GRAPEVINE, Texas — The 13 members of the College Football Playoff selection committee are gathered at the Gaylord Texan Resort, where they are watching the conference championship games together, the first time they’ve watched games as a group this season. It’s the final chance for teams to make a playoff statement, and the Big 12 and Big Ten are taking center stage today, as the SEC winner, Notre Dame and Clemson should all finish in the top four (assuming Clemson doesn’t suffer what would be an epic upset against Pitt).
As the day unfolds, this is a one-stop shop for how each of the championship games will impact the selection committee’s deliberations, which are expected to go past midnight, and ultimately their final four, which will be revealed on at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday on ESPN.
No. 5 Oklahoma 39, No. 14 Texas 27
Oklahoma avenged its regular-season loss to Texas when it mattered most — with the entire selection committee watching the Big 12 championship game. The one-loss Sooners’ fate in the playoff now hinges on how Ohio State performs in the Big Ten championship game — and who wins the SEC. Oklahoma’s defense made some eye-popping plays, including its first safety since 2013, and the Sooners held an opponent to under 40 points for the first time in five games. Oklahoma took care of business — but now it’s watching the scoreboard. The Sooners should be rooting for Alabama and Northwestern to win, which would all but guarantee them the No. 4 spot. If Alabama loses and Ohio State wins, the Sooners will be in a three-team debate.
American Athletic Conference
No. 8 UCF vs. Memphis (3:30 p.m. ET/ABC)
The undefeated Knights have to show the selection committee they’re still one of the best teams in the country without injured starting quarterback McKenzie Milton. If UCF can beat Memphis without him to win the AAC title, the Knights should secure a bid in a New Year’s Six bowl for the second straight season. It would most likely be the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl this year, because the selection committee would probably avoid sending them to the Chick-fil-A Peach bowl again. Should there be major upsets in the Power 5 conference championship games, undefeated UCF could earn consideration for a top four spot, but it’s highly unlikely. If UCF loses to Memphis, the selection committee would take the highest-ranked Group of 5 conference champion, which would most likely be the winner of the Mountain West Conference Championship game, featuring No. 22 Boise State and No. 25 Fresno State.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Georgia (4 p.m. ET/CBS)
The winner of this game is in, that much is clear. But could the SEC get two teams in the playoff? The most likely path to two involves the Tide losing a close game to the Bulldogs and still earning the No. 4 spot over both Ohio State and Oklahoma. Could Georgia get in with a close loss? It’s possible, if there are upsets in other conference title games, but it doesn’t seem likely. It could get tricky, though, if Alabama enters a three-way debate with one-loss Oklahoma and one-loss Ohio State for the fourth spot. While it would seem likely, it’s not a guarantee the committee would choose Alabama, which is why how close the game is could matter.
No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 24 Pittsburgh (8 p.m. ET/ABC)
There’s no reason Clemson should lose this game — besides history, of course. Pittsburgh has won its past three games against teams ranked in the top three by the Associated Press, including a win at No. 3 Clemson in 2016. Should Clemson lose, it would easily be the biggest upset of championship week, and the Tigers would be in severe danger of dropping out of the top four. It would most likely open the door for the Big 12 and Big Ten champions if both Oklahoma and Ohio State win, but it would be a great debate for the committee, as the Tigers have been their No. 2 team all season and it would be Clemson’s only loss.
No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 21 Northwestern (8 p.m. ET/FOX)
Regardless of who wins, there is a possibility that the Big Ten champion could be left out of the playoff for the third straight season. If four-loss Northwestern wins, the league is certainly done. If Ohio State wins, it would depend in part on how they win – and what happens in the other conference title games. By beating Michigan convincingly last week, the Buckeyes improved their playoff chances drastically in the eyes of the committee and closed the gap with Oklahoma.
Pac-12: Washington clinches Rose Bowl appearance
With Washington’s win over Utah on Friday night, the Huskies earned a trip to the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, where they are expected to be an underdog against the Big Ten’s representative, most likely No. 6 Ohio State or No. 7 Michigan. The Pac-12 will miss the playoff for the third time in four years, as Washington finished with three losses.