Losses by last week’s top two teams, Alabama and Miami, have shaken things up in the College Football Playoff rankings as two schools make their first appearance in the CFP top four in the penultimate rankings of the season.
At No. 2, Auburn makes its debut in the top four after knocking off its second top-ranked team of the season. The Tigers beat Alabama 26-14 in Saturday’s Iron Bowl. Auburn previously beat Georgia when the Bulldogs were No. 1 in the CFP rankings. Georgia (No. 6 this week) will have a chance at redemption as it faces a banged up Auburn squad in Saturday’s SEC Championship game.
The Badgers have spent the entire season on the outside of the CFP semifinal bubble looking in, but the only remaining unbeaten Power 5 school still needs to put up one more W in order to stay in the top four. Wisconsin will take on Ohio State in the Big Ten title game Saturday. Should the eighth-ranked Buckeyes win, they could provide a compelling argument for a spot in the semifinals.
The third-ranked Sooners will be locked in a rematch for its conference title game as Oklahoma will face TCU for the Big 12 championship. The Sooners’ spot is guaranteed though, as a loss to the No. 11 Horned Frogs on Saturday would almost certainly kick them out of the CFP semifinal.
Despite Saturday’s loss to rival Auburn, Nick Saban believes Alabama “deserves an opportunity to get in the playoff,” but that will depend on how conference title weekend goes. Having fallen to No. 5 this week in the CFP rankings, Alabama will have to hope favorites like Oklahoma or Clemson lose, if that happens, the Crimson Tide’s resume may lift them back up into the playoff. Unlike Miami and Ohio State, however, Alabama won’t have the luxury of playing an additional game to state their case.
Miami picked the worst time to suffer its first loss of the season, a stunning 24-14 defeat at the hands of unranked Pittsburgh. That loss dropped the Hurricanes from No. 2 to No. 7, their only hope at getting back into the top four begins with a win in Saturday’s ACC title game against Clemson.
At No. 9, Penn State is probably the highest ranked team that is without any sort of path into the CFP top four. The final rankings will be released Sunday at 12 p.m. on ESPN.
The Nittany Lions are followed by USC, the highest ranked team out of the Pac-12. The Trojans will take on No. 12 Stanford for the conference championship on Friday night (ESPN, 8 p.m.). That game will be a rematch of a Sept. 9 USC victory.
TCU, Oklahoma’s foe in the Big 12 title game is No. 11. The Horned Frogs are followed by Stanford and Washington. The Huskies entered last week’s Apple Cup ranked 17th — four spots behind rival Washington State, but Washington’s decisive 41-14 victory lifted the Huskies to No. 13 and sent the Cougars down to No. 18.
UCF, a winner over in-state rival USF, is the highest ranked Group of 5 school and sits at No. 14 with designs on a New Year’s Day bowl game. The only thing standing in the undefeated Knights’ way is No. 20 Memphis Tigers. The two teams will pay each other in the AAC conference title game, with the winner likely playing in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.