The fourth edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings was released Tuesday night with Georgia remaining the No. 1 team in the nation. The rest of the top four saw a shakeup, however, with Ohio State jumping two spots to No. 2 and Alabama sliding down one to No. 3. With Oregon being blasted at Utah on Saturday, the Ducks fell out of the top four entirely with Cincinnati finally breaking through in the last slot.
The Bearcats, at 11-0 with two Power Five wins, became the first Group of Five program to be placed among the top four in the CFP Rankings. Cincinnati has made history all season as the highest-ranked Group of Five program in the process but now appear to have a legitimate opportunity to make the playoff. Whether that will come to fruition is something CBS Sports bowls expert Jerry Palm will discuss in his analysis below.
Oregon's road loss not only knocked the Ducks out of the playoff picture but dealt a final blow to the Pac-12 as a whole. It is almost certain the conference will be left out of the CFP for the fifth straight year. The Big 12's two remaining one-loss teams will battle Saturday in Bedlam as Oklahoma State hosts Oklahoma. There's a chance the Cowboys and Sooners could play twice in as many weeks, also putting the Big 12's playoff candidacy at risk. Baylor is presently ranked ahead of Oklahoma, but a two-loss team has never made the playoff.
In the history of the CFP, no team ranked outside the top seven at this late point in the season has moved into the four-team field after the conference championship games. The No. 7 team has advanced to the top four twice: Oklahoma in 2017, Georgia in 2019. Also, the top four teams with two sets of rankings to go have never all remained the top four through the final top 25.
Let's take a look at the entire CFP Rankings top 25. Keep on reading for Palm's expert analysis.
College Football Playoff Rankings, Nov. 23
- Georgia (11-0)
- Ohio State (10-1)
- Alabama (10-1)
- Cincinnati (11-0)
- Michigan (10-1)
- Notre Dame (10-1)
- Oklahoma State (10-1)
- Baylor (9-2)
- Ole Miss (9-2)
- Oklahoma (10-1)
- Oregon (9-2)
- Michigan State (9-2)
- BYU (9-2)
- Wisconsin (8-3)
- Texas A&M (8-3)
- Iowa (9-2)
- Pittsburgh (9-2)
- Wake Forest (9-2)
- Utah (8-3)
- NC State (8-3)
- San Diego State (10-1)
- UTSA (11-0)
- Clemson (8-3)
- Houston (10-1)
- Arkansas (7-4)
Not previously ranked: Clemson
Analysis by bowls expert Jerry Palm
Cincinnati folks are probably celebrating. However, it's not over yet. The Bearcats do not control their own fate for the CFP. Cincinnati does not have to worry about Notre Dame passing it, but a 12-1 Big 12 champion, whichever Oklahoma school it may be, is still a threat. The Bearcats' strength of schedule, even after getting to play East Carolina and Houston, will be far and away the worst of the CFP contenders.
The committee will have to give some serious thought to which team is No. 4 if Alabama, Georgia and either Ohio State or Michigan are all in at 12-1. I would favor Cincinnati, but nothing is a given.
It also does not matter whether that Big 12 team is Oklahoma State or Oklahoma, even though the Sooners are three spots lower in the rankings than the Cowboys. They are basically the same team. The Pokes currently have the best win and worst loss of the two, but whichever gets to 12-1 will beat a ranked team twice to do so. No matter which of those teams, if either, emerges from the Big 12 at 12-1, that team will be treated the same. Their maximum upside is identical.
That is also true of Ohio State and Michigan, but if one of those gets to 12-1, there will be no doubt about a spot in the playoff.
Need more college football in your life? Listen below and subscribe to the Cover 3 podcast where we break down the latest edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings.
The Buckeyes made the jump to No. 2 based on the mauling of Michigan State over the weekend and that Alabama had a close game with Arkansas. Barta said last week that the committee debated for a long time over which of those teams, along with Oregon, should have been second in the rankings. So, if there was some doubt then, Ohio State erased it for now.
In the end, it doesn't matter. If Alabama gets to 12-1, the Crimson Tide will be the No. 1 team no matter what the Buckeyes do. If the Tide end up losing, they would definitely not finish ahead of a 12-1 Buckeyes.
For Michigan State, as bad as the loss to Ohio State looked, the Spartans only dropped to 12th and could still be in play for a New Year's Six game. There are six automatic qualifiers, the five major conference champions and the highest ranked Group of Five conference champion that qualify. After that, it is the six best at-large teams.
As it stands right now, the Spartans are the seventh best potential at-large team, but most likely at least one of the top three Big 12 teams would eventually drop behind them. Of course, Michigan State still has to beat Penn State this weekend, and MSU is currently a one-point underdog.