By Ralph Russo
The top four in the College Football Playoff rankings going into the final weekend of the regular season is as follows: Alabama, Oregon, TCU and Florida State.
The question is: Short of a loss by one of those teams, is there anything a team on the outside can do to get in on Sunday when the final rankings are announced and the field for the first playoff is set?
“We’re at the point, we’re waiting for results now,” selection committee chairman and Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said Tuesday night. “We’re waiting for teams to complete their body of work. Again, we don’t project out. We’ve all seen games that have different outcomes than we expect.
“We focus on what has been accomplished to this point, and with that regard, the top four teams to this point are ranked where the committee believes they should be.”
TCU (10-1) moved up to No. 3, becoming the latest team with a loss to jump past undefeated Florida State, and further distancing itself from Big 12 rival Baylor (10-1). The Bears, who beat TCU 61-58 in Waco, Texas, in October, are sixth and Ohio State sits in between them and the Horned Frogs at fifth.
TCU finishes its regular season at home Saturday against Iowa State, which is winless in the Big 12. Baylor hosts Kansas State, which is ninth in the latest rankings.
Baylor is currently working with a public relations firm to provide “additional support in telling the Bears’ story over the last few weeks of the football season,” said Nick Joos, executive athletic director for external affairs.
The PR firm is sending notes and statistics about Baylor to media members, not committee members.
The Bears and Horned Frogs will end the season having played 10 common opponents. The biggest difference is TCU played Minnesota and Baylor played Buffalo. That combined with Baylor’s loss to West Virginia (7-5) is working in the Horned Frogs’ favor and keeping the head-to-head matchup from being the deciding factor.
“As we pointed out before, TCU has five wins over teams with winning records or .500 records and above, and Baylor has three, if you include Texas at 6-6,” Long said. “I can’t say it’s one thing. It’s a number of things we look at, and we believe TCU is better and deserving of that No. 3 rank over Baylor.”
Further complicating matters, the Horned Frogs and Bears would be co-champions of the Big 12 if both win out. The conference has said it will not designate a champion via a tiebreaker.
The committee’s selection protocol requires conference championships be taken into the consideration when judging teams with similar resumes.
“Well, first we will not determine a champion for the Big 12,” Long said. “We’ve discussed to this point, and then we will wait for the results, and then we will evaluate those teams, and that’s when the conference championship comes into effect.
“We have not had the discussions about what if there’s a co-champion.”
The Seminoles are fourth, still in good shape to reach the playoff if it can win Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship game against No. 11 Georgia Tech.
Alabama and Oregon are Nos. 1 and 2, for the third straight week. The Crimson Tide plays 16th-ranked Missouri in the Southeastern Conference championship game, and Oregon faces Arizona in the Pac-12 title game.
The Wildcats’ five-spot jump to seventh sets up a possible play-in game in Santa Clara, Calif., on Friday night. The Wildcats already have beaten Oregon in Eugene and could make another big jump by doing so again.
Long said the committee did not factor into this week’s rankings the injury to Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, but will after the Buckeyes face Wisconsin, ranked 13th, in the Big Ten title game on Saturday.
“Certainly committee members are very interested to watch Ohio State’s performance with the backup quarterback, and again, the results on the field will dictate to us how we feel about Ohio State, how they perform in the game, and then how, if we have to project forward, how they will compete,” he said.
Boise State is the highest ranked — and only ranked — team from outside the Big Five conferences, which puts the Broncos (10-2) in position to receive a bid to one of the four New Year’s Day bowls.