Ohio State remains No. 1. Can the Buckeyes hold off LSU?
The College Football Playoff committee released its penultimate rankings of the 2019 season on Tuesday night, and there was no change among the top four teams as we approach championship weekend.
Alabama and Minnesota played their way out of playoff discussion last week with losses to Auburn and Wisconsin, respectively. The Crimson Tide dropped from No. 5 to No. 12 — interestingly, there are three two-loss teams ahead of Nick Saban's club — while the Golden Gophers plunged 10 spots from No. 8 to No. 18.
Utah seized the important No. 5 spot, setting up the biggest game in school history on Friday night when the Utes take on No. 13 Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Athlon Sports editors Mitch Light, Steven Lassan and Braden Gall will offer their initial reaction to the rankings every week.
Athlon Sports Reacts
Mitch Light: I was curious to see if LSU would reclaim the No. 1 spot after its dominant defensive showing against Texas A&M (the Aggies managed only 169 yards). Ohio State, according to the committee, jumped up to No. 1 a few weeks ago because it was the more complete team — due in large part to LSU's relative struggles on defense. So if LSU shuts down the Georgia offense and plays well defensively for the second straight week, would that be enough to claim the top spot? Probably not, but it will be interesting to monitor the committee’s thought process.
Utah remaining ahead of Oklahoma and Baylor was obviously important. Now we will wait to see if the committee jumps the winner of the Big 12 title game over Utah because its win would be better than Utah's victory over Oregon. This, of course, assumes an LSU win over Georgia, which would open up the fourth spot.
I agree with the general consensus that Ohio State and LSU have already secured a spot in the playoff no matter what happens this weekend. And I would also throw Clemson into that mix. I believe the Tigers would still make it with a close loss to Virginia.
Steven Lassan: The top of the rankings didn't provide much in the way of surprises this week. Ohio State, LSU, and Clemson are locks to make the CFB Playoff. The only question hovering over the top three is what order they appear on Sunday.
The intrigue remains at No. 4, with Georgia, Utah, and Oklahoma vying for the last spot. The committee has an easy job if the Bulldogs upset the Tigers. Assuming LSU wins on Saturday, Utah seems poised to claim the No. 4 spot. Even though the Sooners have a better resume, the committee believes the Utes are simply better.
I was surprised at how far Alabama (seven spots) and Minnesota (10) fell this week. Moving the Crimson Tide down behind Auburn is fair due to the head-to-head victory. However, that's a lot of ground to penalize a team that scored 45 points with a backup quarterback on the road in a rivalry game. Moving Alabama to No. 12 likely opens the door for the Big Ten to get another team into a New Year's Six bowl.
The debate between Memphis/Cincinnati and Boise State for the Group of 5 spot will be interesting on Sunday. Even though the Bearcats have two losses, the one-spot difference this week suggests Boise State isn't a lock for the New Year's Six if Memphis loses.
Braden Gall: There are a few interesting points of intrigue for me. First, No. 1 overall. It will likely be a far easier game than facing Clemson in the first round, so who is atop the standings matters more this year than ever before. LSU has the better resume, but Ohio State has been more complete. Wisconsin's move up four spots to No. 8 is notable for two reasons. A win by Ohio State over the Badgers likely cements its status as No. 1 or creates a very outside chance Wisconsin could find itself in playoff contention with a win over No. 1 and lots of help.
Utah being ahead of Oklahoma is important should both win and present 12-1 conference championship credentials to the committee. The Sooners have far better victories than the Utes, but have not been as dominant or balanced. Alabama's fall is comically dumb but completely irrelevant.
When is the College Football Playoff?
The national semifinals will be played on Dec. 28, 2019 followed by the national championship game on Jan. 13, 2020
Where is the College Football Playoff?
One national semifinal will be played at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. The other is at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
Week 15 College Football Playoff Rankings
1. Ohio State, 12-0
2. LSU, 12-0
3. Clemson, 12-0
4. Georgia, 11-1
5. Utah, 11-1
6. Oklahoma, 11-1
7. Baylor, 11-1
8. Wisconsin, 10-2
9. Florida, 10-2
10. Penn State, 10-2
11. Auburn, 9-3
12. Alabama, 10-2
13. Oregon, 10-2
14. Michigan, 9-3
15. Notre Dame, 10-2
16. Iowa, 9-3
17. Memphis, 11-1
18. Minnesota, 10-2
19. Boise State, 11-1
20. Cincinnati, 10-2
21. Appalachian State, 11-1
22. USC, 8-4
23. Virginia, 9-3
24. Navy, 9-2
25. Oklahoma State, 8-4