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).
It’s been nearly two months since the Fake 12-Team Playoff Selection Committee started crafting its field of one dozen teams. And finally—finally!—we had an easy week of deliberations. Outside of Oklahoma’s stumble, the field mostly stayed the same as last week.
In the biggest, new change this week, Ohio State entered our top four for the first time this season, replacing the Sooners. At various points this season, three Big Ten teams have represented the conference in the top four as champion (Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa). Now, we’ve got a fourth.
It wasn’t such a difficult decision. The Buckeyes have been on a tear since a home loss to Oregon, but they get their biggest test this weekend against Michigan State.
The committee’s toughest call this week came with the No. 12 seed. There is no real strong sixth conference champion. The committee argued over three possibilities: Wake Forest (ACC), Louisiana (Sun Belt) and UTSA (C-USA). Deliberations over the weekend took place in windy, cold State College, where you warm yourself in a lovely beer hall attached to a grocery store called A’s Pub (get the blueberry stout).
On to the bracket!
5. Alabama (SEC at-large)
12. Wake Forest (ACC champion)
6. Michigan State (Big Ten at-large)
11. Baylor (Big 12 at-large)
7. Oklahoma State (Big 12 champion)
10. Ole Miss (SEC at-large)
Sixth conference champion: The Demon Deacons eked into the field over the likes of two other conference champions, undefeated UTSA and one-loss Louisiana. Careful, Deacons—one more loss and you’ll be on the outside looking in. This is probably a good reason that some conference commissioners are pushing for one slight but significant change to this 12-team playoff model—guarantee bids to each Power 5 champion as opposed to the six highest-ranked champions. Though rare, this would be an example of a season in which a Power 5 champion could finish behind the second-best Group of 5 champion.
Titans collide: The committee is charged with seeding teams without looking to potential future matchups. So we promise, we didn’t purposely set up what could be a titanic quarterfinal matchup between No. 5 Alabama and No. 4 Ohio State. Just imagine the Crimson Tide and Buckeyes meeting in a playoff game in a big-city bowl. As the No. 1 seed, Georgia would likely choose the Peach Bowl as its site (if it’s not a semifinal). Oregon would play in the Rose or Fiesta and Cincinnati might get New Orleans or Miami. That puts Ohio State–Bama in Dallas or Phoenix. Either way, sign up the committee for that one.
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