The playoff committee rankings were released Tuesday night, setting the stage for the most-cluttered finish in the four-year history of the playoff format, and raising the stakes on the college football betting odds for the conference championship games.
Eight teams have a viable path to a spot in the final four, depending on the outcome of this week's conference championship games.
The top 8 are Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Alabama, Georgia, Miami and Ohio State.
Here are the stakes. The winners of the ACC and SEC championship games will positively be in the Final 4. Oklahoma only gets in if it beats TCU, and the Big 12 is out if the Horned Frogs win. Wisconsin only gets in if it beats Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have an outside shot at representing the Big Ten if they defeat the Badgers. However, a 2-loss Ohio State team also has to clear the hurdle of a 1-loss Alabama team sitting 3 places in front of them.
It is interesting to note that 7 of this week's 9 conference championship games feature rematches from the 2017 regular season. USC and Stanford met on September 9, while the Georgia-Auburn and TCU-Oklahoma games were played October 11. Toledo and Akron squared off on October 21, as did North Texas and FAU. UCF and Memphis met on September 30, while Fresno State and Boise State played this past weekend.
Here's a breakdown of every conference game.
No. 20 Memphis at No. 14 UCF - Memphis returns to the scene of its only regular season loss, a 40-13 beat-down. At stake is the lone automatic entry available to a Big 6 Bowl for teams from the Group of 5 conferences (American, CUSA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt). Due to Hurricane Irma, both schools only played 11 regular season games. The Knights (11-0) join Wisconsin as the only undefeated teams in the FBS.
Congrove Computer Rankings: UCF by 0.96.
No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 7 Miami (at Charlotte) - The winner will advance to the 4-team playoff for the National Championship. The 'Canes (10-1) and Tigers (11-1) have not played each other since 2015. The head coaches are 1-1 vs. each other and both games took place when Mark Richt was the head coach of Georgia. This is Miami's first chance at any conference championship since 2003, which was the last season the Hurricanes resided in the Big East. It comes in just the second season after Richt returned to his alma mater. Two-time defending ACC champion Clemson is making its third straight appearance, and fifth since 2009 - all under Dabo Swinney. The Tigers, of course, are also trying to stay on course for a third straight national title game appearance and second consecutive national title.
Congrove Computer Rankings: Clemson by 7.30.
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Ohio State (at Indianapolis) - The Badgers, despite being the only undefeated team among Power 5 conferences, must win to advance to the Final Four. Ohio State (10-2) only has an outside chance of getting in to the national playoff with a victory. The last time these teams met in the Big Ten Championship game, the Buckeyes embarrassed Wisconsin 59-0 in 2014 for their only outright conference title since 2009. Ohio State won 30-23 in overtime at Wisconsin last year in a regular season game. The Buckeyes lead the over-all series by the lopsided count of 58-18-5. This is only the 7th Big Ten Championship game ever staged and Wisconsin has played in all but two of them. The Badgers last won the title in 2012.
Congrove Computer Rankings: Ohio State by 3.26.
No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 TCU (at Arlington) - If Oklahoma (11-1) doesn't win, the Big 12 gets left out of the Final Four. The Sooners beat the Horned Frogs (10-2) 38-20 in Norman on November 11, and have won 6 of the last 7 meetings overall.
Congrove Computer Rankings: Oklahoma by 6.05.
North Texas at FAU - FAU is 9-3 and ranked No. 28 in the Congrove Computer Rankings. North Texas is also 9-3, and ranked No. 37. The Owls went undefeated in conference play in their first season under head coach Lane Kiffin. Both teams had remarkable turnaround seasons as the Owls were 3-9 a year ago and the Mean Green were 5-7. FAU ripped UNT 69-31 in Boca Raton on October 21 as Kiffin's team scored on its first 11 possessions. FAU has never won, or even played in, a conference championship game. North Texas won 3 outright conference titles, and shared another, from 2001-2004 as a member of the Sun Belt.
Congrove Computer Rankings: FAU by 12.42.
Akron vs. Toledo (at Detroit) - The MAC began staging a conference championship game in 1997. Akron has played in it once, beating Northern Illinois in 2005 for its' first and only conference title. This is Toledo's first trip since 2004 when the Rockets beat Miami (O.) in the first MAC title game played in Detroit. Akron (7-5, 6-2) won 3 of its last 4 games, including an upset of Ohio. Toledo (10-2, 7-1) is ranked 15th in the Congrove Computer Rankings. Akron is ranked 62nd.
Congrove Computer Rankings: Toledo by 13.75
No. 25 Fresno State at Boise State - Fresno State and Boise State will play for the second week-in-a-row, this time to determine the Mountain West champ. The Bulldogs replaced the Broncos in the college football playoff selection committee rankings after a 28-17 upset win in Fresno this past Saturday. But despite Fresno State's victory, and identical records of 9-3 overall and 7-1 in the MWC, Boise State gets to host the game on the strength of its rankings in a group of former BCS computer models. The Bulldogs won the first MWC Championship game ever played in 2013. The Broncos last won it the following year by defeating Fresno State. in Jeff Tedford's first season as head coach at Fresno State, he has led the Bulldogs to an 8-win improvement over last year's 1-11 mark.
Congrove Computer Rankings: Boise State by 10.80.
No. 10 USC vs. No. 12 Stanford (at Santa Clara) - USC won the regular season battle 42-24 in L.A. on September 9 to halt a 3-game losing skid in the series. These teams met in the 2015 PAC-12 title game with Stanford winning 41-22. The Trojans (10-2) and Cardinal (9-3) are too far down the pecking order to have any shot at making the Final 4. Perhaps tougher to swallow is that the winner can't go to the Rose Bowl as that game is a semifinal site for the playoff.
Congrove Computer Rankings: Stanford by 3.29
No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 6 Georgia (at Atlanta) - Georgia is practically the home team, and that could be good for the Bulldogs who were routed 40-17 at Auburn on November 11. That was the first of two wins for the Tigers over teams ranked No. 1 by the playoff committee. The second, of course, came this past Saturday over Alabama. Georgia (11-1) hopes to catch the Auburn team that lost two games this year, but the Tigers have won 5 straight in mostly impressive style. The winner gets to the Final Four.
Congrove Computer Rankings: Georgia by 0.89