The top 7 stayed the same in this week's poll, but rivalry week and, especially, championship week have the potential to shake up the the playoff rankings dramatically.
1. Alabama (Last Week: 1)
The Iron Bowl doesn't quite have the same luster we thought it might, but there is still plenty at stake — namely Alabama trying to hold serve as a playoff team. The Tide wouldn't be out of it with a loss, but they would need Mississippi State to lose to Ole Miss to give them a shot to win their way back in with a victory in the SEC Championship.
2. Oregon (Last Week: 2)
Oregon can't sleep on rival Oregon State, which ended Arizona State's playoff hopes just two weeks ago. If the Ducks win, they would then get a chance to clinch a playoff spot in the Pac-12 Championship.
3. Florida State (Last Week: 3)
We've basically come to expect close wins from the Seminoles at this point, but they finally weren't punished for one this week. Can they beat Florida and Georgia Tech and seal a spot with an undefeated record? Of course. Could they also lose one or both of those games? Absolutely.
4. Mississippi State (Last Week: 4)
The Bulldogs lost their undefeated season but bounced back to throttle Vanderbilt. I'm curious how strong their hold is on the No. 4 spot. They obviously have to beat rival Ole Miss this week to remain in the discussion, but here's the kicker — would they rather clinch a spot in the SEC title game by virtue of an Alabama loss to Auburn with a chance to earn a guaranteed spot in the playoff, or have Alabama go ahead and win so the Tide are forced to play another game (SEC Championship) and assume the committee wouldn't pass on an 11-1 team from the SEC West? Not that they have any control over it, but it's an interesting quandary nonetheless.
5. TCU (Last Week: 5)
TCU is still on the outside looking in, and there isn't much meat left on the schedule. The Frogs obviously have to hope for a loss from one of the teams in front of them, but they will probably also be pulling hard for Kansas State to knock off Baylor, as that head-to-head could come into play more as the two teams' resumes begin to look more similar.
6. Ohio State (Last Week: 6)
The Buckeyes are still hanging around, but I just don't see them getting in without a couple losses occurring around/ahead of them in the rankings. They have BY FAR the worst loss of any team in this vicinity, and their wins just don't make up for it in my eyes.
7. Baylor (Last Week: 7)
Baylor gets a shot at Kansas State in two weeks, and I am of the opinion that if it wins that game, the committee will be forced to take a much harder look at the Bears as a playoff team. The knock against them compared to TCU has been their weaker schedule, but by the end of the year their conference schedules will be identical (venues notwithstanding). If both teams are 11-1, the comparison between the two will essentially come down to TCU's out-of-conference win over Minnesota versus Baylor beating TCU on the field of play. Like I said, I think that becomes a tougher call than it is at this juncture.
8. UCLA (Last Week: 9)
As much as I hate it, UCLA is far from out of this thing. The Bruins certainly need some chaos ahead of them, but if they get by Stanford this weekend they get a shot at an elite win against Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship. It's not crazy to think they could sneak in if things go their way.
9. Georgia (Last Week: 10)
I began talking about this weeks ago when it seemed ludicrous, but it's still true with just one game left in the season — Georgia still needs Missouri to lose for the Bulldogs to make the SEC Championship Game. They do not have a realistic path to the playoff without a win over Georgia Tech and a win over Alabama or Mississippi State in the title game.
10. Michigan State (Last Week: 11)
Without a chance to make the conference championship, the Spartans can't do enough to get into the four-team field.
11. Arizona (Last Week: 15)
The Wildcats get rival Arizona State this weekend and still have an outside shot to win the Pac-12, but it's hard to see them finding a road to playoff inclusion at this point.
12. Kansas State (Last Week: 11)
The Wildcats still have a road game at Baylor in which they can impress, but would a two-loss Big 12 team have a realistic shot to make the playoff? I don't see it.
13. Arizona State (Last Week: 13)
14. Wisconsin (Last Week: 16)
Talk about a team wondering what might have been. The Badgers blew a 17-point lead against LSU to open the season and later suffered an inexplicable defeat at Northwestern. They would be in the thick of things if even one of those games had gone their way. But you know what they say about "ifs" and "buts".
15. Auburn (Last Week: 14)
Auburn's playoff dreams have been dashed, but they can still throw a wrench into Alabama's master plan this weekend, which is all the motivation the Tigers should need.
16. Georgia Tech (Last Week: 18)
Not that they are in the playoff race, but it would be interesting to see how high the Jackets could climb in these rankings with wins over Georgia and Florida State to close the season. I really think they have a shot in both games.
17. Missouri (Last Week: 20)
Well, here they are. We discussed the weakness of Missouri's remaining schedule after it lost to Georgia, and I'll be danged if the Tigers aren't sitting here one win away from the SEC Championship. Their opponent, Arkansas, is playing excellent football right now, but do the Tigers have one more win up their sleeve?
18. Minnesota (Last Week: 25)
Minnesota is a decent football team, but come on. A 7-spot rise for beating Nebraska? We've been talking about how terrible Nebraska was for months.
19. Ole Miss (Last Week: 8)
I have consistently maintained that Ole Miss was not that special, and three straight conference losses have proven that. This past week's loss was some kind of ugly.
20. Oklahoma (Last Week: 21)
Another team we told you was overrated to begin the season.
21. Clemson (Last Week: 22)
Clemson has more important things on its mind than rankings this week.
22. Louisville (Last Week: 24)
Nice to see Louisville firmly established as a top-25 team. Four teams in the top 22? ACC!!!
23. Boise State (Last Week: NR)
The Broncos were an afterthought early in the season, but here they are trying to snatch up a New Year's Six bowl slot.
24. Marshall (Last Week: NR)
Poor Marshall. They finally get into the rankings with their undefeated record, only to see Boise ranked ahead of them ready to steal their spot in a primetime bowl game.
25. Utah (Last Week: 17)
If a 32-point loss isn't enough to drop the 7-4 Utes out of the poll, nothing ever will be. Put Colorado State in here. They're 10-1 for crying out loud.