There are still two SEC teams in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings — but Alabama isn’t one of them.
No. 5 Alabama is officially on the outside looking in after its loss to new No. 1 LSU, and SEC East favorite Georgia has been promoted to No. 4 as the selection committee’s highest-ranked one-loss team in rankings released Tuesday night.
No. 2 Ohio State was followed by No. 3 Clemson, which entered the top four for the first time after sitting on the bubble last week. But No. 8 Minnesota made the biggest leap. The Golden Gophers made an unprecedented nine-spot jump from No. 17 after beating then-No. 4 Penn State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions fell to No. 9, but are still ahead of No. 10 Oklahoma.
Undefeated Baylor, which needed triple overtime to beat TCU, dropped one spot to No. 13. At No. 17, Cincinnati remains the highest-ranked Group of 5 team in an otherwise crowded race for a spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl.
Here’s what the bracket would look like if the playoff were today:
No. 1 LSU would face No. 4 Georgia in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. The selection committee makes sure the No. 1 seed is not at a geographic disadvantage, and it would consider Atlanta to be a more favorable location for the Bulldogs.
That’s why No. 2 Ohio State would face No. 3 Clemson in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Because the Big Ten champion is in a semifinal, the league’s next-highest-ranked team, No. 8 Minnesota, would go to the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, where it would face No. 6 Oregon because the Rose Bowl is also guaranteed the Pac-12 champion if it’s not in a semifinal.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl, which is guaranteed an SEC team against a Big 12 team, would take No. 5 Alabama against No. 10 Oklahoma, as they are both the highest-ranked teams available from each conference. The Capital One Orange Bowl is guaranteed the ACC champion, but since No. 3 Clemson is in a semifinal, it would take the next-highest-ranked ACC team. In this week’s ranking, there aren’t any other ACC teams, but Wake Forest and Virginia are the only two seven-win teams, so the Demon Deacons would likely go because Virginia has three losses.
Assuming this week it’s Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons would face a team from the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame. In this case, it’s No. 9 Penn State, as it’s the highest-ranked team available.
The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic would feature No. 7 Utah against No. 17 Cincinnati, which is guaranteed a spot as the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion.
(All games can be seen on ESPN and the ESPN App)
Saturday, Dec. 28
Noon ET: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 7 Utah vs. No. 17 Cincinnati (AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas)
4 or 8 p.m. ET: College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson (Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta)
4 or 8 p.m. ET: College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Georgia (State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona)
Monday, Dec. 30
8 p.m. ET: Capital One Orange Bowl: No. 9 Penn State vs. Wake Forest (Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida)
Wednesday, Jan. 1
5 p.m. ET: Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual: No. 6 Oregon vs. No. 8 Minnesota (Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California)
8:45 p.m. ET: Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 10 Oklahoma (Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans)