There were two big questions in search of answers Tuesday night when the College Football Playoff selection committee released its fourth set of rankings:
Who would be the new No. 1 after Mississippi State lost at Alabama?
How far would Mississippi State fall?
Answers: Alabama and No. 4.
Alabama used its 25-20 victory against Mississippi State to jump from No. 5 to No. 1 in the new rankings followed by Oregon and undefeated Florida State. The SEC has a chance to get two teams in the four-team playoff as Mississippi State dropped to No. 4 followed by TCU, Ohio State and Baylor.
Here is the road map for the final three Saturdays of the regular season:
1) Alabama (9-1): It’s pretty simple for the Crimson Tide. They have to win a non-conference scrimmage against Western Carolina, beat No. 14 Auburn (7-3) and then either No. 10 Georgia or No. 20 Missouri in the SEC Championship game. Win those three and Alabama is in the playoff, likely as the top seed.
2) Oregon (9-1): The Ducks have already clinched the Pac-12 North and finish up the season at home against Colorado (2-8) and at Oregon State (5-5), which upset previously No. 6 Arizona State 35-28 last Saturday.
3) Florida State (10-0): The Seminoles remained at No. 3 after a close call at Miami. They have already clinched a spot in the ACC title game. FSU plays Boston College (6-4) on Saturday and then hosts Florida (5-4). There is no doubt Florida State gets in the playoff at 13-0. The only question is where the Seminoles will be seeded.
4) Mississippi State (9-1): The Bulldogs can finish 11-1 by topping Vanderbilt (3-7) at home on Saturday and No. 8 Ole Miss (8-2) on the road. If Alabama loses to Auburn next week Mississippi State can still get to Atlanta for the SEC title game. If Mississippi State goes 11-1, does a 12-1 Ohio State (Big Ten champ) or an 11-1 Big 12 champ knock the Bulldogs out of the last playoff spot?
5) TCU (9-1): The Horned Frogs dropped from No. 4 after getting a 34-30 scare at Kansas (3-7). There is not a lot of heft left on the schedule as TCU plays at improving Texas (6-5) on Thanksgiving night and Iowa State (2-7) on Dec. 6.
6) Ohio State (9-1): In two weeks the Buckeyes have jumped from No. 14 to No. 6. But unless a bunch of teams above them lose it’s hard to see them getting into the top four. Ohio State should easily win its last two games with Indiana (3-7) and Michigan (5-5). The best team it could meet in the Big Ten championship game is No. 16 Wisconsin (8-2).
7) Baylor (8-1): The Bears stayed at No. 7 after an off week. They still have games remaining with Oklahoma State (5-5), Texas Tech (3-7) and No. 12 Kansas State (7-2).
8) Ole Miss (8-2): The Rebels have to win their last two games at Arkansas (5-5) and at home against No. 4 Mississippi State. Ole Miss can get to Atlanta if it beats Mississippi State and Alabama loses to Auburn. But could a two-loss SEC champion get into the playoff?
9) UCLA (8-2): The Pac-12 South is wide open but the Bruins could take a big step by beating USC (7-3) Saturday at the Rose Bowl. The Bruins finish with Stanford (5-5). Win them both and UCLA gets rematch at No. 2 Oregon, which won the first meeting 42-30.
10) Georgia (8-2): The Bulldogs have finished their SEC schedule and have games left with Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech (9-2). If Missouri loses one of its last two games to Tennessee (in Knoxville) or Arkansas (at home), Georgia goes to the SEC Championship game.