Rivalry Week is here. Will some College Football Playoff chaos come with it?
The outlook didn't change much in Week 12. Every team ranked in the top 10 won, and the next set of College Football Playoff rankings should maintain a top four of Alabama, Clemson, Miami and Oklahoma. That doesn't mean that next four out of Wisconsin, Auburn, Georgia and Ohio State can't make a playoff statement the next two weeks.
Six of those teams will play in conference championship games. The Iron Bowl will decide whether the Tide or Tigers play in the last one. Sporting News will break down the College Football Playoff picture each week. Bowl projections are out as well.
Who's in? Here is the playoff picture heading into Rivalry Week:
College Football Playoff picks
1. Alabama (11-0)
The Crimson Tide barrel into the Iron Bowl as one of three remaining unbeaten Power 5 teams, and they could feasibly still get in with a loss. Nick Saban has the bases covered. Jalen Hurts has thrown just one interception this season. He has won at every other SEC West stadium. This would complete the two-year tour.
2. Miami (10-0)
Clemson might be ranked ahead of the Hurricanes, but we’ll give this turnover-creating defense the benefit of the doubt while they’re undefeated. Miami is plus-16 in turnover margin heading into a Black Friday game at Pitt. If the Hurricanes win the ACC championship, then they will be in the College Football Playoff.
3. Clemson (10-1)
Of course, Clemson is the two-time defending ACC champion and has an excellent chance of making it a three-peat. Kelly Bryant totaled nine touchdowns over the last four games since the loss to Syracuse, and Dabo Swinney has the Tigers back in the hunt as usual. Clemson also has a chance to win four in a row against South Carolina for the first time since 2002-05.
4. Oklahoma (10-1)
The Sooners clinched a spot in the Big 12 championship game, and Baker Mayfield remains the Heisman Trophy front runner despite some more antics in a 41-3 victory against Kansas. The home regular-season finale against West Virginia is the next step.
One-loss teams: Clemson
Two-loss teams: None
Contenders: Miami vs. Clemson is shaping up to be the most intriguing conference championship game. As of now, it's a guaranteed play-in game.
One-loss teams: None
Two-loss teams: Ohio State, Penn State
Contenders: Wisconsin and Ohio State have clinched their spots in the Big Ten championship game, which effectively locks the Nittany Lions out of true playoff contention unless there's uncharted chaos. The Badgers control their playoff destiny, and the Buckeyes are much closer than you think.
One-loss teams: Oklahoma
Two-loss teams: TCU
Contenders: Oklahoma clinched its spot in the Big 12 championship game, and TCU can join the Sooners with a win next week. West Virginia, Texas, Iowa State and Oklahoma State all have three losses in conference play. The conference must be hoping the Horned Frogs win to avoid that mess.
One-loss teams: None
Two-loss teams: USC, Washington, Washington State
Contenders: The Apple Cup has major implications in the Pac-12 North, and the Cougars can win the division and set up a rematch with USC with a victory against Washington next week. A Huskies win gives the division to Stanford, which would be in a different conversation if not for the loss to San Diego State.
One-loss teams: Georgia
Two-loss teams: Auburn
Contenders: Same three-horse race, and the same stakes are in play over the next two weeks. The Auburn-Alabama winner gets Georgia in the SEC championship, who can't look past in-state rival Georgia Tech. That sets up another play-in game in Atlanta. No other conference has three teams in serious contention. Doesn't the SEC have a saying for such situations?
Independent/Group of 5
One-loss teams: Memphis, South Florida
Two-loss teams: Notre Dame, Toledo, Boise State, Troy
Contenders: The Irish don't have a conference championship game, so they'll likely have to settle for a New Year's Day Six bid if they beat Stanford. UCF and South Florida's game decides who plays Memphis in the AAC championship. The Knights are in great position heading into a showdown against South Florida on Saturday in one of the best games of Rivalry Week, too.