This will be the third week in a row where the four playoff teams won’t change. The one change we saw last week was Ohio State jumping LSU for the No. 1 ranking, setting up projected semifinal matchups of Ohio State vs. Georgia and LSU vs. Clemson. We fully expect that to stay the same when the selection committee’s new rankings are revealed on ESPN on Tuesday night.
Changes will appear outside the top four, however. Alabama’s loss to Auburn and Minnesota’s loss to Wisconsin helps teams like Utah, Oklahoma and Baylor move up. This is how we expect the new top 10 to shake out:
1. Ohio State
9. Penn State
Everyone knows the drill for the top four: win and you’re in. If the other favorites prevail, a Georgia win over LSU in the SEC championship game probably doesn’t knock the Tigers completely out of the picture but just down to the No. 4 spot. Utah needs to beat Oregon in the Pac-12 title game and for LSU to take care of Georgia to land the final playoff invite. And then the Oklahoma-Baylor winner out of the Big 12 must hope for an Oregon Pac-12 championship and nothing crazy from the other Power 5 conferences.
Those are the easy scenarios, but is there a team outside the top seven that may have even the smallest of shots of shooting up the final rankings were it to win on Championship Saturday? Yes, Wisconsin… if it’s ranked in the top 10 on Tuesday. (We expect Oregon to end up somewhere in the 12 to 14 range, which is too far out of the top four—in our view—to have an opportunity to make the playoff were chaos to take over elsewhere.)
Obviously, this is far-fetched considering how easily the Buckeyes handled the Badgers earlier this season and how dominant OSU has looked on both sides of the ball week-in and week-out. But let’s play out a thought experiment:
* Wisconsin defeats No. 1 Ohio State to claim the Big Ten title at 11–2.
* LSU prevails in the SEC title game with relative ease.
* Clemson blows by Virginia for the ACC crown.
* Oregon upsets Utah in the Pac-12 championship game.
LSU would finish ranked No. 1; Clemson No. 2; the Baylor-OU winner No. 3. The Pac-12 is eliminated from the playoff race. Who would the committee select as the final playoff team: an 11–2 Big Ten champ, the Big Ten runner-up who just lost its conference title game for its only blemish of 2019, or some wild card like SEC runner-up Georgia or presumed elite always and forever Alabama? The Badgers would be fresh off a win against the best team in the country and have wins against fellow top-25 finishers Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan. That’s not a bad résumé to take into Selection Sunday were all of the above to happen if Wisconsin enters championship weekend in the top 10.