The results from rivalry week should provide several teams the opportunity to move up when the latest College Football Playoff rankings are released Tuesday. Alabama, Oregon and Florida State all solidified their hold on three of the four top spots, but Mississippi State’s loss to Ole Miss opens the door for TCU, Ohio State and Baylor.
Heading into the final week, how each team fares in their conference title games or regular season finales will likely determine which four squads battle for the national championship. In the most recent rankings, released on Nov. 25, the CFP committee seemed to identify seven finalists, with Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State in the top four, followed by one-loss TCU, Ohio State and Baylor.
Assuming the top three teams all claim their respective conferences, how the committee chooses between TCU, Baylor and Ohio State will likely come down to their final games as well.
TCU (10-1, 7-1 Big 12, No. 5 CFP) fields the third highest-scoring offense in the country, with 46.1 points per game and owns four victories over ranked opponents. However the Horned Frogs lone loss of the season was to Baylor, a 61-58 shootout during which the Bears scored 21 points in the final 11 minutes to win.
Unfortunately for Baylor (10-1, 7-1, No. 7 CFP), it followed up that tremendous victory with a 41-27 letdown at West Virginia a week later. The Bears also didn’t help their case with a narrow 48-46 win over unranked Texas Tech that saw starting quarterback Bryce Petty leave with a mild concussion.
Now TCU and Baylor are hoping for victories of their own and a loss for their Big 12 rival. The Bears have a much tougher task, taking on No. 12 Kansas State at home, compared to TCU’s home matchup against 2-9 Iowa State. Both squads are playing for at least a share of the Big 12 title.
The Buckeyes (11-1, 8-0, No. 6 CFP) represent the only chance for the Big Ten this season. They’ve won 10 straight, but the committee seems greatly influenced by their 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech in the second week of the season. This week, Ohio State survived an impressive first half from Michigan for a 42-28 victory, and next meets No. 14 Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. But the Buckeyes lost starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate J.T. Barrett to a broken ankle against Michigan.
By the time the last vote is held, the CFP committee may also decide whether a two-loss team should play for the national title. Other than Florida State, every team in contention has at least one loss and most face difficult matchups in the final week of the season.
Mississippi State saw their chances of making the postseason quickly evaporate after a 31-17 loss to No. 19 Ole Miss. The Bulldogs now have two losses on the season, and will likely fall out of the top four despite wins earlier in the year against ranked LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn.
Of the top three teams Alabama (11-1, 8-1 SEC, No. 1 CFP) appears the more likely to make the tournament. Quarterback Blake Sims and the Crimson Tide came back and blasted Auburn for a 55-44 Iron Bowl victory and will next face Missouri in the SEC championship Saturday.
Oregon (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12, No. 2 CFP) also trounced in-state rival Oregon State 47-19 to extend its winning streak to seven games, but the Ducks next host Arizona, the only team to beat them this season, in the Pac-12 title game.
Despite four interceptions by quarterback Jameis Winston, the Seminoles (12-0, 7-0 ACC, No. 3 CFP) once again avoided an upset bid, beating Florida 24-19 for their 28th straight victory. They are the only undefeated team in the nation. Florida State meets a late-surging No. 16 Georgia Tech squad that’s won five straight while blowing opponents out 205-91 during the run, and last upended No. 9 Georgia 30-24 in overtime.