Handicapping the CFP Race after week 12

It’s Rivalry Week. The best weekend of college football. Thanksgiving Day might be for the NFL, but this is the best weekend in college football, and it’s what makes college football better than the NFL. The history, traditions and the pageantry of college football with the band and cheerleaders get amplified during rivalry week. Georgia, TCU, Michigan, and Ohio State all won, but they had tough battles. Tennessee was blown out by South Carolina, which ended their playoff hopes, while USC emerged victorious in a shootout with their cross-town rivals. So without further ado, here’s where the playoff picture stands going into the last weekend of the regular season:

Group of 5: No one
Independents: No one

ACC: #8 Clemson. 8-0 ACC, 10-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 13 vs. South Carolina, ACC Championship Game vs. North Carolina

Clemson is going to need 4 or 5 teams in front of them to stumble to have a realistic chance at getting in. No quality wins, North Carolina losing hurts them as it takes away the opportunity for a highly ranked win in the ACC Championship Game, and they absolutely got destroyed by Notre Dame. One of the things the committee looks at is common opponents. If it comes down to Clemson, USC, and Ohio State, Clemson lost to Notre Dame, while USC and Ohio State would have wins against them.

Big 12: #4 TCU. 8-0 Big 12, 11-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 13 vs. Iowa State, Big 12 Championship Game (opponent TBD)

TCU pulled off a last second shocker vs. Baylor to remain undefeated and keep their playoff hopes alive. They kicked a last second field goal to win with the clock running on 4th down after the previous play ended with 20 seconds left. If they win out, they should be in.

Big Ten: #3 Michigan. 8-0 Big 10, 11-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 13 @ Ohio State.

#2 Ohio State. 8-0 Big 10, 11-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 13 vs. Michigan.

This is how it’s supposed to be in the Big Ten. Michigan. Ohio State. Both teams struggled last week, but won in the end. If Big Ten was division-less like they are talking about doing when USC and UCLA join for the 2024 season, this would be the Big Ten Championship Game. Both teams are 11-0 going into this matchup just like the 2006 1 vs. 2 game. In the Big Ten West, if Iowa wins, they clinch their spot to Indianapolis.

Pac-12: #6 USC. 8-1 Pac 12, 10-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 13 vs. Notre Dame, Pac-12 Championship Game (opponent TBD).

USC beat their cross-town rivals 48-45 in a thriller, and kept the the Pac-12’s only hope to make the playoff alive. If they win out, they should be in, as they’ll have had 3 consecutive wins over ranked opponents in UCLA, Notre Dame, and the Pac-12 Championship Game, and as I mentioned the committee looks at common opponents, they would have tiebreaker with Clemson in regards to Notre Dame.

SEC: #1 Georgia. 8-0 SEC, 11-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 13 vs. Georgia Tech, SEC Championship Game vs. LSU

#5 LSU. 6-1 SEC, 9-2 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 13 @ Texas A&M, SEC Championship Game vs. Georgia

Georgia struggled with Kentucky last week, just like the other top 4 teams did, but they won and that’s what ultimately matters. Survive and advance. They finish the regular season against their rival Georgia Tech before playing LSU. If Georgia wins on Saturday, they’re likely in the playoff even if they lose to LSU in the SEC Championship Game.

Tennessee lost to South Carolina in a 63-38 blowout, and lost their quarterback Hendon Hooker for the season to a torn ACL. Despite wins over Alabama and LSU, they have no shot at the playoff. You’ll also notice Alabama isn’t on this list anymore despite winning last week. That’s because it would take complete and utter chaos to get them in, and even if it did happen, both 12-1 Georgia and 11-2 champion LSU would be ranked ahead of them, plus they lose head-to-head vs. Tennesee. It’s just not realistic.

Never before has a 2-loss team made the playoff, but due to SEC bias, LSU still has a chance. LSU lost their opening week game to Florida State by 1 point and lost to Tennessee. LSU has a quality win over Alabama, and winning the SEC would give them a top-5 win against Georgia, which would get them in.

Top 10 playoff rankings:

  1. Georgia
  2. Ohio State
  3. Michigan
  4. TCU
  5. LSU
  6. USC
  7. Alabama
  8. Clemson
  9. Oregon
  10. Tennessee

Championship Saturday matchup predictions:
ACC: Clemson vs. North Carolina (set)
Big 12: TCU (clinched spot) vs. Kansas State
Big 10: Iowa vs. Ohio State
Pac-12: Oregon vs. USC (clinched spot)
SEC: Georgia vs. LSU (set)

Games to watch for this week:
Michigan vs. Ohio State
USC vs. Notre Dame

Playoff prediction:
Peach Bowl: #1 Georgia vs. #4 USC
Fiesta Bowl: #2 Ohio State vs. #3 TCU

Ultimately, I think in the end the chalk holds, and Georgia, Ohio State, and TCU run the table and finish 13-0. That leaves the final spot to 11-1 Michigan, 12-1 USC, and 12-1 Clemson. Michigan would be eliminated due to their weak non-conference schedule and lack of conference championship. The final spot would come down to Clemson and USC then, and USC would get the nod because of the common opponent in Notre Dame, where they won and Clemson lost.

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