Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
The final weekend for programs to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee is upon us.
Four of the five power-conference championship games will determine the final three playoff participants, as undefeated Notre Dame is already guaranteed of a position in the top four.
The majority of our focus is centered on the SEC Championship, where a win by Georgia would put the playoff hopes of a few teams in danger.
With their eyes on the SEC, Oklahoma and Ohio State will take part in the Big 12 and Big Ten Championships.
If Alabama defeats Georgia, the committee has a decision to make between the Sooners and Buckeyes for the No. 4 seed.
A committee of 13 ranks the Top 25 teams in the nation each week starting at the end of October.
The top four teams in the final rankings are matched up against each other in the national semifinals, with the No. 1 seed earning the choice of venue.
The programs on the outside looking in are then shuffled into the rest of the New Year’s Six bowl games, where conference champions, the best Group of Five team and a few at-large programs compete.
College Football Playoff
Orange Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame
Notre Dame is the only team that has secured a berth in the playoff, as it completed its undefeated regular season by beating USC in Week 13.
If conference championship weekend goes to chalk, Brian Kelly‘s Fighting Irish are expected to be the No. 3 seed, but if one result goes to an underdog, they could move up to the No. 2 seed.
Alabama is the favorite to lock down the No. 1 seed, and with that designation comes a choice of where to play.
If the Crimson Tide knock off Georgia in the SEC Championship and Oklahoma lands at No. 4, don’t be surprised to see Nick Saban choose to play in the Orange Bowl to make the Sooners travel more.
There’s also a chance Alabama remains in the playoff positions with a loss, as the committee has valued the strength of the SEC all season, and although it’s possible, we’re not certain it will happen.
Butch Dill/Associated Press
No one’s talked about Clemson in the past few days because there’s a collective thought going around that the Tigers will dominate Pittsburgh in the ACC Championship.
Dabo Swinney’s side is one of the few who could pose a significant test to Alabama, but unless things go haywire Saturday, it’ll have to wait until the National Championship for a shot at the Crimson Tide.
Because Alabama will opt to play in the Orange Bowl, Clemson will be the home team in the Cotton Bowl against the Fighting Irish.
If Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma win Saturday, the committee’s only tough decision will come down to the Sooners and Ohio State for the No. 4 seed, but Lincoln Riley’s team should have the advantage in that discussion.
Oklahoma’s strength of schedule will improve by playing a better opponent than Ohio State, and the Buckeyes’ embarrassing loss at Purdue is a black eye the committee can’t ignore.
New Year’s Six
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Washington
Sugar Bowl: Texas vs. Georgia
Fiesta Bowl: LSU vs. UCF
Peach Bowl: Michigan vs. Florida
As the Big Ten champion, Ohio State will settle for the Rose Bowl, which isn’t a bad consolation given how far down the rankings the Buckeyes were two weeks ago.
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
Pac-12 champion Washington will be Ohio State’s foe in the traditional meeting of the conferences in Pasadena, California.
The Sugar Bowl misses out on the Big 12 and SEC champions, but it still has a solid matchup with Texas facing off against Georgia.
Although Texas wouldn’t be the second-best Big 12 team if it drops its fourth game to Oklahoma, the Sugar Bowl takes the Big 12 Championship runner-up if the champion heads to the playoff.
After shining in the Peach Bowl a year ago, UCF heads out to Arizona for its latest challenge against an SEC foe.
The Knights will beat Memphis in a tight The American Championship to earn the title as best Group of Five team.
Josh Heupel’s crew is set to take on the third-best at-large team in LSU, who dropped beneath Florida in Tuesday’s rankings.
Since Michigan and Florida don’t play Saturday, they are locked in as the two best at-large teams without conference tie-ins to certain bowls.
With Ohio State missing out on the playoff, the Wolverines slide into the Peach Bowl, while Florida will rank as the third-best SEC team when Sunday’s final rankings roll around.
Of course, all of this could change if upsets occur in the conference championship games, but we feel confident in the results predicted above.
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