Predicting the final College Football Playoff rankings
LSU made it easy on the College Football Playoff selection committee.
A weekend that could have produced utter chaos instead played out mostly to form after Oregon eliminated No. 5 Utah from Playoff contention.
The top 3 seeds each of the past 4 weeks — Ohio State, LSU and Clemson — each won their respective conference championship Saturday.
The committee has wrestled with the top spot. Ohio State held it initially but gave way to LSU, which gave way to OSU again.
Will they switch again when it matters most?
Here’s what I expect the final Playoff rankings to look like when the Final Four is revealed at noon ET, Sunday on ESPN.
No. 1: LSU
The résumé is simply too impressive to justify anything else. The Tigers blew out No. 4 Georgia, scoring 37 against a Dawgs defense that hadn’t allowed anybody else more than 20. And the Tigers took their foot off the gas a bit in the 4th quarter. It was their 5th victory over a team ranked No. 9 or better.
Joe Burrow sealed the Heisman Trophy and might have locked up the No. 1 overall draft spot, too.
LSU’s defense played lights out for the second consecutive week.
Whatever perceived weaknesses there were, they are no longer.
Being No. 1 matters, seemingly more so this year because the top seed will avoid a semifinal date with reigning champ Clemson.
If LSU is No. 1, it’ll likely play its semifinal Dec. 28 at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.
No. 2: Clemson
It doesn’t matter whether the Tigers are No. 2 or No. 3. Those teams will play each other, regardless. If the opponent ends up being Ohio State, the semifinal likely will be at the Fiesta Bowl, also on Dec. 28.
But the Tigers just rolled to their 28th consecutive victory with 62 points — their highest-scoring game of the year. They deserved to be No. 2.
No. 3: Ohio State
The Buckeyes trailed Wisconsin into the 2nd half before rallying to beat the Badgers for the 2nd time this season.
It was just OSU’s 2nd victory over a top 8 team.
It wasn’t overly impressive, but it was obviously enough. Again, the only difference between being No. 2 and No. 3 is which color your jersey is. No big deal.
But holding onto No. 1? Unjustifiable.
No. 4: Oklahoma
The Big 12 was the big winner when No. 5 Utah lost Friday night and No. 4 Georgia fell hard on Saturday.
Oklahoma needed OT but put away No. 7 Baylor for the 2nd time this season.
The Sooners will rise from No. 6 into the No. 4 spot and make their 3rd consecutive Playoff appearance — and 4th in 6 years.
More remarkable, QB Jalen Hurts will make his 4th consecutive Playoff appearance.
He should face LSU, a team he was 3-0 against at Alabama.
No. 5: Oregon
The Ducks had 2 close losses but also a couple of other close calls. Their most impressive performance came in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Jumping from No. 13 to 5 is a huge step. But everybody in the hunt for No. 5 either lost or watched from home. (For the record, this is where I would slot Alabama, which, on a neutral field, clearly is better than every other team non-Playoff team on this list. Alas, this is what I think the committee will do.)
Oregon lost 2 games by a combined 9 points — and delivered a decisive, impressive performance to win their conference title.
No. 6: Baylor
Is it possible to lose a conference title game and rise in the rankings?
When every other candidate either lost by a wider margin or sat at home watching, yes.
No. 4 Georgia lost by 27. It’s going to drop several spots. Utah lost by 22, so it’s going to fall from No. 5, perhaps out of the top 10.
No. 8 Wisconsin fought valiantly but lost for the 3rd time.
Teams 9-12 last week were idle, not even playing in a conference championship.
Two games proved that not much separates Oklahoma and Baylor. The final rankings might very well reflect that.
No. 7: Georgia
Injuries, suspensions, more injuries. The committee has liked Georgia all month, despite the relative offensive struggles. I’d be surprised if the Dawgs dropped below No. 7. The SEC title game wasn’t a fair fight.
No. 8: Florida
The Dawgs won head-to-head, so it’s hard to jump the Gators above them.
No. 9: Alabama
Still criminally low at this spot, but consider it a makeup for last week’s No. 12 ranking.
No. 10: Wisconsin
The Badgers pushed Ohio State before eventually, predictably succumbing by double digits again. But if the committee thought they were No. 8, Saturday’s result certainly was a better showing than Utah had, the other contender for the No. 10 spot.