Of the 25 teams ranked by the College Football Playoff selection committee, 24 played this weekend. There were also six games involving teams that were both ranked on Saturday, including two games pitting Top 10 teams against each other.
And by late Saturday night, the playoff picture got a little bit clearer.
The Big Ten likely has just played itself out of a playoff spot, while the SEC probably all but killed its chances of landing two teams in the four-team field. If we had more than a dozen teams still alive for the playoff last week, we might be down to about half of that by now.
With four more weeks still remaining, we're loath to eliminate teams prematurely. So we're going to cast our widest possible net on which teams are actually still in the hunt for the inaugural College Football Playoff.
|Playoff Contenders by Conference|
|ACC||Florida State (0)|
|Big Ten||Ohio State (1), Nebraska (1)|
|Big 12*||TCU (1), Baylor (1)|
|Pac-12||Oregon (1), Arizona State (1)|
|SEC||Mississippi State (0), Alabama (1), Ole Miss (2), Auburn (2)|
|* No conference title game|
Teams that moved up
Saturday's results actually left four teams still alive to win the SEC West: Mississippi State, Alabama, Ole Miss and Auburn. Each still has a path to the division title but only the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide control their own fate, as Miss State travels to 'Bama next week. In short, a four-way tie of two-loss teams will end with Auburn winning the division while a three-way tie will go to Ole Miss.
It will be intriguing to see how the committee decides to rank these two teams this week. Will the members continue to hold Baylor's weak nonconference schedule against it or will the Bears' head-to-head victory over the Horned Frogs finally matter? Either way, both teams are very much in the mix for the final spot in the playoff as the Big 12 representative.
At first, it looked like the Sun Devils were going to cruise to a crushing victory over Notre Dame, then it seemed like they blew it, completely. But in the end, ASU made a few more big plays to claim its biggest win of the season to date, and the Sun Devils will have a shot to play their way into the playoff field. But there's still a long way to go in the difficult Pac-12 South.
Teams that moved down
Ohio State's victory over Michigan State, though impressive, probably killed the conference's last best chance to land in the playoff field. The costly loss to Virginia Tech will continue to haunt the Buckeyes, as they will likely lose out to any other one-loss conference champion if it comes to the last playoff spot.
The committee can feel vindicated about its low placement of the Irish in previous weeks. They still haven't beaten a ranked team and now their chances of landing in the playoff have been extinguished. Notre Dame has a shot at playing in a New Year's Six bowl, but it faces stiff competition even for that.
The Wildcats can still win the Big 12 title, as they visit Baylor in the season finale, but their chances of getting a playoff bid are finished. Even if TCU loses another game and K-State ends up claiming the conference title outright, that earlier loss to Auburn probably will be too much to overcome.
Group-of-five team in the best position
Marshall, Colorado State and Boise State all won Saturday to maintain the status quo among this group. The Broncos had the most difficulty and needed a big fourth quarter to beat lowly New Mexico, but they continue to bar CSU's path to the Mountain West championship game. If the current situation holds, it'll be very intriguing to see if the committee would prefer a two-loss Boise State over an undefeated Marshall at the end of the season.
Projected conference championship matchups
ACC: Florida State vs. Duke
Big Ten: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
Pac-12: Oregon vs. Arizona State
SEC: Mississippi State vs. Missouri
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