No Movement in Top 4 Sets Up Week 12 to Have Major CFB Playoff Implications

Morgan MoriartyFeatured Columnist INovember 17, 2021

FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2021, file photo, the trophy for the College Football Playoff championship NCAA college football game is displayed along Ocean Drive, in Miami Beach, Fla. The College Football Playoff management committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, to discuss the feedback members have received from campuses since a 12-team expansion plan was unveiled in June. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

The latest College Football Playoff rankings were unveiled on Tuesday evening, giving us an idea of who might be in and who might be out come December. There was little movement at the top, as the first seven teams in Week 11's ranking all won their games. Here's a look at the Top 10 teams heading into Week 12.

1. Georgia (10-0)

2. Alabama (9-1)

3. Oregon (9-1)

4. Ohio State (9-1)

5. Cincinnati (10-0) 

6. Michigan (9-1)

7. Michigan State (9-1) 

8. Notre Dame (9-1)

9. Oklahoma State (9-1) 

10. Wake Forest (9-1)

Although last week wasn't too eventful as far as upsets go, we have some crucial matchups in Week 12 that will likely reshape the playoff landscape. The biggest matchup of the weekend is undoubtedly No. 7 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State. The winner of this game will have a good chance to represent the East in the Big Ten Championship.

If Ohio State wins, the Buckeyes will move to 8-0 in the East standings, with just Michigan standing in its way on Nov. 27. If Michigan State wins, it would be tied atop the division with Ohio State, but the win over Michigan two weeks ago, along with a win over Penn State on Nov. 27, would send Sparty to Indianapolis. Michigan defeating Ohio State that same week would also give Sparty the Eastern division title. 

Elsewhere, No. 3 Oregon has a major road test against No. 23 Utah on Saturday night. The Utes are 7-3 on the season and have yet to lose a game at home. Utah also defeated the same Stanford team that upset the Ducks 31-24 in overtime on Oct. 2.  

Once again, the committee kept Michigan State behind Michigan this week, despite MSU defeating Michigan at home just two weeks ago. CFP chairman Gary Barta said on the ESPN broadcast that the committee was impressed with Michigan coming from behind (though the largest deficit they trailed Penn State by was three points, which only happened in the first and fourth quarter) in a win on the road.

No. 5 Cincinnati would need both Ohio State and Oregon to lose in front of them to have a shot at cracking the Top 4. This week for Cincy isn't exactly a cakewalk—the Bearcats face 8-2 SMU, though Cincy is currently an 11.5-point favorite.

For Oregon and Ohio State, winning this Saturday certainly gives them a good shot at maintaining their current respective positions. But if Oregon struggles against Utah—or worse, it loses—that would open the door for Cincinnati, Michigan and Michigan State to move up. If Ohio State loses to Michigan State, that would make OSU-Michigan an even more important matchup and improve the necessity of a tiebreaker scenario to decide a Big 10 East champion.

Last but not least, No. 8 Notre Dame and No. 9 Oklahoma State have outside shots at making it in if they see most of the teams above them lose. Per ESPN's Rece Davis, the lowest an eventual CFP team has been ranked at this point in the season is No. 9. Oklahoma State has a game this weekend against Texas Tech before Bedlam in Stillwater on Nov. 27. If Oklahoma State defeats Oklahoma and then wins in the Big 12 Championship game, they would need at least a couple of two-loss conference champions to have a shot to make it in. The same goes for No. 10 Wake Forest, who may end up being a one-loss ACC Champion. 

And, of course, for No. 8 Notre Dame, which moved up one spot this week, if Cincinnati ends up losing twice before the end of the season, the Fighting Irish could have an outside shot at making it in. Like the Cowboys and the Demon Deacons behind them, that would require some more two-loss conference champions.  

The regular season is winding down, and we're one step closer to seeing who will make it into the final Top Four. The monster Saturday coming up will make who that might be even clearer.