Handicapping the CFP Race Going Into Championship Weekend

What a final week of the regular season it was in college football. 4 of the top 10 ranked teams lost, and 2 saw their playoff hopes go up in flames. We’re down to championship weekend, and then the CFP committee will set the 4 team playoff. So without further ado, here’s where the playoff picture stands going into championship weekend:

Group of 5: No one
Independents: No one

ACC: No one

Clemson was the ACC’s only hope at making the playoff, and their hopes disappeared with their 31-30 loss to in-state rival South Carolina. Despite their ACC Championship Game opponent North Carolina losing for the second straight week, everything Clemson could ask for to get back into the playoff chase happened with Ohio State, LSU, and Oregon all losing, but they didn’t hold up their end, and will miss the playoff for the 2nd year in a row after 6 straight appearances.

Big 12: #3 TCU. 9-0 Big 12, 12-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Big 12 Championship Game vs. Kansas State.

A week after their last second win vs. Baylor, they demolished Iowa State 62-14. Their path to the playoff is simple. Win, and they’re in. They might even make the playoff if they lose to Kansas State. TCU beat them by 10 points during the regular season, but the oddsmakers think this game will be a lot closer, as they’re only a 2.5 point favorite. Look for TCU to win here.

Big Ten: #2 Michigan. 9-0 Big 10, 12-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Big 10 Championship Game vs. Purdue.

#5 Ohio State. 8-1 Big 10, 12-0 overall.

After years of Ohio State fans mocking Michigan for saying they’re back, they can’t beat Ohio State, 2021 was a fluke and it set them back because it saved Harbough’s job, they haven’t won in Columbus since Tom Brady was a rookie in the NFL, the last time they won the Big 10 outright, LeBron was less than 20 games into his NBA career, etc., it’s time to put it all to bed. For the 2nd year in a row, Michigan beat Ohio State 45-23. It was also their first win in Columbus since 2000. After not making the B10 Championship Game the first 10 years of the game, they’re going for the 2nd year in a row vs. Purdue. Much like TCU, win and they’re in. Their win against Ohio State is the best win among all the playoff contenders, and because of that, they’re in the playoff even if they lose to unranked Purdue. But don’t expect that to happen. Look for Michigan to not only win, but cover the 16.5 point spread.

Meanwhile, Ohio State is still alive for the playoff. They still have wins against Notre Dame, and a top-10 team in Penn State on the road, and until the loss to Michigan, they had won all their games by double digits. But they’re going to need some help on championship weekend to get in. Georgia and Michigan are locks no matter what happens, but if USC and/or TCU lose, Selection Sunday will be appointment television.

Pac-12: #4 USC. 8-1 Pac-12, 11-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Pac-12 Championship Game vs. Utah.

USC has surged into the playoff picture with their wins the last 2 weeks vs. UCLA and Notre Dame, and quarterback Caleb Williams has moved into pole position for the Heisman. USC gets a chance to avenge their lone loss of the season against Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game, after losing by 1 point on a late touchdown and 2-point conversion. USC is the better team, but Utah is a very tough scrappy team. Last year they beat Oregon twice to keep them out of the playoff. Look for Utah to do it again.

SEC: #1 Georgia. 8-0 SEC, 12-0 overall. Remaining schedule: SEC Championship Game vs. LSU

#6 Alabama. 6-2 SEC, 10-2 overall.

Georgia had no issues with Georgia Tech, to finish the regular season 12-0 for the second year in a row. Look for them to be in the playoff even if they lose the SEC Championship Game to LSU. Speaking of LSU, they blew their chance at the playoff after losing to Texas A&M.

Meanwhile, due to the losses in the top 10, Alabama has made their way back into the playoff picture. No 2-loss team has ever made the playoff, but due to SEC bias, Alabama is potentially in position to backdoor their way into the playoff if there is enough chaos on Championship Saturday. Alabama has only missed the playoff once since the inception in 2014.

Top 10 playoff rankings:

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

Championship Saturday predictions:
ACC: Clemson vs. North Carolina: Clemson
Big 12: TCU vs. Kansas State: TCU
Big 10: Purdue vs. Michigan: Michigan
Pac-12: Utah vs. USC: Utah
SEC: Georgia vs. LSU: Georgia

Games to watch for this week:
Tulane vs. UCF: This game has no bearing on the playoff chase, but the winner of this game will get a New Year’s 6 Bowl Game as the highest ranked Group of 5 conference champion

TCU vs. Kansas State
Utah vs. USC

These are the only conference championship games that have a spot in the playoff at stake. Georgia and Michigan are in even if they lose. But as I said previously in this article, these games will decide if you need to watch Selection Sunday or not.

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

I think at the end of the day, Ohio State will backdoor their way into the playoff thanks to USC’s loss to Utah. The fact that they’re ranked ahead of Alabama tells me that the committee sees Ohio State as better than them, and would be the first team to replace someone currently in the top 4.

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