The top of this week’s College Football Playoff standings is self-explanatory. A week from now, it could be anything but.
Alabama has all but clinched its spot in the Top Four after going undefeated in the regular season and is followed by an Ohio State team that will be nearly impossible to hold out after beating Michigan. One-loss Clemson and Washington round out the playoff selections.
Here is a look at the Top 25:
The Crimson Tide are the only team in no danger of dropping out Sunday evening. They have won 11 of their 12 regular-season games by double digits, including a 30-12 thrashing of rival Auburn over the weekend.
Not even a loss against heavy underdog Florida in the SEC Championship Game would be enough to remove a team with Alabama’s impenetrable resume. The Tide are probably still the No. 1 seed should they lose this weekend.
Just don’t tell that to coach Nick Saban, who was fired up at the suggestion in a Monday meeting with reporters:
You all want to put everything on the playoffs, man. That’s all you care about. You don’t care about bowl games, you don’t care about any teams in the country that aren’t in the playoffs. I don’t know. If we don’t win this game, maybe we throw a stink bomb out there, maybe we don’t get in the playoffs.
I don’t know. You guys have all the answers to that, but I don’t. All I know is that if we play and we play well, we control our own destiny in terms of what we do. So I’d really rather not have any more questions about ‘Is it OK to lose this game?’ It’s never OK to lose a game.
Every other spot remains up for grabs, though Ohio State has a claim after its double-overtime triumph over Michigan. Buckeyes running back Curtis Samuel scored the game-winning touchdown a play after referees controversially gave J.T. Barrett a first down on a 4th-and-1 run attempt. Barrett appeared to get near the marker on replay but was given a generous spot; officials upheld the play upon review.
Both teams spent most of the game struggling offensively, with Michigan’s run game getting nowhere and Ohio State finding no success through the air. Barrett finished with one more rushing yard (125) than passing (124).
Still, after the all-time classic, it was the refs who unsurprisingly drew the criticism in Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s postgame press conference:
It wasn’t a first down, by that much. I’m bitterly disappointed in the officiating today. That spot, the graphic displays, the [pass] interference penalties, the one not called [for] us on Grant Perry, clearly was being hooked before the ball got there. And the previous penalty, they called on Delano Hill, the ball’s uncatchable and by the receiver. So I’m bitterly disappointed in the officiating. Can’t make that any more clear.
Ohio State’s win over Michigan opened the door for Penn State, which could potentially unseat Washington or Clemson with a Big Ten championship. The Nittany Lions clinched the East division with a 45-12 win over Michigan State and will face Wisconsin this weekend for a conference championship.
Winners of eight straight games, the Lions have by far the best chance of any two-loss team to crash the show. Their win over Ohio State looms large, as does the committee’s factoring in conference championships. Two-loss Wisconsin may want to make a case of its own if it defeats Penn State, but the Badgers have a tough sell after losing to both Ohio State and Michigan.
The Lions’ biggest red mark on their schedule is a 49-10 loss to Michigan that’s hard to wipe away. The class of the Big Ten East essentially did a round-robin number on one another. Michigan can quite easily claim its superiority to Penn State in the same way the Lions can to Ohio State.
The Buckeyes remain the likeliest of the three to get in because they have only one loss.
Clemson and Washington are also sitting relatively pretty with a single loss but did not have to go through the cannibalistic Big Ten to get there. Clemson’s best win of the season looks worse by the day as Louisville falls flat on its face. The Tigers will instead be pushing their road victories over Auburn and Florida State.
Washington has rampaged through a weak Pac-12 and lucked out a bit by getting Colorado over a red-hot USC in the conference title game. The Huskies have been kept at arm’s length by the committee all season and might be the likeliest to drop.
Come Sunday, the committee might have a hard time not taking the champion of a conference that has four of the nation’s seven best teams.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.