The penultimate 2016 College Football Playoff Rankings were released Tuesday night, apparently sealing the fate for two teams and setting the stage for a wild set of scenarios to unfold between now and Selection Sunday.
In his most updated set of playoff scenarios, CBS Sports playoff and bowls expert Jerry Palm writes that Alabama and Ohio State are "locks" for the playoff with Clemson and Washington likely taking the other two spots with wins in the their respective conference championship games this weekend -- Washington-Colorado on Friday, Clemson-Virginia Tech on Saturday.
But what if both Colorado and Virginia Tech win? There's a trio of Big Ten teams (Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State) occupying spots 5-7 in the latest rankings. One team will be eliminated in the Big Ten Championship Game, but Palm writes that the other two (Michigan and the Wisconsin-Penn State winner) could jump Colorado and give the Big Ten three teams in the playoff.
How the Big Ten gets three teams in the playoff
- No. 3 Clemson loses to Virginia Tech
- No. 4 Washington loses to Colorado
- The playoff committee decides Colorado's win is impressive enough for the Buffaloes to go to the Rose Bowl but not impressive enough to jump from No. 8 to No. 4.
Palm presents an interesting set of conundrums should either Clemson or Washington -- but not both -- lose. The committee may have to choose between two-loss Big Ten champion Wisconsin and two-loss, non-champion Michigan for the final spot in the playoff. The committee's decision "could go either way," according to Palm, while Michigan would more easily get the nod over Penn State, even if the Nittany Lions defeat Wisconsin on Saturday night.
"Penn State's overall schedule isn't quite as good as Wisconsin's or Michigan's," Palm writes. "Their losses are no better than Michigan's, and the Wolverines beat them by 39. Michigan will have the better résumé, conference championship or not."
So to review (based on the above contingencies of the committee's selections) ...
Ohio State needs: Nothing -- apparently a lock for the playoff
Michigan needs: Clemson loss OR Washington loss (+ Penn State win) OR Washington loss (+ Wisconsin unimpressive win)
Wisconsin needs: Win vs. Penn State + Clemson loss OR win vs. Penn State + Washington loss -- [maybe both losses]
Penn State needs: Win vs. Wisconsin + Clemson and Washington losses -- and even then it's no guarantee