How Much Room for Chaos Is Left in the College Football Playoff Rankings?

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Much like last week, the very top of the College Football Playoff rankings won’t change tonight. The teams ranked one through five won their games or were idle (Clemson), and didn’t perform in a way that would lead to falling in the committee’s eyes. But after that, we got a couple significant shakeups.

Previously-No. 6 Oregon lost on the road to Arizona State, while last week’s eighth-ranked team, Penn State, picked up its second loss of the season against Ohio State. After those results, it would be fair to expect the following top 10 this week:

1. LSU
2. Ohio State
3. Clemson
4. Georgia
5. Alabama
6. Utah
7. Oklahoma
8. Minnesota
9. Penn State
10. Florida

Knocking Oregon and Penn State out of the playoff conversation doesn’t completely remove the opportunity for chaos, but it helps clear things up. Assuming the favorites win their remaining games, an LSU win over Georgia in the SEC title game would eliminate the Bulldogs from the playoff picture; and the Buckeyes handling Minnesota in the Big Ten championship gets rid of the Gophers. Then we’d be looking at a three-team battle for the final playoff spot between 11–1 non-division champ Alabama, 12–1 Pac-12 champ Utah and 12–1 Big 12 champ Oklahoma. Let’s lay out the case for each, if those are their final records. (By Top 25 wins we mean teams projected to finish ranked, not what their ranking was when the game was played.)

AP Top 25 WinsWins vs. Other Likely Bowl TeamsLoss

Alabama

Auburn

Southern Miss, Texas A&M, Tennessee, maybe Mississippi State

LSU

Utah

Oregon 

BYU, Washington State, Arizona State, Cal, Washington, maybe Oregon State

USC

Oklahoma

Baylor twice

Texas, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, maybe TCU

Kansas State

Oklahoma, Baylor and the rest of the Big 12 hasn't received much love from committee members this season, and that table above proves it’s well deserved.

Neither Bama nor Utah have had that great of a schedule, but each team’s potential best win in this scenario has a funny wrinkle to it: Auburn beat Oregon to start the season. That’s not an end all, be all for the playoff committee but it is a significant data point. Best loss between the two? Alabama’s to LSU. Advanced metrics? As of right now the Tide are ahead of the Utes in SP+, FPI and Sagarin. So yes, college football nation, odds are you’ll get two SEC teams in the playoff—no matter how much you complain.