This is it. The college football season and Playoff picture comes down to conference championship weekend, with full rankings out and stakes established. We know which games are Playoff play-ins, which teams need help, and which teams are just playing for nice bowl games.
Below, let’s keep track of Week 14’s ranked games (and other important games) from the Playoff committee’s perspective, which means it’s not only about who you beat, but how it relates to the full picture.
- No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 7 Miami: The Tigers enter as No. 1 and can lock up that seed with a win. The only reward this year: not having to travel to Pasadena. They’d host a semifinal in New Orleans. The Canes are also win-and-in. (And while an 11-2 Clemson would be out of the CFP, don’t rule out the Tigers still ranking ahead of an 11-2 Ohio State, if Clemson ends up with a win over the SEC champ.)
- No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 6 Georgia: Win-and-in. If Clemson loses and Auburn wins, Auburn has a chance at No. 1. (If Auburn loses, could the Tigers only fall far enough to stay in Ohio State’s CFP path? That’s a new thing to consider, now that Auburn’s No. 2 instead of No. 3.)
- No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 TCU: OU’s in with a win, maybe No. 1 if Clemson loses and Ohio State wins. TCU’s out, but the Frogs can initiate mayhem, probably by making Bama No. 4. A TCU win knocks out the Big 12, which means sooo many I-told-you-sos about reviving the Big 12 Championship. (Another potential Ohio State road block, if the Sooners lose: head-to-head loss at home against OU. That’d roughly cancel out OSU’s conference title tiebreaker edge.)
- No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Ohio State: Wisconsin’s in with a win, which would also negate all these Buckeye mentions in every bullet point so far. If OSU wins, we probably have Bama vs. Ohio State for No. 4.
- No. 5 Alabama vs. nobody: Hoping to become the second team to not win its division and make the Playoff. The Tide do not have nearly as good a résumé as 2016 Ohio State did. Luckily, Nick Saban has argued consistently that non-champs should be considered, despite what a meme would have you believe.
- No. 10 USC 31, No. 12 Stanford 28: Pac-12 champ USC’s in the NY6, likely to the Fiesta Bowl, and should rank around No. 8 or so.
USC just won the Pac-12 and went 11-2 with a schedule that featured no regular-season byes and whose worst nonconference opponent was in the Cotton Bowl last year. That is a phenomenal year by any standard.
— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) December 2, 2017
- No. 20 Memphis at No. 14 UCF: The non-power conferences weren’t eligible for the Playoff again this year, apparently, unless Fresno State had beaten Alabama and Washington, I guess. Winner’s guaranteed an NY6 game. Entering bowl season, the only two losses between these two teams will have come in Memphis-UCF games. That’s not really relevant to anything, but I felt like pointing it out.
Also noted below: résumé factors for NY6 contenders.
- No. 25 Fresno State at Boise State: MWC champ gets the Las Vegas Bowl against a decent Pac-12 team. Runner-up gets … well, it ain’t a great group of bowls. A Fresno win helps Bama and NY6 hopeful Washington by ensuring a win over a ranked team, making Fresno the most important No. 25-ish team since 2016 Pitt and 2014 Minnesota.
- Akron vs. Toledo: The Dollar General Bowl vs. one of the Sun Belt’s best teams is the customary MAC champ prize. A Toledo win helps Miami by adding a win over a conference champ.
- North Texas at FAU: The C-USA champ gets to pick its bid. Might the Owls stay home in Boca? The Fort Worth game would be friendly for UNT, but it’d mean another rematch with Army. An FAU win helps Wisconsin by adding a win over a conference champ.
- Troy at Arkansas State: Winner gets at least a share of the conference title.
- UL-Lafayette at Appalachian State: With a win, App State claims a share of the conference title. The Cajuns are playing for bowl eligibility. An App State win helps Georgia by adding a win over a conference co-champ.
- South Alabama at New Mexico State: NMSU is playing for its first bowl-eligible record since 1999 and possibly first bowl trip since 1960.
- ULM at Florida State: Lol, yeah, the Noles have to beat ULM in a rescheduled game to keep their nation-leading bowl streak alive. An FSU win helps Bama by adding a win over a .500-plus team, a committee metric for schedule strength.