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CFP Rankings Round 5

By Jamison Cook | December 02
CFP Rankings Round 5
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A few things need to happen for the Irish, but it’s very possible

The College Football Playoffs released their penultimate rankings on Tuesday night, letting Notre Dame know exactly what they need to happen in order to slip into the semifinals. It was the second biggest (or maybe third if we hire someone soon) piece of news for the Irish this week, but we will wait to dive into the Brian Kelly drama until a new head coach is named. In the meantime, the Top 25 in the CFP rankings are as follows:

1) Georgia

2) Michigan

3) Alabama

4) Cincinnati

5) Oklahoma State

6) Notre Dame

7) Ohio State

8) Ole Miss

9) Baylor

10) Oregon

11) Michigan State

12) BYU

13) Iowa

14) Oklahoma

15) Pittsburgh

16) Wake Forest

17) Utah

18) NC State

19) San Diego State

20) Clemson

21) Houston

22) Arkansas

23) Kentucky

24) Louisiana

25) Texas A&M

The Irish dropped from No. 5 to No. 6 from last week's rankings, but not much has changed in what Notre Dame needs to happen during Conference Championship weekend. CFP committee chairman Gary Barta admitted that the loss of Brian Kelly and lack of a head coach hurt the Irish’s ranking this week (which is bogus), but, pending the hire of Marcus Freeman and the right combination of events on Saturday, Notre Dame could be looking at another CFP berth. Let’s take a look at what needs to happen to get a motivated, angry bunch of guys into the Playoff.

Georgia beats Bama in the SEC Championship

This would preferably be a blowout that completely eliminates the Crimson Tide from the committee’s minds. This is probably the most likely and necessary piece to the puzzle for the Irish to make the Playoff, because if Alabama is to come out on top in this one, both Georgia and Bama would likely make the Final Four. Alabama definitely hurt themselves by letting 6-6 Auburn stay close and barely escaping in overtime last week, but the Crimson Tide are still very much in play for the CFP. Georgia is virtually a lock regardless of the outcome this weekend, so an Alabama win would occupy a valuable Playoff spot that the Irish might need. Even a close loss could keep Alabama in the conversation, so a Bulldog blowout would be ideal.

And at least one of the following happens:

Iowa beats Michigan in the Big 10 Championship

Seeing Jim Harbaugh lose the week after finally beating Ohio State would certainly brighten my day, but the Wolverines might have the easiest road to the CFP at this point. Iowa has struggled mightily down the stretch this season, and the once No. 2-ranked Hawkeyes are not the same team that beat Penn State in early October. That being said, this is Big 10 football, and anything can happen. Iowa should look to keep it low scoring by keeping the ball away from Hassan Haskins and the Michigan offense with long, run-heavy drives that can drain the clock. Please keep Harbaugh away from that Big 10 Championship trophy.

Houston beats Cincinnati in the AAC Championship

Cincinnati has looked shaky as of late, and the Bearcats are certainly vulnerable to an upset this weekend. It would be a massive disappointment for Luke Fickell’s team, as they are on the brink of history as the first Group of 5 school to make the committee’s Final Four. This does mean that all of the pressure will be on Cincinnati this weekend, and Houston should definitely be the more free-playing team on the field on Saturday. Houston can score too, as evidenced by QB Clayton Tune’s 26 TD passes and RB Alton McCaskill’s 16 rushing TDs. If I were a betting man, I think Cincinnati will be the most likely domino to fall besides Alabama.

Baylor beats Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship

The Bears and Cowboys have played once already this year, with Oklahoma State coming out on top 24-14 on Oct. 2nd. That game was two months ago, and both teams have really picked up their level of play since then. Both have beaten Big 12 power Oklahoma in the meantime, and this should be a fantastic matchup. Baylor QB Gerry Bohanon has missed the last 1.5 games with a right hamstring injury, and his status is still up in the air. He has to play if Baylor wants a chance in this one, and Irish fans should be rooting for his health in the coming days. If Bohanon doesn’t play, the Cowboys have a clear path to the Playoff as long as one of the teams (not named Georgia) ahead of them loses, and the fact that committee ranked them ahead of Notre Dame this week is an indication that the Cowboys will get in before the Irish with a win this weekend.

Rooting guide: given all these scenarios, Notre Dame fans should be rooting for these teams this weekend…

No. 1 Georgia over No. 3 Alabama – Saturday, 4pm, CBS

No. 13 Iowa over No. 2 Michigan – Saturday, 8pm, FOX

No. 21 Houston over No. 4 Cincinnati – Saturday, 4pm, ABC

No. 9 Baylor over No. 5 Oklahoma State – Saturday, 12pm, ABC