Neither Alabama nor Ohio State participates in the conference championship weekend for the first time since 2011.
That doesn’t mean the Crimson Tide or Buckeyes won’t be a part of the final conversation. South Carolina opened that door just a bit with a 31-30 victory against Clemson, which effectively knocked those Tigers out of the playoff hunt for the second straight season. Texas A&M upset LSU 38-23 ahead of the SEC championship, which effectively knocked out those Tigers even if they beat Georgia.
Ohio State is the most interesting one-loss team in the committee’s penultimate rankings Tuesday. Will the Buckeyes drop out of the top six after a 45-23 home loss to Michigan? It’s a home loss, and it wasn’t pretty given the number of splash plays the Wolverines made at The Shoe.
Alabama is the most interesting two-loss team in the rankings. The Crimson Tide lost to Tennessee and LSU, but by now you know the Crimson Tide have a different set of rules with the committee. They were the first national champion who did not play in their conference championship game in 2017. Will they be the first two-loss team to get that shot?
Those are the teams in line in case of any of the top four, which includes three unbeaten teams in Georgia, Michigan and TCU along with one-loss USC, trip up on championship weekend.
The fifth College Football Playoff rankings will be unveiled Tuesday. Here is an early look at what that top seven might look like heading into Week 13:
College football rankings 2022
Four in the College Football Playoff
1. Georgia (12-0)
Remaining schedule: vs. LSU
The defending national champions are a lock to return to the College Football Playoff under Kirby Smart, and a victory in the SEC championship game would all-but guarantee a berth in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Georgia won a fifth straight game against Georgia Tech with a 37-14 victory. Stetson Bennett threw a pair of TDs, and Kenny McIntosh (12-86, TD), Daijuan Edwards (8-57) and Kendall Milton (4-56, TD) led a relentless rushing attack that totaled 264 yards. The Bulldogs have the opportunity to win consecutive SEC championships since the three-peat from 1980-82.
2. Michigan (12-0)
Remaining schedule: vs. Purdue
The Wolverines hammered Ohio State for the program’s first victory in Columbus since 2000. Running back Blake Corum was limited because of a knee injury, but Donovan Edwards filled in with 216 yards and two second-half TDs that broke open a blowout. Quarterback JJ McCarthy (12 of 24, 263 yards, 3 TDs) totaled four scores, and Jim Harbaugh has Michigan in position for back-to-back Big Ten championships for the first time since 2004-05. Michigan could still be considered for the CFP even with a loss to the Boilermakers in Indianapolis, but that No. 2 seed with a path through the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl looks better.
3. TCU (12-0)
Remaining schedule: vs. Kansas State
The Horned Frogs control their own destiny ahead of the Big 12 championship, and they left no doubt in a 62-14 blowout against Iowa State. Quarterback Max Duggan (17 of 24, 212 yards, 3 TDs) and running back Kendre Miller (15-72, 2 TDs) led the offensive onslaught, and first-year coach Sonny Dykes’ dream season has the program one step closer to its first CFP berth. Now, a rematch with No. 12 Kansas State – which the Horned Frogs won 38-28 in comeback fashion on Oct. 22. All TCU needs to do is win.
4. USC (11-1)
Remaining schedule: vs. Oregon/Utah
Lincoln Riley is on the cusp of leading the Trojans to the CFP in Year 1 after capping an 11-1 regular season with a 38-21 victory against No. 15 Notre Dame. That makes two victories against ranked opponents in two weeks. Caleb Williams had 232 passing yards, 35 rushing yards and four total TDs in a dazzling display that will make him the Heisman Trophy front-runner ahead of the Pac-12 championship against either No. 9 Oregon or No. 14 Utah. If USC wins that game, then the Pac-12 playoff drought that extends back to 2016 will end once and for all.
Two to watch
5. Ohio State (11-1)
The Buckeyes back-doored into the playoffs in 2016, but this road still seems difficult. The blowout loss to Michigan keeps Ohio State from reaching the Big Ten championship game, and it allows a second SEC team to creep back into the conversation. CJ Stroud (31 of 48, 349 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) had his moments, but the defense gave up far too many big plays to Michigan in the loss. It is an eyesore and creates an argument with Alabama (who else?) heading into a conference championship weekend where both will be absent for the first time since 2011. Time to cash in those victories against Notre Dame and Penn State. That will be the difference.
6. Alabama (10-2)
Are the Crimson Tide really back in the playoff conversation? Alabama closed a 10-win season with a 49-27 victory against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Bryce Young (20 of 30, 343 yards, 3 TDs, INT) won his second start against the Tigers – this time without late-game heroics – and he was one of four Crimson Tide players who scored a rushing TD. Now, the drama on Tuesday night. Alabama has two losses by a combined total of four points. Those road losses to Tennessee and LSU were rough, but will that weigh less than Ohio State’s blowout loss at home to Michigan? Would Alabama break the rules and become the first two-loss team to make the CFP without the benefit of an SEC championship game? It still sounds like a stretch.