

1. LSU
2. Ohio State
3. Clemson
4. Georgia
5. Alabama
6. Oregon
7. Utah
8. Penn State
9. Oklahoma
10. Minnesota
11. Florida
12. Wisconsin
13. Michigan
14. Baylor
15. Auburn
16. Notre Dame
17. Iowa
18. Memphis
19. Cincinnati
20. Boise State
21. Oklahoma State
22. Iowa State
23. USC
24. Appalachian State
25. SMU