The penultimate College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night and the selection committee made some stunning decisions that have set the table for a wild final weekend of the regular season.
The biggest surprise was undefeated Florida State (12-0) dropping from No. 3 to No. 4 after yet another close call, this one coming against Florida (24-19). TCU (10-1) jumped from No. 5 to No. 3 after 48-10 win over Texas. That is bad news for No. 6 Baylor, which beat TCU (61-58) in the regular season, and for No. 5 Ohio State (11-1).
The bottom line: If the top four teams in Tuesday night’s rankings all win this weekend, they are very likely to remain in the same order when the final CFP rankings are announced at 12:45 p.m. Sunday on ESPN. Here is what you need to know about the teams that have a realistic shot at getting into the playoffs:
1) Alabama (11-1): It’s really simple for the Crimson Tide. Beat No. 16 Missouri (10-2) for the SEC championship and they will be in the playoffs as the No. 1 seed and play their national semifinal in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. If Missouri wins at the Georgia Dome, the SEC will likely get shut out.
2) Oregon (11-1): Ditto for the Ducks, who play No. 7 Arizona in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night. Oregon’s only loss was to Arizona (31-24) on Oct. 2. Win and the Ducks are Rose Bowl bound.
3) TCU (11-1): The Horned Frogs have obviously impressed the committee as a superior team to Baylor despite the head-to-head loss to the Bears. At this point they look like a lock if they beat Big 12 bottom feeder Iowa State (2-9) on Saturday.
4) Florida State (12-0): Beat Georgia Tech (10-2) in the ACC Championship game and Florida State gets the chance to defend its national title. While dropping a spot may hurt the Seminoles’ pride, it would give them a trip to the Sugar instead of the Rose and a matchup with No. 1 Alabama in the semifinals, presuming an Alabama victory.
5) Ohio State (11-1): First of all, the Buckeyes have to beat No. 13 Wisconsin (10-2) in the Big Ten title game without starting QB J.T. Barrett. Even if Ohio State wins with QB Cardale Jones, the CFP selection committee can take the Barrett injury into account before making its final decision.
6) Baylor (11-1): The Bears can tie TCU for the Big 12 championship with a win over No. 9 Kansas State (9-2) in Waco. But Baylor is going to have to win big just to get back into the conversation. The fact that the resumes will be the same and that Baylor won the head-to-head meeting with TCU will be one of the most controversial decisions this first selection committee has made.
7) Arizona (10-2): The Wildcats lost to USC (28-26) and UCLA (17-7) during the regular season but are the highest ranked of the two-loss teams, moving ahead of Michigan State, because of their win over Oregon. If they beat Oregon a second time could Rich Rod’s team get into the discussion?
The rest of the two-loss teams appear to have too much ground to make up with only one game left:
Georgia Tech (10-2) is in the ACC Championship game but is ranked No. 11. Missouri (10-2) reached the SEC Championship game but only moved from No. 17 to No. 16. No. 9 Kansas State (9-2) can tie for the Big 12 title by beating Baylor, but the Wildcats lost to TCU and to non-conference Auburn. Wisconsin (10-2) only jumped one spot to No. 13 and can’t get back in even if the Badgers beat Ohio State.
If any of the top four gets beat this weekend, chaos will reign. Buckle up. It could be a bumpy ride.