10. Washington Huskies 9-3 (16)
They did it. They were supposed to be the best team in the Pac-12 this year, and after a rocky run, they came up with the one win they had to have to take down the conference championship. Beating Washington State should boost the Huskies up into the top ten, but it doesn’t matter. Beat Utah, and get to the Rose Bowl.
9. Florida Gators 9-3 (11)
Very, very quietly, Florida is going to push up into Peach Bowl territory. With the blowout win over Florida State, the Gators are on a three-game winning streak with a shot at a ten-win season. If they finish this high up, they might have to get by UCF to close things out.
8. UCF Knights 11-0 (9)
The committee won’t punish the Knights for the loss of McKenzie Milton, but his injury might be just enough to keep UCF from being anywhere near the top four. Beat Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship, and go off to – most likely – the Peach Bowl again. Lose, and it’ll be the Boise State-Fresno State winner getting the call.
7. Michigan Wolverines 10-2 (4)
It was a bad loss to an elite team with NFL talent. That’s it. The committee will knock the Wolverines down a few slots, but it’s not going to bury them. The College Football Playoff is out of the question now, but Michigan has to (gulp) cheer for Ohio State and root for Texas. If the Longhorns beat Oklahoma, and the Buckeyes win the Big Ten Championship, Michigan is in the Rose Bowl.
6. Ohio State Buckeyes 11-1 (10)
Don’t read too much into this quite yet. The Buckeyes will be ranked behind the Sooners, but that’s a right now thing – the committee tends to change its mind and focus once the conference championships are done. But now the switch has to stay on – they have to hammer Northwestern by 40 to show that, yeah, this is a team that has to be in the College Football Playoff.
5. Oklahoma Sooners 11-1 (6)
The Sooners are going to be knocking on the door. There’s no defense, but there’s also no blowout loss to Purdue. Just beating Texas in the Big 12 Championship might not be enough. It’ll take Georgia loss to Alabama, a convincing win in Arlington, and a bit of a clunker from Ohio State to get into the top four. But for now, it’ll be the ranking OU fans have been waiting for.
4. Georgia Bulldogs 11-1 (5)
So here’s the big question. If Georgia loses to Alabama, can it still get in on the “four best team” theory? If Ohio State and Big 12 lose their respective conference championship games, yeah. Or, the Dawgs can take care of business, win the SEC Championship, and get in at no worse than the third seed. They had one bad game and blew out everyone else. Watch out. If the Dawgs play Bama close, they might just slip in this.
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 12-0 (3)
The Irish did it. It might not have been pretty against USC, but they went 12-0 and will be locked in at the third spot at worst. On the eye-test, does it pass against Georgia? Ohio State at its best? Oklahoma when the offense is humming? Who cares? No way, no chance the committee is going to leave out a 12-0 team with a good-enough schedule and a win over Michigan.
2. Clemson Tigers 11-0 (2)
The Tigers will still be second, but … where are the great wins? On the eye test, they look great, and they’re not budging from the No. 2 spot, but Notre Dame has the better resumé. Second or third doesn’t matter in this race, but if Alabama loses to Georgia, Clemson will be the No. 1 … and will probably face Alabama.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide 12-0 (1)
It’s over. Alabama is going to be in the College Football Playoff after a historically dominant 12 game run. The Tide beat everyone by more than 20 points, so even if they lose to Georgia, they’re in without a problem.