With this week's College Football Playoff Rankings set to release, we take a look at the biggest storylines, preview key matchups, and predict the top-six.
Storyline of the Week: The Chase for No. 4
With Ohio State, LSU and Clemson all winning decisively this week and entering conference championship week as heavy favorites, it looks like the chase is on for the No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff – Ohio State's likely opponent.
Currently, it appears to be a four-team race between Georgia, Utah, Oklahoma and Baylor.
Georgia's playoff scenario is simple: win, and the Dawgs are in, lose and they're out. But if all the favorites win this weekend – as has typically been the case on conference championship weekend – the committee is going to have some decisions to make.
The decision will likely come down to Oklahoma and Utah, if both teams win this weekend. And on Tuesday night, we'll get a peek at the committee's perceptions of both teams during Tuesday night's rankings show.
Utah was ahead of Oklahoma last week, but Oklahoma added a top-25 win to its resume with a 34-16 win over Oklahoma State on the road. Meanwhile, Utah took care of business against an unranked opponent.
Only the committee knows the margin between two teams – we just see the rankings – but if the committee saw a thin margin between Oklahoma and Utah before the weekend, a top-25 win could have boosted the Sooners in their minds.
Even if it doesn't push Oklahoma past Utah this week, it could be enough to make the conversation interesting next week as both teams have a chance to put one last exclamation point on their resumes.
Because of that, another thing to watch out for in Tuesday night's rankings is where Baylor and Oregon are ranked. If the committee sees Oklahoma and Utah as comparable teams, the quality of their final wins might be a deciding factor.
Last week, Oregon was No. 14 and is likely to stay around the mark while Baylor could move up as far as to No. 7 following a few losses from teams ahead of it. That would give the Sooners an opportunity to cap the season with a win against a significantly higher-ranked opponent than Utah's.
We might not learn a whole lot from the committee this week in regards to that No. 4 spot, but the rankings and the interview from committee chairman Rob Mullens could provide us with enough information to read between the lines.
Of course, this could all be simplified or made much more chaotic, depending on how conference championship weekend plays out.
Predicting the Top 6
1. Ohio State
Ohio State's win over Penn State was enough to move the Buckeyes into the No. 1 spot last week, and Ohio State only solidified that ranking with a lopsided win over a top-15 team on the road. There's no reason to think the Buckeyes are in danger of falling out of the top spot this week or next, if they can beat Wisconsin in Indianapolis.
LSU coasted to a victory over Texas A&M to solidify its position as the No. 2 team, but it will not be enough to boost the Tigers back into the top spot after Ohio State's resume-boosting win over Michigan this week. If LSU beats Georgia this week, the Tigers are all-but locked into that No. 2 ranking.
Clemson finished the regular season with a decisive win over South Carolina this weekend and will hold onto the No. 3 ranking. If the Tigers can take care of business this weekend against Virginia, they'll almost certainly take on LSU in a College Football Playoff semifinal.
After a blowout win over Georgia Tech, Georgia's situation is fairly simple: win and you're in, but lose and you're out. The Bulldogs are underdogs by more than a touchdown this week against LSU, but are still a win away from the College Football Playoff.
Utah took care of business against an unranked Colorado team this weekend and will likely move into the No. 5 spot after Alabama's loss to Auburn with Oklahoma right behind. The Utes have one more chance to make a statement with a win over Oregon this weekend and potentially hold off Oklahoma for the final spot in the College Football Playoff.
Oklahoma beat a top-25 team on the road this week, but it likely won't be enough to lift the Sooners over Utah in this week's rankings. The Sooners now have a chance to improve their resume with a win against Baylor this weekend in the Big 12 title game as they face top-10 Baylor.
Note: This is how we think the College Football Playoff Committee will rank the teams, not necessarily how we think they should rank the teams.
Key Games This Week
- Ohio State vs. Wisconsin. Ohio State would likely make the College Football Playoff field even with a loss this weekend, but the Buckeyes can lock up a spot and the No. 1 seed with a win over Wisconsin.
- Utah vs. Oregon. Utah needs a win to stay alive in the race for the No. 4 seed, and it wouldn't hurt if it was a decisive victory as the Utes try to hold off Oklahoma or Baylor behind them.
- Georgia vs. LSU. Georgia must win this game to keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive while LSU could probably afford a loss, a win for the Tigers would clinch their spot and their No. 2 seed.
- Oklahoma vs. Baylor. Both of these teams are technically alive in the College Football Playoff race, and both are looking for decisive wins to boost them into the field – possibly past Utah if the Utes beat Oregon on Friday night.
- Clemson vs. Virginia. Clemson is a heavy favorite in this game, but the Tigers still need to take care of business as a loss could remove them from the field completely due to their relatively weak schedule.