College Football Playoff Picture After Week 12: Four in and four out in front of first place

The first set of College Football Playoff spots will be released on Tuesday, meaning the four-team race is escalating in the final four weeks of the 2020 season.

Let the debates begin. Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame are likely to hold the top three spots in those rankings, but in what order? The Buckeyes won a top-10 showdown with Indiana 42-35 on Saturday, and Alabama remained undefeated in the SEC with a convincing 63-3 victory over Kentucky. The Irish were inactive.

Who will be No. 4? Which other teams have a chance to stay in the mix? It is the subject of even more debate given the number of games played and the number of games that could be canceled due to COVID-19 during the last month of the season. Below are the dates for each of the placements:

Rankings Date
First Tuesday, November 24th
Second Tuesday, December 1st
Third Tuesday, December 8th
Fourth Tuesday, December 15th
Finally Sunday, December 20th

With that in mind, Sporting News College breaks down the Football Playoff picture with four teams in, four teams out and four teams looking to enter the second week of November:

MORE: BYU, Cincy’s rooting guide to the Playoffs

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1. Alabama (7-0)

Remaining schedule: vs. Auburn and Arkansas

Lowdown: It remains to be seen whether the LSU game will be rescheduled, but Crimson Tide showed no rust in a 63-3 win over Kentucky after three weeks off. Mac Jones (16 of 24, 230 yards, two touchdowns, one touchdown), Najee Harris (110 yards total, two touchdowns) DeVonta Smith (144 yards, two touchdowns) has formed a dominant trio and the defense has shaped itself after some early season matches. Next is the Iron Bowl, and Nick Saban is 5-1 against the Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The last four home wins preceded the SEC championships.

Ohio State (4-0)

Remaining schedule: in Illinois, in Michigan State, vs. Michigan

The Buckeyes beat Indiana 42-35 in a top-10 showdown that gives the Buckeyes control of the Big Ten East division. Justin Fields passed in 300 yards and the Master Teague rushed to 169 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Defense allowed 491 past yardshowever, allowing the Hoosiers to gather in the second half. The Buckeyes have problems at the back end of the defense, but it will not be seriously challenged until the Big Ten Championship game.

Notre Dame (8-0)

Remaining schedule: in North Carolina, vs. Syracuse at Wake Forest

Notre Dame ranks higher in the original rankings based on the win against Clemson. The Irish enjoyed a color week that put a Black Friday thriller on the road in North Carolina. The quarterback match between Ian Book and Sam Howell is going to be fun and the Irish are 18-2 all the time against Tar Heels. However, both losses were in Chapel Hill, NC Get your online shopping done before kickoff.

Clemson (7-1)

Remaining schedule: vs. Pitt, of Virginia Tech, of Florida State

The Tigers’ matchup with Florida State was unexpectedly postponed Saturday, and December 12 is now a potential rescheduling date. Clemson has not played since the 47-40 loss to Notre Dame on November 7, and the three-week layoff ends theoretically against Pitt on Saturday. Clemson has been out of sight, but the Tigers are likely to land in this spot in the first CFP rankings.

MORE: Ohio State is running past Indiana, but a passing question persists

Four out

5. Florida (6-1)

Remaining schedule: vs. Kentucky, in Tennessee, vs. LSU

The Gators were locked in a close game with Vanderbilt in the first half before scoring 24 unanswered points between the second and third quarters for a 38-17 victory. Kyle Trask did not throw for his four-touchdown minimum for the first time all season, but finished with 383 yards. The Gators will play the College Football Playoff if they win, and there are three more chances on the regular season schedule to build toward the long-awaited shot in Alabama.

Cincinnati (8-0)

Remaining schedule: at Temple, in Tulsa

The Bearcats beat former group of 5 beloved UCFs in a 36-33 shootout after fighting back from a 14-3 deficit. Desmond Ridder put on a show with 338 passing yards, 57 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. Cincinnati has car rides with Temple and No. 25 Tulsa back on schedule before a potential U.S. athletics conference championship. The Bearcats need help getting in, but this seems to be the best chance for a group of 5 schools to do so in the playoffs.

7. Oregon (3-0)

Remaining schedule: in Oregon State, in Cal, vs. Washington

The Ducks need more style points, but the undefeated record stands. Jordan Happle’s interception for a touchdown to end the half gave the Ducks the lead for good in a 38-35 nailbiter against UCLA. Oregon has not dominated the competition and its remaining opponents have dealt with COVID-19 cancellations. The Ducks may need to be creative with the planning the rest of the way, but an unbeaten season and Pac-12 championship will still be a playoff-worthy affair.

8. BYU (9-0)

Remaining schedule: vs. San Diego State

The Cougars drew Northern Alabama 66-14 on Saturday, which is not very surprising. BYU has a game left on the schedule and it should explore all possible planning options in the other three weeks to increase the resume. The Cougars have an exciting offense, a huge points difference and a potential Heisman finalist in Zach Wilson. Will the CFP recognize it in the first set of rankings?

Somebody else?

Texas A&M (5-1) had back-to-back canceled games and hopes to resume action against LSU. The Aggies are hampered by the loss to Alabama and need the four teams placed ahead of them on this list to lose.

Northwestern (4-0) took control of the Big Ten West with an impressive win over Wisconsin, putting the Wildcats on the right track to reach the Big Ten Championship for the second time in three seasons. Who knew it would be the best competition for Ohio State in the Big Ten? The feral cats must topple into the top 10, but the biggest obstacle is the Buckeyes.

Miami (7-1) also had to postpone this week’s match against Georgia Tech, but still has a possible path to the ACC championship. The Hurricanes face long odds with the loss to Clemson.


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