The selection committee has been hunkered down at the Gaylord Texan Resort this weekend working on their final rankings. As exciting as both the Penn State-Wisconsin and Clemson-Virginia Tech games were Saturday, they hardly brought about any headache-inducing chaos.
In fact, the committee’s final four might not look much different than its most recent edition. Ultimately, four one-loss teams separated themselves from the pack.
Here’s how I predict their final rankings will look Sunday.
Colorado (10-3), Alamo
If the Buffs had kept it close against Washington it would be highly likely the committee treated them like a 10-2 team and kept them above USC. But following a 41-10 loss to the Huskies it’s harder to overlook CU’s head-to-head loss to the Trojans. It was still a remarkable season for the Buffs.
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USC (9-3), Rose
Many people believe the Trojans were one of the four best teams in the country by the end of the season, but those three September losses (including 52-6 to Alabama) still happened. The only question is whether the Trojans finish ahead of Colorado. The Rose will take whoever’s higher
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Wisconsin (10-3), Cotton
The committee tends to not punish the conference championship game losers too heavily, and that should certainly be true of a seven-point loss to Top 10 foe Penn State. So the Badgers drop just one spot and stay ahead of USC and Colorado to claim an at-large berth to the Cotton Bowl.
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Oklahoma (10-2), Sugar
It’s possible Big Ten championship game loser Wisconsin stays a spot ahead of the Sooners, but the committee should reward the Sooners for winning the Big 12 championship –- including going 9-0 in round-robin conference play. They finish with Top 25 wins over 10-2 West Virginia and 9-3 Oklahoma State.
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Michigan (10-2), Orange
On Tuesday the committee cited a “small margin” between No. 4 Washington and No. 5 Michigan, which boasts three Top 10 wins (Wisconsin, Penn State and Colorado). However, they’re a two-loss team without a conference championship. The committee will likely downplay the Wolverines’ 49-10 rout of Penn State in September like they did Louisville’s over Florida State.
Penn State (11-2), Rose
By season’s end the Nittany Lions were playing as well as any team in the country not named Alabama, winning their last nine games. They beat current committee No. 2 team Ohio State. But even with Saturday’s Wisconsin win, they finished just 2-2 against the committee’s most recent Top 25 teams.
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Washington (12-1), Peach (semifinal)
There will likely be considerable arguments in the room on behalf of 11-2 Big Ten champ Penn State. But as of Tuesday, the committee had Washington three spots higher than the Nittany Lions, and since then they added a 41-10 victory over No. 8 Colorado. Penn State beat No. 6 Wisconsin, 38-31.
Ohio State (11-1), Fiesta (semifinal)
The Buckeyes’ inclusion as a non-conference champ will be controversial, but their resume is too good to leave out. They beat three 10-win teams (Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Michigan) and suffered their sole loss by three points on the road to an 11-win team (Penn State). To put that in perspective, neither team above them played a single 10-win Power 5 foe.
Clemson (12-1), FIesta (semfinal)
The Tigers’ ACC championship game win over Virginia Tech should move them up to No. 2 in the final rankings. Not only does it give them a conference title, but the Hokies marked the fourth committee Top 25 team they’ve beaten (No. 12 Florida State, No. 13 Louisville, No. 14 Auburn, No. 23 Virginia Tech).
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Alabama (13-0), Peach (semifinal)
Presumably the committee will spend about 30 seconds on this decision. The undefeated SEC champs finished with five wins over committee Top 25 teams, the most of any playoff team to date.