The second-to-last CFP Rankings will release tonight, but a lot is to be determined during conference championship weekend.
1. LSU Tigers (12-0) | Last week: 1
LSU was determined after their classic record-breaking overtime loss to Texas A&M last season, and they completely overwhelmed the Aggies in a 50-7 victory. Joe Burrow’s record-breaking SEC season will continue this Saturday in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, which might be the most difficult matchup for the Tigers’ explosive offense this season. If the LSU defense plays like it did last week, Ed Orgeron’s team will likely be ranked No. 1 on Sunday.
2. Clemson Tigers (12-0) | Last week: 2
Dabo Swinney voiced major displeasure with the way his team is viewed by the media, saying Clemson needs to go “30-0” to get the respect other teams get, and he’s probably right. After the Tigers nearly lost to North Carolina earlier this season, the talk was that the defending national champions aren’t the same this year. Clemson has dominated their competition and should get to 13-0 with their fifth consecutive ACC title this weekend.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes (12-0) | Last week: 3
Ohio State has had little trouble getting respect from the Committee, as they surprisingly jumped LSU in last week’s rankings—and they aren’t likely to move back down after demolishing the rival Wolverines in The Big House last Saturday. The Buckeyes have looked so good this season that there might be a chance they get into the Playoff even if they lose to Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game.
4. Georgia Bulldogs (11-1) | Last week: 4
It’s simple for Georgia: if they win the SEC Championship over LSU, they are a lock for the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs were certainly not looking past Georgia Tech, beating the in-state rival by their largest margin of victory in the series. LSU has faced some tough defenses in the SEC, but Georgia is probably the best group they will have faced to this point. Jake Fromm and company will be without receiver George Pickens for the first half of the conference championship because he was ejected for fighting in last week’s win.
5. Oklahoma Sooners (11-1) | Last week: 6 (+1)
Oklahoma had one of their best defensive performances of the season in their win over Oklahoma State, limiting Cowboys star running back Chuba Hubbard to 104 rushing yards on 24 carries. A similar defensive outing in this week’s Big 12 Championship Game could make the Sooners the favorites for the No. 4 spot pending a Georgia loss.
6. Utah Utes (11-1) | Last week: 8 (+2)
However, if they are able to win the Pac-12—especially in convincing fashion—on Friday night, Utah will have something to say no matter what happens in the other conference title games. Aside from their lone loss to USC and a five-point victory over Washington, the Utes have demolished all of their opponents this season. It’ll be interesting to see how Utah fares against senior quarterback Justin Herbert and Oregon.
7. Baylor Bears (11-1) | Last week: 9 (+2)
Baylor is considered the longest shot to make the CFP as a one-loss team, but a win with some serious style points against the Sooners on Saturday could put them squarely in the discussion for the No. 4 team. Remember, the Bears were up huge on Oklahoma in their first matchup, and the Committee might have to strongly weigh 11 wins and one excellent half compared to one bad 30 minutes.
8. Wisconsin Badgers (10-2) | Last week: NR
Perhaps the most interesting potential outcome from this final week before the conclusive rankings determining the four Playoff teams is a Wisconsin victory in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Badgers were upset by Illinois on the road and blown out by Ohio State at home earlier this season, but they since own two ranked wins including a 21-point margin of victory at Minnesota. If Jack Coan plays like he did last week and Wisconsin wins, they could be seen as a clear top-four team right now despite two losses on their resume.
9. Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2) | Last week: 5 (-4)
The top eight all figure to be in the mix for the Playoff, and a handful of teams could have taken these final two spots, including Florida and Auburn (coming off their massive upset over their rival). But despite the struggles of their defense in a couple of critical games this season, the Crimson Tide are still arguably the best team that won’t be in the Playoff this season. This is the first time Alabama will not be in the College Football Playoff.
10. Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2) | Last week: 10
Their loss on the road to Minnesota doesn’t look quite as good now, but Penn State’s two losses this season have been on the road to the Gophers and the Buckeyes. It’s surprising that the Nittany Lions didn’t blow out Rutgers, but they improved to 10-2 and will likely be in a New Year’s Six Bowl.