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Playoff Picture: Week 12

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We take a look at the College Football Playoff poll each week and break down the path to the Playoff.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Utah
Utah ruined Oregon’s Playoff dreams with a dominant win in Salt Lake City.
Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State asserted itself as perhaps the No. 1 challenger to Georgia by blasting Michigan State. Meanwhile, Cincinnati made history by jumping into the top 4 thanks to Oregon’s blowout loss to Utah. We are coming down to the wire in the Playoff race, and there are still plenty of ways this thing could play out.

NOTE: We will only provide individual breakdowns for teams that have a reasonable shot to make the Playoff.

***“SOR” denotes strength of record

***“SOS” denotes strength of schedule

1. Georgia (11-0; SOR: 1; SOS: 50)

Georgia continues to be on cruise control until the SEC Championship Game, where we figure even just a competitive effort would assure them of a Playoff spot.

2. Ohio State (10-1; SOR: 7; SOS: 62)

The Buckeyes turned what figured to be the premier game of the weekend into an absolute bludgeoning of the highest order, scoring at will against Michigan State from the outset and building an unthinkable 49-0 halftime lead over a team ranked No. 7 in the country at the time. They took the foot off the gas and politely won 56-7, but the damage was done and the statement made. Ohio State appears to be peaking at the best possible time, which is good because their trip to Michigan this week could be a do-or-die scenario when it comes to the Playoff.

3. Alabama (10-1; SOR: 3; SOS: 35)

We are still of the opinion that Alabama has to win out to feel comfortable about Playoff inclusion. Auburn doesn’t seem like a threat to beat the Tide at this point, so their season hinges on an SEC Championship showdown with Georgia. Of course there are scenarios where a two-loss Bama could sneak in, but we would prefer not to entertain those right now.

4. Cincinnati (11-0; SOR: 2; SOS: 93)

Cincinnati has finally broken through the Group of Five glass ceiling and achieved a top-4 ranking, but the work is far from done. The Bearcats obviously must win out, but they need to make sure other results don’t give the committee any opening to jump teams ahead of them. We are keeping a particular eye on Oklahoma State, which has the opportunity to notch back-to-back top-10 wins to finish the season and present a one-loss, conference-champion resume to the committee that would be very worthy of consideration. Oklahoma can obviously accomplish the same feat, in theory, but we view the Cowboys as the bigger elephant in the room. The Bearcats should hope Georgia disposes of Alabama so that Oklahoma State wouldn’t be in position to supplant them as the final team.

5. Michigan (10-1; SOR: 5; SOS: 38)

The Wolverines have a great opportunity ahead of them this week. A win over Ohio State would certainly vault them into the top 4 while seriously dampening the rival Buckeyes’ chances to make the field. A loss, however, would mean another narrow Playoff miss for Michigan.

6. Notre Dame (10-1; SOR: 4; SOS: 41)

The Irish refuse to go away. Quite the contrary, as they continue to slide closer to the field with each passing week simply be default. Notre Dame’s dream scenario includes Georgia and Ohio State knocking Alabama and Michigan out of the way and the Big XII producing a two-loss champion. If all that occurs, we’re looking at the crazy circumstance where Cincinnati and Notre Dame could both make the Playoff field.

7. Oklahoma State (10-1; SOR: 6; SOS: 44)

As previously noted, the Cowboys are the true fly in the Playoff ointment because of what lies ahead of them. Adding potential wins over Oklahoma and Baylor in the next two weeks would strengthen an already respectable resume and could be more than enough to garner inclusion in the field. A loss anywhere would knock Oklahoma State out of the race, however.

8. Baylor (9-2; SOR: 12; SOS: 37)

The Bears have a path to the Big XII Championship but no realistic path to the Playoff.

9. Ole Miss (9-2; SOR: 11; SOS: 18)

The Rebels put together a nice season but will fall short of threatening the four-team field.

10. Oklahoma (10-1; SOR: 8; SOS: 66)

The Sooners are not completely toast, but it’s fair to say their Playoff hopes are on life support. They need to beat Oklahoma State on Saturday, beat the Cowboys again in the Big XII title game the following week, and then hope the committee suddenly respects them enough to consider sliding them into the field. It’s a long shot right now.

11. Oregon (9-2; SOR: 13; SOS: 21)
12. Michigan State (9-2; SOR: 10; SOS: 15)
13. BYU (9-2; SOR: 21; SOS: 74)
14. Wisconsin (8-3; SOR: 20; SOS: 34)
15. Texas A&M (8-3; SOR: 26; SOS: 40)
16. Iowa (9-2; SOR: 14; SOS: 48)
17. Pittsburgh (9-2; SOR: 18; SOS: 73)
18. Wake Forest (9-2; SOR: 15; SOS: 57)
19. Utah (8-3; SOR: 31; SOS: 75)
20. NC State (8-3; SOR: 24; SOS: 49)
21. San Diego State (10-1; SOR: 19; SOS: 119)
22. UTSA (11-0; SOR: 9; SOS: 127)
23. Clemson (8-3; SOR: 17; SOS: 12)
24. Houston (10-1; SOR: 23; SOS: 129)
25. Arkansas (7-4; SOR: 22; SOS: 1)

GAMES TO WATCH:

No. 4 Cincinnati @ East Carolina - 3:30 p.m. (Friday)
No. 2 Ohio State @ No. 5 Michigan - Noon
No. 3 Alabama @ Auburn - Noon
No. 10 Oklahoma @ No. 7 Oklahoma State - 7:30 p.m.
No. 6 Notre Dame @ Stanford - 8 p.m.