Well, well, well. Look who decided to finally show up and dominate a legitimate top-10 team.

I’m looking at you, Ohio State. I’m looking at you differently now that your best win isn’t against 4-loss Purdue.

How will the selection committee view the Buckeyes? That’s a great question. Will they get more love than Alabama and move into No. 2? We know at the very least, Ohio State will be ranked ahead of Oregon, which was waxed at Utah. But Ohio State suddenly feels like a legitimate top-4 team capable of giving Georgia a test.

How should the rest of the top 10 break down heading into the final week of the regular season?

Here’s how I think it’ll look, not necessarily what I believe it should look like heading into Rivalry Week:

10. Oregon

Yikes. Saturday was essentially the Pac-12 eliminating itself from Playoff contention yet again. It came in the form of a drubbing at the hands of Utah, which could’ve boosted Oregon’s chances of fending off Ohio State. Instead, it turned into a “goodbye forever” game. Well, at least for the rest of the year. It’s crazy to think that the Ducks might have the best win of anyone in college football, and they’ll be lucky to finish as a top-10 team. That’s what that second loss will do to you, especially when it’s that convincing.

9. Ole Miss

If we’re being honest, it was a pretty lackluster showing from Ole Miss against Vandy. Lane Kiffin’s squad was a 5-touchdown favorite and it won by just 14 points. I chalk some of that up to being conservative on a short week with all eyes on the Egg Bowl. Nonetheless, Ole Miss should move into the top 10 for the first time in this year’s Playoff rankings. Why? Wake Forest, Oregon and Michigan State are both expected to fall after blowout second losses. Ole Miss isn’t going to hurdle Baylor, who was the top-ranked 2-loss team last week. Speaking of the Bears …

8. Baylor

Baylor may not have a Playoff path with that second loss, but Dave Aranda’s squad has quietly built a really nice résumé to earn a New Year’s 6 bowl bid. It has 2 wins against the current top 15 of the AP Poll (BYU and Oklahoma), and it can get a 3rd if Oklahoma loses to Oklahoma State in Bedlam, which would put Baylor into the Big 12 Championship. Having said that, we’re not talking about a Playoff path. Baylor’s résumé, even with a Big 12 Championship, won’t be good enough to become the first 2-loss team to make the field.

7. Oklahoma State

Don’t sleep on the idea that the Cowboys could earn that last spot. Of course, that would mean beating Oklahoma and Baylor. That would put a ton of pressure on that final ranking if Cincinnati were to go undefeated because Mike Gundy’s team would potentially have 3 wins against the current top 15 compared to the Bearcats’ 1. Oklahoma State also has the No. 3 Power 5 margin of victory among the 8 remaining Playoff contenders. Does that matter, too? It probably should. Oklahoma State is the Big 12’s last hope for a Playoff team. Go figure that if the Cowboys were to lose either this weekend to Oklahoma or the following week in the Big 12 Championship, we’d see 3 Power 5 conferences left out of the field for the first time.

6. Notre Dame

This. A thousand times this:

Say it for the people in the back, P.B. It’s true. How could the Irish overcome that Cincinnati loss? By winning in a conference championship. Instead, the 1-loss Irish who have 4 wins against Power 5 teams with winning records, is without much of a case to surpass Cincinnati. It was a double-digit loss at home, folks. You can’t tell me that the selection committee, even with the way they treated the Michigan-Michigan State game, is going to suddenly leapfrog the Irish ahead of the Bearcats because of wins against struggling teams like Georgia Tech and Stanford. Nope. I don’t even think that should be the case if Cincinnati loses a game, but crazier things have happened. For now, that Irish ceiling is limited.

5. Michigan

I’ll say this: We’re going to blast Michigan if it loses to Ohio State again. That’s reality. That’s what happens when you continue to be a punching bag on the big stage. But think about how crazy it is that the Wolverines are likely in this spot as a top-5 team with everything to play for. At this time last year, it was a forgone conclusion that Harbaugh was a goner. Instead, Warde Manuel got creative with his contract, loaded it up with incentives and now Michigan is a legit contender. Beat Ohio State after what the Buckeyes just did to Michigan State and suddenly, we’ve having a totally different conversation about the Wolverines. No pressure.

As for this ranking, I think the Wolverines stay behind Cincinnati. The Wolverines beat a mediocre Maryland team like a drum, but the Bearcats finally got those style points against a solid SMU squad. Either way, it all comes down to The Game for Michigan … as it should.

4. Cincinnati

Yes, for the first time ever, I think it happens. That is, a Group of 5 team earns a top-4 spot in a Playoff ranking. Cincinnati has Utah to thank for that, but it also helped that the Bearcats finally got some style points in a rout of 8-win SMU. Plus, Notre Dame just keeps on winning while Houston won big again. Cincinnati needs the Cougars to get as far into the Top 25 as possible. The goal is to beat Houston in the AAC Championship, but to still have the Cougars as a Top 25 team on Selection Sunday. Tricky.

What’s not so tricky? Even this late in the season, Cincinnati is 1 of 3 remaining Playoff contenders to have a win against a current AP Top 10 team (Oklahoma State beat Baylor and Alabama beat Ole Miss). I’d argue that Cincinnati has the best win of that bunch now that Oregon is out of the mix. Of course, the selection committee wasn’t impressed with the résumé beyond that. We’ll see how SMU is referenced by Gary Barta.

3. Ohio State

OK, OK. Now we can talk about the Buckeyes being for real. That was perhaps the biggest statement win of the season on Saturday. The only question is if it’ll be enough to move Ohio State up to No. 2 ahead of Alabama. My guess is no because the Tide beat a Top 25 Arkansas team. Alabama is also the only contender with 2 wins against the current AP Top 25 (we’re excluding Baylor and Ole Miss as contenders). But just for fun, let’s do a little side-by-side:

Ohio State
Avg. P5 margin
Victories vs. winning P5
Wins vs. current AP Top 25
Wins vs. current AP Top 10

I hate to be “it’ll sort itself out” guy, but with these 2 teams, it will. The selection committee won’t be debating Alabama vs. Ohio State for a spot in the Playoff. If both teams win out, they’ll be in. One-loss Alabama, if it can beat Georgia, will get that No. 1 spot, too.

2. Alabama

Let’s just pick up where we left off with the Ohio State-Alabama debate that the ESPN crew will spend far too much time breaking down before revealing the last few teams of the Playoff rankings. In the AP rankings, Ohio State moved up to No. 2. It made a strong case to do just that while Alabama found itself in a 1-score game in the 4th quarter for the 5th time in 7 SEC games. Notre Dame actually has a better average margin of victory vs. Power 5 teams than Alabama, too. So why will the Tide get the benefit of the doubt and stay at No. 2? Two reasons.

One is that among the remaining Playoff contenders, Alabama is the only team with multiple wins against the current AP Top 25. That’s big. It’s also 1 of 3 contenders with a win against a current AP Top 10 team. That matters, too. While I continue to say that a 2-loss Alabama team isn’t making the Playoff without a Georgia win, that résumé needs as many quality marks as possible to make that happen. There’s a chance that by this time next week, Alabama will have wins against 8 bowl eligible Power 5 teams (it would take LSU and Florida both winning). That’s the biggest argument ahead of Cincinnati, who will only have 1 such win no matter how this weekend plays out. Oklahoma State would have a maximum of 6. Advantage, Tide.

1. Georgia

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Georgia is a Georgia Tech win from earning a Playoff bid. It’s that simple. Get to the SEC Championship at 12-0 and the hay is in the barn. Why? The Dawgs have 7 wins against bowl-eligible Power 5 teams. Among the remaining Playoff contenders, Alabama (5) is the only other team with more than 4 such wins. That’s big. That number could actually turn to 8 if Florida were to beat Florida State this weekend.

Assuming Georgia rolls past Georgia Tech as a 5-touchdown favorite, what would the Playoff-bound Dawgs have to play for in the SEC Championship? A ton:

  • The No. 1 seed to set up matchup w/ Cincinnati or Oklahoma State
  • Avoid potentially facing Ohio State in semifinal
  • Knock Alabama out of the field

There would be plenty on the line even with that Playoff ticket unofficially punched. For now, though, don’t waste your breath debating who the No. 1 team in the country is.