Michigan’s first victory over rival Ohio State in 10 years has given the Wolverines a clear path to their first appearance in the College Football Playoff.
After upsetting the Buckeyes 42-27 at the Big House on Saturday, the Wolverines are No. 2 in the selection committee’s latest rankings, released Tuesday night. The final rankings, determining which four teams will play in the two CFP semifinals on New Year’s Eve, will be released Sunday at noon ET on ESPN.
Unbeaten Georgia remained No. 1 for the fifth consecutive week, followed by Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati and Oklahoma State.
As long as Michigan defeats No. 13 Iowa in Saturday’s Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis, it figures to play in a CFP semifinal at either the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic or Capital One Orange Bowl.
Georgia reached 12-0 for the first time since its last national championship season in 1980 with a 45-0 victory at Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Bulldogs play Alabama in Saturday’s SEC championship game in Atlanta. Georgia might get into the CFP even if it loses to the Crimson Tide because of its dominance this season.
“I don’t see how that has anything to do with anything,” Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. “I’ve said all my career that to win SEC championships is almost just as hard, because the years I spent at Alabama you could say that winning the SEC championship was just as hard as trying to win a national championship, and it’s one of our goals. We want to put it on this wall in [the team meeting room] and to do that you’ve got to win the SEC. That’s what we’re focused on.”
The Crimson Tide’s ranking remained unchanged after yet another closer-than-expected victory, 24-22 in four overtimes at Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Alabama, the defending national champion, won each of its final three SEC games by seven points or fewer.
Cincinnati, which is attempting to become the first team from a Group of 5 conference to crash the CFP, plays No. 21 Houston at home in Saturday’s AAC championship game on ABC.
The Cowboys, after a 37-33 win against Oklahoma in Bedlam on Saturday, have their highest ranking this season. If Oklahoma State defeats No. 9 Baylor in Saturday’s Big 12 title game on ABC, it might leapfrog the unbeaten Bearcats, or move into the top four if Alabama or Cincinnati loses.
“There was a lot of discussion, but it’s hard to say how it fell at three, four and five,” selection committee chair Gary Barta, the athletic director at Iowa, said on ESPN’s rankings release show.
With just one loss to the Bearcats, Notre Dame is No. 6, followed by Ohio State, Ole Miss, Baylor and Oregon. The Fighting Irish, who lost coach Brian Kelly to LSU on Monday, don’t play this weekend and will have to wait to see how things shake out with the other contenders.
“I think this team is really well-positioned,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Tuesday. “I believe we’re one of the top four teams in the country. The cumulative results of our last four or five games, I think, are compelling. I think we can play with anybody in the country right now.”
Coaching situations can factor into the discussion after next week’s games, Barta said on the show.
“The committee was obviously aware of all the coaching changes,” he added. “For this week, though, it didn’t apply.”
The Buckeyes fell five spots after losing to Michigan for only the second time in the past 17 meetings. Oklahoma fell four spots to No. 14 after falling to the Cowboys, and Texas A&M tumbled 10 spots to No. 25 after losing 27-24 at struggling LSU.
Kentucky rejoined the rankings at No. 23, and Louisiana is ranked for the first time this season, at No. 24. Previously undefeated UTSA and Wisconsin, which was No. 14 a week ago, fell out of the rankings.
The Badgers being out could eventually hurt the Irish, as Notre Dame is counting on its September win over Wisconsin to help its final rank.