A loss to Auburn in the SEC Championship would prevent the Bulldogs from reaching the playoff.
In the ACC, a similar scenario is on the line for Clemson and Miami. The Buckeyes' two losses would be against playoff-bound Oklahoma and an embarrassing, inexplicable dud at Iowa, compared with wins over bowl teams Army, Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin. But if the Sooners win, it's better to have Ohio State win the Big Ten championship and dare the committee to leap them from No. 8 to No. 4.
The Crimson Tide (11-1) fell to No. 5 after suffering their first loss of the season. Auburn (10-2) is number two and Oklahoma (11-1) is third.
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Miami picked the worst time to suffer its first loss of the season, a stunning 24-14 defeat to unranked Pittsburgh.
This marks the 17th consecutive College Football Playoff ranking that Clemson has been in the top four, the only team in the nation that can make that claim.
Penn State is the one team out of the playoff race but fairly well locked into a New Year's Six spot. That game will be a rematch of a September 9 USC victory at the Coliseum. Southern California (10-2), 11.
Obviously Alabama would probably need Auburn to beat Georgia again to help them out in this scenario, but this is a good point brought up by Herbstreit. LSU (9-3), 18. Washington State (9-3), 19. U-M (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten) will learn its bowl game fate on Sunday. Those three wins - plus a conference championship - would all be better than anything that current No. 5 Alabama has accomplished.
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The Orange Bowl matches the top non-playoff team from the ACC against the top non-playoff team from the Big Ten, SEC and Notre Dame.
So how would these rankings shake out if they were to hold? If Clemson lost a close game to Miami, it would still have three top-25 wins and seven wins against FBS teams that have winning records, keeping open the possibility of two ACC teams getting in. And this week, we have quite a lineup on the college football calendar with conference championship week upon us.
SEC: This is a tough one.
Ohio State (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten) is coming off a 31-20 win over MI.
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The next highest-ranked team available is No. 6 Georgia, which makes sense for the nearby Peach Bowl in Atlanta. The goal for UCF is clear right now, because the victor of the AAC title game against Memphis will secure a New Year's Six bowl spot.
Pac-12: No. 10 USC vs.
No. 2 Oklahoma (minus 7) vs. Alabama football needs an Oklahoma loss to make the field if Wisconsin wins. On one sideline is an undefeated Wisconsin that has scrapped their way up the rankings all season in spite of not having a signature marquee win to rely on.
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