Six scenarios for final College Football Playoff rankings, from chalk to chaos | Sporting News

Conference championship weekend is here: the last weekend before the College Football Playoff pairings are revealed.

The top six teams in the AP Top 25 — No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Clemson, No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 Utah and No. 6 Oklahoma — have the best chances of cracking the field after Saturday’s slate of conference championship games. No. 8 Baylor is the only other remaining team with one loss or fewer. Is there a chance that a two-loss team — don’t make us say No. 9 Alabama — could crack the field?

MORE: Picks against the spread for every conference championship game

We tried to find a scenario for that. In fact, we break down the six possible scenarios that will unfold this weekend and who will make the four-team Playoff as a result:

Chalk wins

1. Ohio State (13-0)/LSU (13-0)
2. Ohio State (13-0)/LSU (13-0)
3. Clemson (13-0)
4. Utah (12-1)

What happens: The Utes set the tone with a business-like victory against Oregon on Friday. Ohio State, LSU and Clemson follow up to make it back-to-back years where three undefeated teams make the Playoff. You can flip Ohio State or LSU based on style points, but this is the cleanest look at the picture.

Who gets left out? The Oklahoma-Baylor winner becomes the only one-loss teams in the New Year’s Day 6.

Reception: The LSU-Ohio State argument will get nasty, but either way the semifinal against Clemson will be epic. People will question Utah’s credentials, but the Utes have proven they belong since their loss to USC.

LSU loses to Georgia in SEC championship

1. Ohio State (13-0)
2. Clemson (13-0)
3. Georgia (12-1)
4. LSU (12-1)

What happens: Georgia wins the SEC championship in an instant classic, creating a four-team one-loss pileup with LSU, Utah and Oklahoma/Baylor. The committee sticks with the Tigers in the final spot based on wins over Florida, Alabama and Auburn, who could rank inside the top 10 by season’s end.

Who gets left out? The Utes and winner of the Big 12 championship are left out in the cold.

Reception: This is what the TV networks want: Georgia vs. Clemson in Atlanta and Ohio State vs. LSU (and Buckeyes transfer Joe Burrow) in the Fiesta Bowl. Utah and the winner of the Big 12 champions would rightly be angry considering their status as Power 5 conference champions. Georgia, which lost to South Carolina on Oct. 12, would receive considerable criticism. So would LSU, though the Tigers’ schedule is strong enough to warrant a Playoff berth even with a loss. #SECBias starts trending.

Big 12 blowout

1. Ohio State (13-0)/LSU (13-0)
2. Ohio State (13-0)/LSU (13-0)
3. Clemson (13-0)
4. Oklahoma (12-1)/Baylor (12-1)

What happens: Utah either loses or looks woeful against Oregon and is lucky to escape with a win. With that still fresh in mind, Oklahoma or Baylor blows the other out in the Saturday noon slot. The Sooners are the better bet to pull this off, but a complete, dominant performance from either team would likely be enough to bump the Pac-12 champion out of the mix.

Who gets left out? This scenario only works if LSU knocks Georgia out (but it wouldn’t hurt for Utah to look bad in a win or for Oregon to beat the Utes). Assuming those conditions are met, the Pac-12 champion would be left out of the Playoff again for the third consecutive year.

Reception: It’s still four conference champions, but Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State will have combined for 12 of the 24 Playoff appearances at that point. Still, the potential semifinal matchups — especially with the Sooners as the fourth team — are enticing enough to keep most satisfied with the outcome.

Clemson and/or Ohio State lose

1. LSU (13-0)
2. Ohio State (12-1)
3. Clemson (12-1)/Utah (12-1)/Oklahoma (12-1)/Baylor (12-1)
4. Clemson (12-1)/Utah (12-1)/Oklahoma (12-1)/Baylor (12-1)

What happens: Clemson and/or Ohio State — the two heaviest favorites of the weekend — find a way to lose their conference championship games. We still think Ohio State would get in no matter what. But Clemson, because of the ACC schedule, would be in an uncomfortable argument with Utah and Oklahoma. Baylor likely wouldn’t get in in this scenario, even if it beat Oklahoma, though the conference championship card would be played. That would leave the committee to choose among Clemson, Utah and Oklahoma for the final two spots.

Who gets left out? There’s a decent chance Clemson would get left out because they wouldn’t have a conference championship in the relatively weak ACC. The Utes and Sooners would.

Reception: Be careful what you wish for when it comes to chaos. If Ohio State or Clemson lose and still get in, then it would only further ramp up debate on the exact value of a conference championship game — and the call for an expanded playoff.

LSU, Clemson and Ohio State lose

1. Georgia (12-1)
2. Ohio State (12-1)/LSU (12-1)
3. Ohio State (12-1)/LSU (12-1)
4. Clemson (12-1)/Oklahoma (12-1)/Baylor (12-1)/Utah (12-1)

What happens: All three undefeated teams lose, which opens the door for at least one of the Pac-12 and Big 12 champion. It’s unlikely both get in due to LSU likely remaining in the top four, even with a loss.

Who gets left out? How would the committee sort out six one-loss teams? Georgia would get in because of the SEC championship. LSU, Ohio State and Clemson would still be hard to turn away. Would the committee replace one of those teams with the Oklahoma-Baylor winner and Utah if they won their respective conference championships?

Reception: Either way, two one-loss teams would be left out. The six-team Playoff model starts getting more attention.

A two-loss team?  

1. LSU (13-0)
2. Ohio State (13-0)
3. Baylor (12-1)
4. Clemson (12-1)/Oregon (11-2)/Penn State (10-2)/Florida (10-2)/Alabama (10-2)

What happens: LSU and Ohio State win, but the rest of the weekend is pure chaos. Oregon throttles Utah in the Pac-12 championship game, Baylor destroys Oklahoma and Virginia beats Clemson by three touchdowns, leaving no doubt the Cavs are the superior team (just work with us here). That causes the committee to start considering the top two-loss teams, which include Oregon, Penn State, Florida, and, yes, Alabama.

Who gets left out? Clemson would still likely get in, but two-loss Oregon would have an interesting case. That would likely leave out any SEC team trying to squeeze into the last spot. Georgia wouldn’t get in after losing on conference championship weekend; neither would Florida, because of its loss to the Bulldogs in the regular season.

Reception: This really is the only way to keep the Crimson Tide in the conversation late. It’s not going to happen considering they are currently behind three-loss Auburn in the rankings. 

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