Ignore The CFP Rankings, Here Is The Real Breakdown Of Who Will Play In the Semis

The CFP Rankings started last week and there will be angst and hand ringing every Tuesday until Dec. 6.

After all the games are played, the CFP gets the final say in who plays in the Semifinals.

This season got turned upside down Saturday as both Clemson and Alabama lost. Since the CFP was created in 2015 and moved to a four-team playoff, Clemson has missed 2 years (2015 and 2022) and Alabama 1 year (2020).

While neither Clemson nor Alabama are eliminated, their road to the semis got much harder.

With four spots up for grabs, we take a deep dive into the five major conferences to find which four teams will emerge in the CFP Rankings.

ACC: 1 CFP Spot Max

Notre Dame dominated both sides of the ball, beating Clemson handily. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Clemson remains alive at 8-1, despite getting crushed by Notre Dame this past week 35-14. It wasn’t that close. Their final three games are all home against Louisville, Miami and South Carolina. The only other team in the ACC in play is North Carolina at 8-1. Its road is more difficult, traveling to No. 21 Wake Forest on Saturday. The Tar Heels finish at home against Georgia Tech and No. 22 North Carolina St.

Both teams are almost guaranteed to play in the ACC Championship. The winner of that game will have an argument to be included in the semis, if they win out and are 11-1.

BIG 12: Only TCU Has A Shot

TCU is 9-0 and making the CFP pay attention. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

At 9-0, TCU can guarantee an invite to the semis by winning out. This week the Horned Frogs travel to Austin to take on No. 24 Texas. They finish at Baylor and home to Iowa St.

The Big 12 Championship game will be their last hurdle if they enter that game 12-0. Win and they are a lock in the semis.

Big 10: The Big 2 Can Both Still Go

Ohio St. struggled this week against Northwestern in a very windy game. Michigan hammered Rutgers, and we seem destined for a Saturday after Thanksgiving Monster game on Fox in Columbus.

Ohio St. plays Indiana and at Maryland before Michigan. Michigan hosts Nebraska and No. 16 Illinois, who at 7-2 remain part of the conversation. If Illinois somehow beats Michigan, the Illini will play the winner of Michigan and Ohio St. in the Big 10 Championship.

The more likely scenario is Michigan and Ohio St. are undefeated when they play Nov. 26. The winner is a lock for the semis. The question will be what to do with the 11-1 loser of that game.

That is why two teams can still play in the semis from the Big 10.

PAC 12: 3 Teams For 1 Possible CFP Spot

QB Bo Nix is having a great year for the Oregon Ducks under head coach Dan Lanning. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Is this the year a one-loss PAC-12 team makes the semis? With three teams 8-1, I think it is a real possibility.

Oregon has bounced back after getting thumped Week 1 by Georgia. The Ducks finish the regular season with Washington and Utah at home and then travel to Oregon St. An 11-1 record and a win in the Pac-12 Championship would make them hard to ignore.

USC and UCLA are the other two 8-1 teams. UCLA lost to Oregon and finish with Arizona, USC and at CAL. USC finishes with Colorado, UCLA and Notre Dame. Either of these teams run the table and then beat Oregon in the PAC-12 title, and I think they will be in the CFP.

SEC: Still The Best And A Shot At 2 Spots

Georgia looks like the best team in the country, period. The Bulldogs finish on the road at Mississippi St. and Kentucky, then host Georgia Tech to finish it out. They have to lose both of those SEC games to not to play in the SEC Championship Game. Even at 12-1, they would play in the semis.

Tennessee at 8-1 has an easy road to 11-1. The Volunteers host Missouri, play at South Carolina and finish with Vandy. At 11-1, who would keep them out of the semis after the season they had?

LSU has 2 losses but controls its destiny to play for the SEC Championship. The Tigers travel to Arkansas, host UAB and travel to Texas A&M.

Mississippi needs LSU to stumble to have any shot. The Rebels also need to win out, hosting Alabama this week, at Arkansas and finishing the season at home in the Egg Bowl against Mississippi St. Their only shot to the CFP semis is to win out with that schedule and beat Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

How It Will Play Out?

Goergia captured the National Championship last year. Who will play for the title this year?. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

I think getting to four only has a few paths. Here is how I see it playing out.

The SEC is going to get two teams. Georgia and Tennessee are the most likely. LSU needs a two-loss team to get in and Mississippi just needs too many things to break its way.

In the BIG 10, Ohio St. or Michigan goes undefeated, and they are in. It is highly probably that this happens.

That leaves one spot for the following teams to fight for. I put them in order based on the teams I believe get in based on the scenarios I played out:

  • TCU runs the table and is 13-0 Dec. 6th. Any loss and there will be no Big12 team in the Semi’s
  • PAC 12: One of Oregon, USC or UCLA runs the table and is 12-1.
  • ACC: Clemson or UNC run the table and go 12-1.

Written by Bill Graff

Lifelong fan of all things sports and of common sense. I watch a lot of sports, just ask my wife. Go Terps. I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier.

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