The fifth and penultimate edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings was released Tuesday night with Georgia remaining the No. 1 team in the nation. The next team in the rankings was a fresh one, however, with Michigan ascending to the No. 2 spot after soundly defeating Ohio State in The Game during Rivalry Week. It is the Wolverines’ first trip to the top four since late in the 2018 season; however, UM did not make the final CFP field that year.
Alabama and Cincinnati took the final two spots entering a weekend of conference championship games. The Bearcats, at 12-0 with two Power Five wins, remain the first Group of Five program to be placed among the top four in the CFP Rankings. Cincinnati has made history all season as the highest-ranked Group of Five program in the process but now have a legitimate opportunity to make the playoff. Whether that will come to fruition depends on the Bearcats beating Houston in the AAC Championship Game and hoping Georgia defeats Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
It’s also possible Cincinnati could be jumped by Oklahoma State in the top four. Outside of the current top four, the only other teams with a realistic shot at finishing among those spaces are the Cowboys (vs. Baylor in the Big 12 Championship Game) and Notre Dame, which does not have a league title game to play and just lost coach Brian Kelly to LSU on Monday. As Oklahoma State faces a top-10 opponent Saturday, there could be enough momentum to move it ahead of Cincinnati if both teams win.
In the history of the CFP, no team ranked outside the top seven at this late point in the season has moved into the four-team field after the conference title games. The No. 7 team has advanced to the top four twice: Oklahoma in 2017, Georgia in 2019. Also, no two-loss team has advanced in the playoff.
Let’s take a look at the entire CFP Rankings top 25. Check out analysis by bowls expert Jerry Palm below.
College Football Playoff Rankings, Nov. 30
- Georgia (12-0)
- Michigan (11-1)
- Alabama (11-1)
- Cincinnati (12-0)
- Oklahoma State (11-1)
- Notre Dame (11-1)
- Ohio State (10-2)
- Ole Miss (10-2)
- Baylor (10-2)
- Oregon (10-2)
- Michigan State (10-2)
- BYU (10-2)
- Iowa (10-2)
- Oklahoma (10-2)
- Pittsburgh (10-2)
- Wake Forest (10-2)
- Utah (9-3)
- NC State (9-3)
- San Diego State (11-1)
- Clemson (9-3)
- Houston (11-1)
- Arkansas (8-4)
- Kentucky (9-3)
- Louisiana (11-1)
- Texas A&M (8-4)
Analysis by bowls expert Jerry Palm
Notre Dame, which is now without a coach, was jumped by Oklahoma State this week for the No. 5 spot in the CFP Rankings, but the fact that Kelly had abandoned ship was not a factor in that decision. The Cowboys picked up their second win of the season against a top 10 team when they beat Oklahoma. With Wisconsin losing at Minnesota and dropping out of the rankings entirely, the Fighting Irish no longer have a win over any team in the current top 25. Their two best wins came against the Badgers and Purdue. Those are probably top 30 teams, but the committee does not rank past 25.
That could be a problem for Notre Dame’s chances of moving into the top four next week, but it needed a lot of help anyway.
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This week’s rankings will have more impact on which teams participate in the New Year’s Six bowl games than the CFP itself. That is because a pecking order is set now for teams that will not be playing this weekend. Notre Dame is guaranteed a spot in the New Year’s Six, as is No. 7 Ohio State and No. 8 Ole Miss.
No. 11 Michigan State and No. 12 BYU are bubble teams — borrowing a term from basketball — for a spot in the New Year’s Six. The two teams them, and three of the four immediately behind them, are all playing this weekend.
Keep in mind that while the New Year’s Six games require twelve teams, it will not necessarily be the top 12 teams due to the CFP and automatic qualifiers. No. 15 Pittsburgh and No. 16 Wake Forest play for the ACC championship with the winner automatically qualifying for a New Year’s Six regardless of its final ranking.
And here is one more thing to think about: If Cincinnati loses, it could conceivably stay high enough in the rankings to qualify for a spot in the New Year’s Six as an at-large team. Meanwhile, the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion, likely Houston in this scenario, also qualifies automatically.
Tune in Wednesday for a more detailed analysis of the path to the College Football Playoff for the teams that are still eligible based on their current standing and remaining winning potential.