We're just days away from discovering the fates of the top college football teams in the nation, as conference championship weekend prepares to propel teams into serious playoff discussion, while simultaneously ending the dreams of many across the country.
The College Football Playoff committee met for the final time Tuesday prior to college football's version of "Selection Sunday," where final bowl matchups will be announced and each team's destiny will be revealed.
Only four playoff spots exist, as many more teams and fan bases insist they deserve to be in.
This week's rankings set the precedent for likely scenarios for what each team needs to happen in the last week of play.
CFP Selection committee chair Gary Barta participated in a teleconference following the release of the rankings, speaking on a variety of topics ranging from what the committee will be watching for during the conference championships to Notre Dame's current coaching situation.
Barta Expands on Notre Dame; Dodges Cincinnati Question
What the committee will be watching for in conference title games
"First of all, it's just exciting to get to this point of the season and have the opportunity to watch all these champ games. It seems like football season just started. But here we are, we're going to sit and watch, Friday and Saturday, we're going to watch all these great champ games.
"You know, I would say the committee has already formed opinions. And you said one through five. So we've already formed lot of thoughts about all of them. We'll still use that information when we come back late Saturday night into Sunday morning.
"But then we'll have an additional piece of information. And we're not looking for any one thing in those champ games. We're looking to see what that adds to what we already believe about those teams. I mentioned earlier Oklahoma State showed the committee that in a playoff-like environment against Oklahoma in a rivalry game, they really found a way to win. We'll see how that game goes against Baylor. We'll see how Baylor does against Oklahoma State. They beat Oklahoma earlier.
"So there's not one thing that the committee is going to look at. But we all watched the games together. So we'll have a chance while we're watching -- I'm going to be sitting in between an NFL Hall of Famer and a couple long-time collegiate coaches and other ADs, and you have an opportunity to talk while you're watching, which is really invaluable."
Thoughts on BYU
"Well, they're a really good football team. They have the win over Utah. And Arizona State is not in the top 25, but Arizona State has been playing better football. They have a rusher who has rushed for over 14-1500 yards and a whole bunch of touchdowns.
"They're at 12. When you compare them to the team that ended right above them, Michigan State, Michigan State has the win against Michigan. So the committee certainly took that into account. Michigan State also has a great rusher in Kenneth Walker. The strength of schedule that Michigan State has is a little bit more difficult than BYU.
"And then when you look at this past week, the committee looked at the win that Michigan State had over Penn State and compared that favorably. BYU did beat USC but the committee -- when all those factors were taken into account, Michigan State went ahead of BYU.
"But to your bigger question, the committee thinks very highly of BYU's team."
Notre Dame not having a coach
"For everybody on the call just a reminder, during the regular season, we don't look forward at all. So if we know someone is going to have a game coming up, we don't evaluate that. We only evaluate games that have occurred. And if a coach or a player wasn't available for that, during the game that we're evaluating, then we bring that into the discussion.
"For championships, after the championships are all played and for our final ranking, referring to the committee does have in our protocol the ability to consider any players that won't be available or any coaches that won't be available and then factor that in along with our other protocol, our other criteria.
"So, again, I didn't hear all of your question, but yes, when the championships are done and if anybody is in our conversations that has a player that won't be available, and the committee deems that it's likely it will affect the outcome, but that's the words in the protocol, then that can be discussed and can be considered. And each of the 13 members can weigh that the way they want to weigh it, compared to head-to-head competition and common opponents and all the other things we evaluate.
"Here's the way the committee talked about it and views it. Champ games are going to occur, and some of the top 10 or go down to top 15, wherever you want to stop, will have an opportunity to play in a Big 10 champ game, in the case of Michigan, or Big 12, in the case of Oklahoma State and Baylor, et cetera, et cetera.
"But there's also going to be a team that's going to lose each of those games. And there's going to be teams that don't play. There's going to be winners and losers in the champ games and those that don't play.
"I can't project how that's going to impact a particular team like Notre Dame or Ohio State or Mississippi because they don't play. But when all the champ games are done, that's when we'll do our homework. That's when, if there is a team that's going into a game, where we can project whether or not a player or a coach not available is going to make a difference."
Michigan's win over Ohio State
"The committee has been referring to Michigan as a complete team now for about three or four weeks as we were watching the team. And I just think about what the defense was able to do. Hutchinson, but not just him, but he had an incredible performance; they were able to put pressure on Ohio State's offense and really contain an incredibly explosive offense, both passing and running.
"Then on the flip side of that, for Haskins to do what he did and they were able to run the ball in kind of difficult conditions, I would just tell you the committee was not surprised at the way Michigan played -- maybe, like everybody, a little surprised at the way the score ended up. But just a complete team.
"And that's how the committee's felt about Michigan now for quite a while. And they showed it in a championship environment.
"I talked about with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State. That was a playoff game. This was certainly a playoff game. And under that kind of environment, Michigan showed that they were able to find a way to win and win convincingly against a really, really good, a great Ohio State team."
"I'm consistent in telling you that we as a committee don't project. So they're going to play a champ game against Houston. Georgia and Alabama are going to play. Michigan and Iowa are going to play. Oklahoma State and Baylor.
"We're going to watch all those games. And then until that occurs, until the last game is played, we won't be having any conversations about who is going to be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, et cetera, and that's the way we go about it.
"So until those games are played, there's really no way to predict who is going to go into those spots."