College Football Rankings 2019: Week 15 NCAA Playoff Championship Predictions

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 30: Tyler Huntley #1 of the Utah Utes sets to throw a pass against the Colorado Buffaloes during the first half at Rice-Eccles Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
Chris Gardner/Getty Images

The field of contenders for the 2019 College Football Playoff is dwindling, but the tournament is far from set. Conference Championship weekend still has a lot to say about how the final four will be chosen and seeded with all of the ranked teams set to see action. 

The committee released its latest batch of rankings before it has to set the field in stone next Sunday, and it doesn't come without controversy. 

Some teams will head into the final Saturday looking to make their closing argument for the No. 1 seed (Ohio State and LSU). Some will look just to prove they belong, and others will be hoping for all the mayhem and chaos that could be imagined (looking at you, Baylor). 

Here's a look at the current playoff rankings and predictions for the championship games that will ultimately give the committee that final data point for it to make its decisions. 

      

1. Ohio State

2. LSU

3. Clemson 

4. Georgia 

5. Utah

6. Oklahoma

7. Baylor

8. Wisconsin

9. Florida

10. Penn State

11. Auburn

12. Alabama

13. Oregon

14. Michigan

15. Notre Dame

16. Iowa

17. Memphis

18. Minnesota

19. Boise State

20. Cincinnati

21. Appalachian State

22. USC

23. Virginia

24. Navy

25. Oklahoma State

      

Ohio State, LSU Make Final Case for No. 1 Seed

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 30: Joe Burrow #9 of the LSU Tigers looks to pass during a game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Tiger Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The committee has vacillated between Ohio State and LSU as its No. 1 team of choice, but after the conference championship, it will be forced to finally make a decision. 

Both schools used rivalry week to assert their dominance. Michigan was able to hang with the Buckeyes for about 1.5 quarters before Justin Fields and Co. turned on the afterburners and left their Maize-and-Blue rivals in the dust, which has become an annual tradition you can set your watch to. 

LSU did what it could to reclaim the No. 1 spot. The Tigers took out their frustration on middling Texas A&M in a 50-7 bloodbath that put the LSU defense on display after the committee made mention of Ohio State's defense being part of the reason they were ahead of Ed Orgeron's squad. 

Both teams will have the opportunity to be dominant in their respective conference championship games. 

Ohio State will get the Wisconsin Badgers. The Buckeyes held Jonathan Taylor to a mere 52 yards on 29 carries en route to a dominant 38-7 win and Wisconsin's first loss of the season. 

That's with Fields having the worst game of his season. The Badgers sacked him five times as he went 12-of-22 passing for just 167 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. This time, with a final push for the Heisman and the No. 1 seed on the line, his line should be even more impressive as Ohio State once again proves it is head and shoulders above its conference. 

While Ohio State has the benefit of playing a team it has already soundly beaten, LSU will have the opportunity to prove itself against a team the committee has shown it thinks highly of in Georgia. 

Georgia is playing for its own tournament life. With a win, it's likely that the Dawgs would move up in the rankings and pave the way for a two-team SEC field with LSU dropping to No. 4. 

The Dawgs would have to do so at less than full speed. The team is "hopeful" star running back D'Andre Swift will play, per Chip Towers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Receiver George Pickens will miss the first half as he serves a suspension for a fight in the match against Georgia Tech, and receiver Lawrence Cager will miss the game with an ankle injury. 

Both teams will make the claim for the position, but Ohio State's overall dominance throughout the season likely earns the No. 1 seed. 

Prediction: Ohio State 45, Wisconsin 10; LSU 34, Georgia 17

        

Utah Stamps Ticket to Playoff Berth

If chalk rules the day and Oklahoma and Utah both win their respective conferences, the committee is going to be in the unenviable position of deciding who is more worthy. 

Their resumes are nearly identical. Oklahoma has more wins over teams that were ranked when they played. Utah will have beaten Arizona State (No. 21 in the AP poll when they played) and Oregon (No. 14). The Sooners will have Texas (No. 11), Baylor (No. 13), Oklahoma State (No. 21) and Baylor again (No. 9). 

Utah has been flat out dominant, though, and that can't be ignored. The Utes have steamrolled the competition, winning seven of their last eight by at least 18 points. The Sooners, meanwhile, have narrowly defeated the likes of Iowa State and TCU while trailing Baylor by 25 points at one point. 

The main criticism of Utah is the lack of competition, but that will be somewhat answered when it plays the Ducks for the conference title. 

If the committee puts any weight into team efficiencies and dominance—which it has shown it does—the Utes can get in with a strong performance against Oregon. They are ranked fifth in the nation in ESPN's overall team efficiency while Oklahoma is ranked eighth. 

While the committee wouldn't acknowledge this, there's also the fact it hasn't put a Pac-12 team in the tournament in each of the last two seasons. If it comes down to putting Oklahoma or Utah in, the fact that Oklahoma has been in three of the last four years while the West Coast hasn't had a team in since Washington in 2017 may give it the ever-so-slight advantage. 

Utah is in good shape to put up a dominant performance. Oregon has backed in to the Pac-12 title game with a 10-point win over abysmal rival Oregon State and a 31-28 loss to Arizona State. The Utes should roll in this one and make a good case to be included. 

Prediction: Utah 28, Oregon 10

      

Playoff Ranking Prediction

1. Ohio State

2. LSU

3. Clemson

4. Utah

     

If Ohio State, LSU and Clemson all win, they are clearly in. It's that simple for them. Looking at the latest rankings from the committee, the fourth seed might not be as up for debate as advertised. 

If the committee was going to punish Utah for what is perceived to be a weaker schedule than the Sooners, it should have already penalized them for it. Both teams will be playing quality opponents in their conference championship game, and while moving Baylor up to No. 7 sets the committee up to make a case for a late switch, a strong Utah performance should seal the deal and book its first trip to the playoff. 

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