The College Football Playoff committee insists it starts with a clean slate every week.
But to everyone else it’s obvious the LSU Tigers have some ground to make up if they want to be the No. 1 seed when the CFP pairings are announced Sunday.
As expected, the LSU Tigers stayed locked in the CFP’s No. 2 spot for the second straight week behind fellow 12-0 team Ohio State.
Clemson, also 12-0, remained No. 3.
There is a potential springboard to vault LSU back to No. 1. That springboard is named Georgia.
The LSU Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs will face off in the SEC championship game Saturday, Dec. 7 in Atlanta.
The Bulldogs (11-1) remained No. 4 in the CFP rankings. LSU plays Georgia on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game (3 p.m. CST, CBS) in Atlanta, While Ohio State faces No. 8 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game (7 p.m., Fox) in Indianapolis.
Could the closing kick of a second victory over a top-four team — LSU won at then CFP No. 3 Alabama on Nov. 9 — be enough to dislodge the Buckeyes? CFP committee chairman Rob Mullens declines to engage in future speculation, but he cited Ohio State’s resume against LSU and LSU’s against Clemson as a big reason for their rankings.
“Ohio State has four wins against the (CFP) top 25,” Mullens said. “LSU has an impressive resume, but that is the difference.
“Clemson’s schedule is different. You look at those top two and they have wins against highly ranked opponents.”
As last week, Mullens also cited Ohio State’s defense as a factor in the Buckeyes being ranked ahead of LSU, but indicated there may be more respect for the Tigers in that regard after Saturday’s 50-7 win over Texas A&M.
“Both have dynamic offenses,” Mullens said. “Both have good defenses. Ohio State is just a little ahead at this point.”
The conventional wisdom is that both LSU and Ohio State would like to avoid playing reigning CFP champion Clemson, riding the nation’s longest-active winning streak at 27 games, in the semifinals. LSU and Ohio State are both widely considered locks for CFP berths even if they lose competitive games on Saturday.
The final CFP rankings will be released at 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPN. At that time, the committee will also announce which teams are bound for the semifinals, both played on Dec. 28. One is at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, while the other is in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. CFP rules are designed to keep the No. 1 seed from being at a geographic disadvantage, but it remains to be seen whether the committee takes that into account if LSU plays Clemson. Clemson is about 120 miles from Atlanta, while LSU’s campus is 528 miles away.
The two semifinal winners will meet in the CFP National Championship Game, Jan. 13 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
LSU was No. 2 again in the CFP rankings despite the fact the Tigers retained the top spot in the Associated Press and USA Today coaches’ polls. Neither poll is a factor in the CFP rankings.
The fight for the CFP No. 4 spot also remains a mystery. Georgia is expected to rise in the CFP final rankings with a win over LSU or fall out completely with a loss. Meanwhile, with Alabama losing this past Saturday to Auburn, 11-1 Utah moved up to No. 5 with the best chance to scoop up a semifinal spot should Georgia falter. The Utes play No. 13 Oregon (10-2) Friday in the Pac-12 title game (7 p.m., ABC).
Oklahoma, Baylor, Wisconsin, Florida and Penn State round out the CFP top 10. Auburn is No. 11 while Alabama tumbled seven spots to No. 12.