There’s no way — just no way — Clemson loses to rival South Carolina on Saturday, right?
Ask Georgia how improbable that is.
Georgia lost at home to South Carolina on Oct. 12 — a good time for a bad loss if there actually is one. Stumbling during the final week of the regular season? It’s like throwing away a winning lottery ticket — you can’t get it back.
All it takes is one upset to change the College Football Playoff picture, which means there’s still time for hated rivals from coast to coast to play the role of spoiler — or for contenders to make a statement that they’re worthy of a top-four finish.
“I feel like rest of the country is always kind of sleeping on us,” Utah safety Julian Blackmon told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg. “They’re like, ‘They’re playing in the Pac-12. They’re not that [good].’ But I feel like if they came out to the field, it’d be a whole different situation.”
Utah — and the Pac-12 — still have a shot, in spite of Oregon’s loss. The problem for Utah is Alabama. And Georgia. And Oklahoma. And Minnesota.
Which Week 14 games matter the most? Here’s a ranking that breaks it down, starting with the most impactful game:
1. Alabama at Auburn
Why it tops the list: Because if Alabama is in, that means another Power 5 conference champion is out, and this game is Alabama’s final shot at impressing the committee. It’s also the first time the committee will evaluate quarterback Mac Jones against a ranked opponent.
If Alabama wins: The Crimson Tide have to hope the selection committee deems them “unequivocally” one of the four best teams in the country AND that LSU beats Georgia in the SEC championship game to open the fourth spot. The Tide will need to win a clean, convincing game, limiting turnovers and penalties in order to prove they’re a semifinalist without injured starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. If there is any doubt, and the committee thinks Alabama is “comparable” to the other contenders, the group is then required to use the tiebreakers listed in the protocol. Those include conference championships, head-to-head competition, strength of schedule, and any common opponents. The eye test on Saturday is important, because it would be Alabama’s only victory against a CFP top-25 team this season, and Auburn would likely drop several spots after suffering its fourth loss.
If Auburn wins: The Tide would fall out of the playoff conversation with a second loss and no conference title.
FPI says: Alabama has a 65.7% chance to win.
Allstate Playoff Predictor says: With a win, Alabama’s chances of making the playoff would increase to 71%, but with a loss they drop to 2.1%.
2. Wisconsin at Minnesota
Why it’s No. 2: Because it will determine whom Ohio State will face in the Big Ten championship, and an upset would create an extremely difficult and possibly controversial decision for the committee.
If Wisconsin wins: The Badgers will clinch the West and get their second shot at Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, a chance to avenge their 38-7 regular-season loss to the Buckeyes on Oct. 26. If Wisconsin won the Big Ten, would the committee take a two-loss conference champion that lost at unranked Illinois in what was one of the biggest upsets of the season? (Oregon would like a word.) Or would it take Ohio State instead, an extremely difficult decision to explain on the heels of the conference championship, but also justifiable in that they would have split and Wisconsin had the Illinois loss? It’s a headache for the committee, and also an example of why Ohio State couldn’t afford to lose to Michigan.
If Minnesota wins: The Golden Gophers will face Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, and the conference keeps its chances of having two teams finish in the top four. If Minnesota wins the Big Ten title, it would have one of the most impressive résumés in the country, with victories against Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. As long as Ohio State doesn’t lose to Michigan on Saturday, the committee could still consider both Minnesota and Ohio State.
FPI says: Minnesota has a 39.2% chance to beat Wisconsin.
Allstate Playoff Predictor says: If Minnesota wins Saturday, its chances of reaching the playoff are 3.9%.
3. Ohio State at Michigan
Why it’s No. 3: See No. 2.
If Ohio State wins: The Buckeyes will finish the regular season undefeated and have margin for error heading into the Big Ten title game. Regardless of who wins the West — Wisconsin or Minnesota — Ohio State would still be able to make a case for a top-four finish if it suffers a close loss in the championship game.
If Michigan wins: Ohio State can certainly still finish in the top four — as long as it’s the Big Ten champ.
FPI says: Ohio State has a 73.9% chance to win in Ann Arbor.
Allstate Playoff Predictor says: If Ohio State beats Michigan, it will have a 98.4% chance to finish in the top four, the best in the country. If the Buckeyes lose, that will drop to 83.6%.
4. Texas A&M at LSU
Why it’s No. 4: Because LSU has home-field advantage against an unranked team, whereas Ohio State has to go on the road against a ranked opponent.
If Texas A&M wins: It’s a similar situation to Ohio State in that LSU can afford to lose and finish in the top four, but now the pressure would be on to beat Georgia and win the SEC.
If LSU wins: The Tigers should hold onto that No. 2 spot, unless Ohio State loses to Michigan.
FPI says: LSU has an 83.5% chance to beat the Aggies.
Allstate Playoff Predictor says: With the win, LSU has a 91.4% chance to make the playoff. With a loss, that drops to 61%.
5. Colorado at Utah
Why it’s No. 5: Because it can eliminate the entire Pac-12 from the playoff, but it’s still unlikely Colorado wins.
If Colorado wins: Four-loss USC will win the Pac-12 South, meaning the league is guaranteed a champion with multiple losses and will be out of the playoff.
If Utah wins: The Utes will clinch the South Division, earning a spot in the conference title game against two-loss Oregon. Utah will then need a convincing victory against the Ducks AND it will need LSU to beat Georgia in the SEC title game and knock the Dawgs out of the fourth spot. Then Utah has to hope it wins a debate against Alabama, the Big 12 champ, and any other one-loss contenders aiming for the fourth spot.
FPI says: Utah has a 95.1% chance to win.
Allstate Playoff Predictor says: Utah’s chances of reaching the playoff would increase to 10% with a win Saturday.
6. Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Why it’s No. 6: Because the Big 12 is already in the worst playoff shape of the Power 5 conferences, but an upset in Stillwater is far more likely than what Clemson and Georgia are facing.
If Oklahoma wins: The one-loss Sooners would add a third victory against a ranked CFP opponent to their résumé and head into the Big 12 championship game against No. 9 Baylor clinging to playoff hopes. OU was helped significantly Tuesday night when Baylor moved into the top 10 for the first time this season. To further boost its case, though, Oklahoma needs to play a complete game — something it has struggled to do over the past few weeks, winning the past three games by a combined eight points. The defense has allowed an average of 36 points over the past four games.
If Oklahoma State wins: The Big 12 is likely eliminated from the playoff because it would have either a two-loss champion in OU or a one-loss champion that has trailed the other contenders by a significant margin all season.
FPI says: OU has a 74.4% chance to win in Stillwater.
Allstate Playoff Predictor says: With a victory, OU will have a 16% chance to reach the playoff, but with a loss, that drops to less than 1%.
7. Clemson at South Carolina
Why it’s No. 7: Because there’s no good reason Clemson should lose to a 4-7 team other than it’s on the road against an in-state rival.
If Clemson wins: The undefeated Tigers should be comfortable in the No. 3 spot, with the potential to move up in the event of upsets in the SEC or Big Ten conference title games.
If South Carolina wins: Clemson would have one top-25 win (against No. 24 Virginia Tech in the ACC championship) and one awful loss, likely eliminating the defending national champs from the top four and opening the door for everyone else. Yes, the committee would consider a one-loss ACC champion, but Clemson would still have arguably the worst résumé of the Power 5 champs. Tigers fans would be quick to remind everyone Georgia lost to South Carolina too, but … Georgia also has three ranked wins, against Notre Dame, Florida and Auburn.
FPI says: Clemson has a 92.4% chance to win at South Carolina.
Allstate Playoff Predictor says: With a victory, Clemson has a 92.8% chance to make the playoff, but with a loss, it drops to 16.3%.
8. Georgia at Georgia Tech
Why it’s No. 8: Because the 3-8 Yellow Jackets are even worse than South Carolina, and there’s no excuse for Georgia to lose this game if it’s even close to being a top-four team.
If Georgia wins: The Bulldogs should stay at the No. 4 spot, with a chance to knock off LSU in the SEC title game.
If Georgia Tech wins: All hell will break loose in Athens.
FPI says: Georgia has a 97.9% chance to win.
Allstate Playoff Predictor says: With a win, Georgia has a 50.7% chance to make the playoff. With a loss, that drops to 19.9%.
9. Cincinnati at Memphis
Why it’s last on the list: Because it doesn’t affect the playoff, but it will help determine the race for a New Year’s Six bowl bid … and it should be a terrific game.
The scenario: Memphis clinches the American Athletic Conference West with a victory Friday OR a loss by Navy on Saturday at Houston. Navy can also win the division with a win AND a Memphis loss.
FPI says: Memphis has an 80% chance to win the division.