GRAPEVINE, Texas — This might be the shortest meeting the College Football Playoff selection committee has had to date, as the conference championship game results did the bulk of the work for them, whittling the field down to an obvious top four.
Oklahoma got the win it needed over Baylor in the Big 12 conference championship — and equally as important — the help it needed, with Utah and Georgia both losing. The Sooners should slide into that fourth spot behind the three remaining undefeated teams: LSU, Ohio State and Clemson.
The biggest debate for the 13 committee members should focus on who’s No. 1, Ohio State or LSU? Following the Big Ten title game, the committee members moved into their adjacent room they call “Selection Central” to begin their deliberations. The final verdict will be revealed at noon on Sunday on ESPN.
Here’s a closer look at how each of the games will impact the committee’s decision:
No. 1 Ohio State 34, No. 8 Wisconsin 21
Justin Fields lofts one into the end zone for Jeremy Ruckert who snags it with one hand for the touchdown.
Ohio State avoided the upset against Wisconsin to win the Big Ten and lock up a spot in the top four, but the Buckeyes may have lost their No. 1 seed to LSU. While Ohio State trailed Wisconsin 21-7 at the half, the Tigers were far more dominant in their win against No. 4 Georgia. That means Ohio State would face the undefeated defending national champs, Clemson, in the semifinal, and it would likely be in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. Whomever is the No. 1 seed — Ohio State or LSU — would be rewarded with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta because it is geographically close to both of them.
No. 2 LSU 37, No. 4 Georgia 10
Joe Burrow puts defenders on ice skates and completes a 71-yard pass to Justin Jefferson which eventually leads to an LSU touchdown.
Undefeated No. 2 LSU handled No. 4 Georgia with ease, winning the SEC and locking up a spot in the top four — but was it enough to unseat Ohio State for the No. 1 spot? It should be the committee’s biggest debate this year. Selection committee chair Rob Mullens said on Tuesday that Ohio State’s defense had a slight edge and was a separating factor between the two teams, but the Tigers shut down a depleted Georgia offense and forced Jake Fromm into two interceptions. With four wins against four opponents ranked in the committee’s top 12 (Florida, Auburn, Alabama and now Georgia), LSU has a case for the best résumé in the country. LSU’s win also knocked Georgia out of the playoff and opened the fourth spot for Big 12 champion Oklahoma.
No. 3 Clemson 62, No. 23 Virginia 17
Trevor Lawrence connects with Tee Higgins for an 11-yard touchdown and his third of the game.
Clemson won its eighth straight game by at least 30 points, leaving no doubt it’s a top-four team with its ACC championship game win over No. 23 Virginia. It’s possible the undefeated Tigers jump to the No. 2 spot, depending on the outcome of the Big Ten championship game, but the No. 1 spot will likely go to LSU. The win was Clemson’s first against a CFP top 25 opponent, but Virginia will probably drop out on Selection Day. If that’s the case, Clemson would be the first semifinalist without a win against a CFP top 25 team. This would be Clemson’s fifth straight trip to the playoff, and the Tigers would be playing for their third CFP title under Dabo Swinney, winning in 2016 and 2018.
No. 17 Memphis 29, No. 20 Cincinnati 24
Brady White finds Antonio Gibson for the six-yard touchdown giving the Tigers the late lead.
No. 20 Memphis likely locked up a spot in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic after its AAC championship win over No. 20 Cincinnati, the second time in two weeks the Tigers were able to defeat the Bearcats. While it doesn’t impact the top four, it’s still an important result to the New Year’s Six Bowl lineup, as the highest-ranked conference champion from the Group of 5 is guaranteed a spot. With Memphis winning, the AAC avoided the possibility of a two-loss champ being compared with No. 19 Boise State, which defeated Hawai’i 31-10 to win the Mountain West. No. 21 Appalachian State also defeated Louisiana to win the Sun Belt, but all of them have been looking up at the AAC in the committee’s rankings this season, and that’s unlikely to change on Selection Day.
No. 6 Oklahoma 30, No. 7 Baylor 23 (OT)
After a thrilling four quarters, Oklahoma seals the game with stifling defense in overtime to defeat Baylor 30-23 and win its second consecutive Big 12 championship.
It wasn’t exactly winning with style, but with Oklahoma’s overtime win against Baylor — the second time this season the Sooners defeated the Bears — determining the top four should be extremely easy for the committee. After LSU beat No. 4 Georgia to open the final spot, the Big 12 champs should slide right in with little debate, as the Sooners just added another top-10 win and conference title to their résumé.
Oklahoma’s defense, which was historically bad last year, has improved drastically this season under coordinator Alex Grinch and was a key factor on Saturday. Although OU has won close games for over a month (winning by just 6.5 points per game in November), its conference title and wins over ranked opponents Baylor and No. 25 Oklahoma State will make it easy for the committee to justify the No. 4 spot. No. 5 Utah is sure to drop after its loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game on Friday night, opening the door for OU to return to the semifinals.
No. 13 Oregon 37, No. 5 Utah 15
CJ Verdell runs for 208 yards and three touchdowns as Oregon wins 37-15 to secure its spot in the Rose Bowl.
On a night when the Pac-12 had the selection committee’s undivided attention as the only game being played, No. 5 Utah flopped in fantastic fashion, as two-loss Oregon thoroughly outplayed the Utes en route to winning the conference championship.
Utah’s loss crushed the Pac-12’s playoff hopes, but it was exactly what the Big 12 needed. The winner of Saturday’s game between Oklahoma and Baylor will be in prime position to finish in the fourth spot — assuming No. 2 LSU knocks No. 4 Georgia out of it. If Georgia loses, the Allstate Playoff Predictor gives Oklahoma a 70% chance to make the playoff with a Big 12 title, and Baylor a 59% chance with a win.