Path to College Football Playoff for contenders, and who they should root for

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The College Football Playoff race hits the first of its final two legs with Rivalry Week before following up with conference championship weekend. With that mind, a dozen teams still have realistic playoff hopes, ranging from teams that control their own destiny to others that will need a lot of help.

Here is a look at the path to the College Football Playoff — and what those schools should be rooting for — as we head into those last two weeks.

MORE: Week 13 CFP rankings: Miami hurdles Clemson

In for now

Alabama (11-0) 

Just win? The mission hasn't changed. Win the Iron Bowl and the SEC championship. If Alabama does that, it will be the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. 

What to root for: Alabama theoretically could lose either the Iron Bowl or SEC championship and still get in, especially when propped up against a two-loss Power 5 conference champion. Who would the committee take if two-loss Ohio State won the Big Ten: Buckeyes or Crimson Tide? That debate would be interesting.

Miami (10-0)

Just win? Beat Pitt in the regular-season finale and knock off Clemson in the ACC championship game.

What to root for: The Hurricanes would be in trouble with a loss. The committee might prefer the Big Ten champion — even two-loss Ohio State. Canes fans might want to root for Michigan over Ohio State, then for the three-loss Buckeyes to beat Wisconsin, just in case. It wouldn't hurt to see TCU win the Big 12 either. Bottom line? Miami could lose to Pitt as its mulligan, but it can't lose to Clemson.

Clemson (10-1) 

Just win? Beat South Carolina and win its straight ACC championship. Do that, and the Tigers are the No. 2 seed again.

What to root for: Just in case Clemson loses again, it'll want to be compared to other two-loss teams. That said, it would root for Auburn to win the SEC (knocking out Georgia and, potentially, Alabama), Ohio State to win the Big Ten and TCU to win the Big 12. Clemson would likely be left out, however, without an ACC championship. If the Tigers lose a game the next two weeks, then it might be better to lose to the Gamecocks. Yeah, we know that's not an acceptable answer.

Oklahoma (10-1)

Just win? The Sooners play West Virginia and a to-be-determined-opponent in the Big 12 championship game. Oklahoma controls its own destiny.

What to root for: The Sooners likely would be out with a loss to TCU in the Big 12 championship game, but they have a head-to-head victory against Ohio State that could prove valuable later. The Sooners want the Buckeyes to win the Big Ten.

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First four out 

Wisconsin (11-0)

Just win? No matter how the rankings look, if the Badgers beat Minnesota and win the Big Ten championship game, they leapfrog one of the ACC teams ahead of them with a 13-0 record. We'll say that one more time: If Wisconsin wins out, then it is in.

What to root for: Wisconsin can't lose the Big Ten championship game. If it were to lose to Minnesota, it had better hope Alabama wins the SEC and Miami wins the ACC just to be on the safe side, given where they sit right now.

Auburn (9-2) 

Just win? Auburn's two-loss path is clear. Beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl and beat Georgia for the second time in the SEC championship, and the Tigers are in the College Football Playoff.

What to root for: It would help if Clemson — who beat the Tigers — won the ACC and handed Miami a loss. It would help if Wisconsin lost a game, but we still think the Tigers would get in with a SEC championship no matter what mess that creates among the other one- or two-loss teams.

Georgia (10-1) 

Just win? The Bulldogs have to beat Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale, and either Alabama or Auburn in the SEC championship game.

What to root for: It's SEC championship-or-bust for the Bulldogs, who used their mulligan against Auburn on Nov. 11.

Ohio State (9-2) 

Just win? Ohio State beats Michigan in the regular-season finale and Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.

What to root for: The Buckeyes been down this road before with one loss, and they would have a legitimate case with victories in hand against Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are still rooting for Alabama to win its conference to clear out as many SEC teams possible. It's not sure a thing, but the Buckeyes are in the mix.

MORE: Ohio State can break playoff again, with Bama's help

Next four out

Notre Dame (9-2) 

Just win? Notre Dame closes the regular season at Stanford. 

What to root for: There just isn't a scenario that favors Notre Dame. Georgia and Miami already beat the Irish, and Alabama and Clemson are ahead in the pecking order if they beat those teams in the conference championships, respectively. If TCU wins the Big 12 and Ohio State loses to Michigan then beats Wisconsin, then Notre Dame would have an argument as part of the two-loss crowd. But Miami, Clemson, Alabama and Georgia all have better cases win or lose at this point.

Penn State (9-2) 

Just win? Penn State closes the regular season against Maryland, but will not have a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game.

What to root for: Ohio State loses to Michigan and beats Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. The Nittany Lions can point to the hypocrisy after what happened with the Buckeyes last season — along with two losses by a total of four points —  but that scenario likely knocks the Big Ten out of the playoff altogether.

USC (10-2) 

Just win? The Trojans are done with the regular season, and they'll watch the Apple Cup to see who they'll play in the Pac-12 championship game.

What to root for: A rematch against Washington State in the Pac-12 championship game to rectify that one in-conference blemish. Alabama and Miami win out. Notre Dame loses to Stanford and Michigan beats Ohio State, giving the Irish and Buckeyes three losses. Then, Ohio State beats Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. All that might not even be enough. 

TCU (9-2) 

Just win? TCU can clinch a spot in the Big 12 championship game with a win against Baylor in the regular-season finale.

What to root for: Even with wins against the Bears and the Sooners in the Big 12 championship game, the Horned Frogs wouldn't be a lock. Would it really come down to two-loss TCU vs. Ohio State for the last spot? The Horned Frogs would have a split against the Sooners, something the Buckeyes didn't do. Would that be enough?

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