The penultimate College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday, five days before the actual four-team field will be set following Championship Saturday. Michigan jumped to No. 2 after its big win over Ohio State, while Oklahoma State slid into the top five after handing Oklahoma its second loss of the season. Georgia, of course, checked in at the No. 1 spot while SEC Championship Game foe Alabama stayed put at No. 3.
So who were the winners and losers of the penultimate edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings? Let's break them down.
Winner: Oklahoma State
It might not look this way, but the Cowboys control their own destiny. A win over No. 9 Baylor -- however it looks -- will be enough to jump Cincinnati and whomever else based on Saturday's results to get in the top four.
CFP selection committee chair Gary Barta said on the telecast that the committee found it difficult to separate Alabama, Cincinnati and Oklahoma State. If the Pokes top the Bears for the second time this year, and gets its second straight top-14 win to close out the season in the process, that would be more than enough to jump a Bearcats team that has a date with No. 21 Houston in the AAC Championship Game.
Even if Georgia loses and there's only one spot available for Oklahoma State and Cincinnati, Mike Gundy's crew would get the nod. The combination of a more difficult conference championship game and a tremendous closing argument for a team that has been flying under the radar all season would get the job done. Plus, does the committee really want to put a Group of Five team in the playoff? Nope.
Loser: Notre Dame
As if losing its coach abruptly wasn't enough, Notre Dame was dealt a brutal gut punch when it got jumped by Oklahoma State. Now Kelly's former team has to deal with the head-to-head loss to Cincinnati and a Cowboys team that has a chance for a top-10 win this weekend in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Notre Dame doesn't get to present a closing argument since it won't play this weekend, while its two biggest threats do. Plus, committee chair Gary Barta went deeper into how Kelly's absence could play a role in the Irish being on the outside looking in.
"This week it didn't apply because the games had occurred and evaluated based on those games," he said. "Once the championship games wrap up ... the protocol does include the ability for the committee to consider a player or coach not being available. Should that have an effect on the outcome of a game, that can be considered. At that point, we'll have to wait and see how that factors in."
Sorry, Notre Dame. It isn't going to happen.
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There was some debate whether Michigan deserved the No. 2 spot over Alabama since the Crimson Tide struggled against an underwhelming Auburn team on Saturday. The Wolverines came out on top, which puts them in a position to move to the No. 1 spot if Georgia falters. That, of course, would shift the debate between the Wolverines and the Crimson Tide for as the top seed.
Does that No. 1 ranking matter? Of course. Cincinnati, Notre Dame or Oklahoma State are the likely options at No. 4, all of which are better matchups than other teams in contention -- especially if Alabama springs the upset in the SEC Championship Game.
Michigan justifiably earned a tremendous amount of respect after its 42-27 win over the Buckeyes, and should be a lock for the No. 2 seed with a chance to get to No. 1 if chaos ensues.
What happens if there's total chaos such as Alabama beating Georgia, Iowa beating Michigan and Houston beating Cincinnati? A two-loss Big 12 champion Baylor could, theoretically, have a case if enough traffic cleared in front of it. It's impossible for that much traffic to clear for the ninth-ranked Bears to have a shot.
Ohio State and Notre Dame aren't playing, Georgia is likely in regardless of the outcome of the SEC Championship Game, and, even in the hypothetical chaos scenario detailed above, the committee would have to weigh one-loss Cincinnati with a head-to-head win over the Fighting Irish. Those are too many landmines.
Baylor isn't going to get enough respect to make the top four, even if it beats Oklahoma State 100-0.