The final Saturday of the 2021 college football season has arrived with conference championship games set to be played as teams battle to earn the top four spots in the College Football Playoff. With so few games left, the playoff picture has become much clearer. That's why we're here: to help you sort through it all.
There are only seven teams with any chance whatsoever of being selected for the CFP on Sunday, Dec. 5. Six of them are fighting for three spots because one team has already clinched a playoff berth. Yes, that's undefeated and unanimously No. 1 ranked Georgia. As one might expect, the top teams all have some level of a chance to make the field, but those programs not playing this weekend -- with the exception of Notre Dame -- have no chance at all regardless of where they are ranked now.
Without further ado, here is list of the remaining CFP contenders in order of their current ranking along with an explanation of what each team needs to accomplish in order to get into the top four. I have found scenarios in which nine of the top 13 teams either definitely get in or at least get considered for the fourth and final spot.
Let's take a look how those teams stack up with Championship Week and the final CFP Rankings ahead.
|Clinched. Win or lose in the SEC Championship Game, the Dawgs will be no worse than the third seed.|
|Win the Big Ten Championship Game over No. 13 Iowa, and the Wolverines are in at no worse than the third seed. However, a loss to a 10.5-point underdog would be hard to recover from. It would take something like Alabama and Cincinnati losing -- given Oklahoma State already lost -- which would put it in a battle with Bama as a two-loss playoff team behind Georgia, Notre Dame and Baylor.|
|Win the SEC Championship Game over Georgia, and the Crimson Tide are not only in the CFP, they are the No. 1 seed. Alabama could also make the playoff with a loss, but it would likely have to be a competitive one. It helps that Oklahoma State already lost and would help even more if at least one of Michigan or Cincinnati did, too.|
|Alas, being a Group of Five team and having the bad schedule that goes with it means you never really control your own fate. A loss would definitely knock the Bearcats out of contention. A win over Houston in the AAC Championship Game protects Cincinnati against Notre Dame, and Oklahoma State's loss to Baylor early Saturday certainly helped ensure it could not get backdoored. If Alabama and Michigan win, the committee would likely choose the undefeated Bearcats for the final spot. (A 12-1 Bulldogs would be No. 3.)|
|The Fighting Irish have even less control their fate than Cincinnati because Notre Dame does not play this week. Keep in mind that the CFP Rankings do not operate like a top 25 poll. If a team ahead of Notre Dame in this week's rankings loses, that does not necessarily mean that team will fall behind the Irish. In fact, it is guaranteed that Georgia will not drop this far if it loses, and Alabama may not fall below ND with a loss, either, although it could. So, if Notre Dame wants to feel comfortable about finishing in the top four, it needs Michigan and/or Cincinnati to lose in addition to Oklahoma State. The two former teams are double-digit favorites. The Irish could possibly get there with one loss among those three (Cowboys already out) and Alabama taking a big loss.|
|With the Bears winning the Big 12, Oklahoma State will fall behind them with Baylor jumping No. 7 Ohio State and No. 8 Ole Miss. It could even get by Notre Dame. If Baylor falls short of jumping the Irish, it would need Cincinnati or Michigan to lose or Alabama to get beaten badly. The only possible problem with Michigan losing is that Iowa might jump Baylor, but I am not predicting that. |
|The longest of longshots, but the Hawkeyes do have the advantage of playing No. 2 Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game. Iowa already losses from Oregon and Oklahoma, which were necessities. Then, assuming Iowa does not jump Notre Dame, it needs Cincinnati to lose and Alabama to get beaten badly. Even then, nothing is definite for Iowa. At best, the Hawkeyes are part of a decision for the fourth spot with the Tide. |
In addition to this list of playoff contenders, I have released my penultimate bowl projections for the 2021-22 season. Reminder: These projections are not how things stand now but rather how I expect them to look following the conference championship games Saturday.