This is a weekly Sports Illustrated series using the current college football standings to create an imaginary 12-team playoff bracket based on the model proposed this summer by CFP executives. In case you’ve forgotten, the 12-team model features (1) the six highest-ranked conference champions and (2) the next six highest-ranked teams. The four highest-ranked conference champions get byes to the second round (independents are not eligible to receive a bye—sorry, Notre Dame).
Our imaginary 12-team fake playoff selection committee has emerged from the selection meeting room, bleary eyed and mouths agape over what transpired this weekend in college football. It really put the committee in quite a bind.
Clemson’s loss had us wondering whether, right now, given the current results, the ACC even deserves one of the six automatic qualifiers. We argued over that for several hours until we realized that the only other option was a Coastal Carolina team whose best win is over Buffalo.
And then there’s the case of our Big 12 champion, Oklahoma, which has looked, at best, vulnerable. Picking the best team in the Big Ten is also not fun. Michigan State launched past Penn State and Iowa with an overtime win over Nebraska and, yes, we know that’ll fuel some arguments.
The Power 5 crowd won’t be happy to know that a Group of 5 team is getting one of the four byes into the quarterfinals. But let’s face it, are we really gonna put Oklahoma or Wake Forest ahead of Cincinnati? No. No, we are not.
Remember, we can only rely upon the current results to determine our rankings and pairings. This isn’t necessarily a projection of the rest of the season.
Enough talk. On to the bracket!
1. Alabama (SEC champion)
2. Oregon (Pac-12 champion)
3. Michigan State (Big Ten champion)
4. Cincinnati (AAC champion)
5. Georgia (SEC at-large)
12. Wake Forest (ACC champion)
6. Penn State (Big Ten at-large)
11. Notre Dame (Independent at-large)
7. Iowa (Big Ten at-large)
10. Florida (SEC at-large)
8. Arkansas (SEC at-large)
9. Oklahoma (Big 12 champion)
Most questionable decision: Leaving out BYU and Ole Miss. Hey, everybody can’t get in! In a way, BYU got bumped out of the field by (1) Notre Dame’s win over Wisconsin and (2) the fact that we were required to include a sixth conference champion (in this case, Wake Forest, which got the spot over Coastal Carolina of the Sun Belt). And what of Ole Miss? It’s got one FBS win over a team on a neutral field (Louisville), so let’s pump the breaks. We’ll learn a lot about the Rebels this weekend. They play at Alabama.
Best first-round matchup: Oklahoma at Arkansas. Ah, yes, a playoff game in Hogville against a border state and old Southwest Conference rival. Pump it into my veins! The Sooners haven’t looked good enough so far to be granted a home playoff game, and Arkansas has rolled some quality opponents like Texas and Texas A&M, not just winning but doing it in dominating fashion. It would be the first meeting of the two teams since a Cotton Bowl clash in 2001. (Also, as a bonus, here’s the best potential second-round game: a rematch of last year’s Peach Bowl between Georgia and Cincinnati. Juicy!)
More College Coverage: