GRAPEVINE, Texas — Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens, who is also the chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee, is here at the Gaylord Texan Resort, not the Pac-12 championship game, where his two-loss Ducks had a chance to win the league — and simultaneously eliminate it from the CFP with a win over No. 5 Utah.
Selection committee member Joe Castiglione, who is the athletic director at Oklahoma, is also here instead of watching his Sooners in the Big 12 conference championship game in nearby Arlington, Texas. All 13 committee members checked in by 4 p.m. CT on Friday to meet, have dinner and then watch the Pac-12 title game together.
While the Pac-12 and Big 12 have generated the most discussion this week because they are jockeying for the fourth spot, every Power 5 championship game will influence the committee’s final votes on Selection Day.
The playoff tracker is your one-stop shop for how each result will impact the committee’s decision, and it will be updated as soon as each game ends:
No. 13 Oregon 37, No. 5 Utah 15
CJ Verdell runs for 208 yards and three touchdowns as Oregon wins 37-15 to secure its spot in the Rose Bowl.
On a night when the Pac-12 had the selection committee’s undivided attention as the only game being played, No. 5 Utah flopped in fantastic fashion, as two-loss Oregon thoroughly outplayed the Utes en route to winning the conference championship.
Utah’s loss crushed the Pac-12’s playoff hopes, but it was exactly what the Big 12 needed. The winner of Saturday’s game between Oklahoma and Baylor will be in prime position to finish in the fourth spot — assuming No. 2 LSU knocks No. 4 Georgia out of it. If Georgia loses, the Allstate Playoff Predictor gives Oklahoma a 70% chance to make the playoff with a Big 12 title, and Baylor a 59% chance with a win.
What we’re watching on Saturday
No. 6 Oklahoma 30, No. 7 Baylor 23 (OT)
After a thrilling four quarters, Oklahoma seals the game with stifling defense in overtime to defeat Baylor 30-23 and win its second consecutive Big 12 championship.
It wasn’t exactly winning with style, but with Oklahoma’s overtime win against Baylor — the second time this season the Sooners defeated the Bears — determining the top four should be extremely easy for the committee. If LSU beats No. 4 Georgia to open the final spot, the Big 12 champs should slide right in with little debate, as the Sooners just added another top-10 win and conference title to their résumé.
Oklahoma’s defense, which was historically bad last year, has improved drastically this season under coordinator Alex Grinch and was a key factor on Saturday. Although OU has won close games for over a month (winning by just 6.5 points per game in November), its conference title and wins over ranked opponents Baylor and No. 25 Oklahoma State will make it easy for the committee to justify the No. 4 spot. No. 6 Utah is sure to drop after its loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game on Friday night, opening the door for OU to return to the semifinals.
No. 17 Memphis 29, No. 20 Cincinnati 24
Brady White finds Antonio Gibson for the six-yard touchdown giving the Tigers the late lead.
No. 20 Memphis likely locked up a spot in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic after its AAC championship win over No. 20 Cincinnati, the second time in two weeks the Tigers were able to defeat the Bearcats. While it doesn’t impact the top four, it’s still an important result to the New Year’s Six Bowl lineup, as the highest-ranked conference champion from the Group of 5 is guaranteed a spot. With Memphis winning, the AAC avoided the possibility of a two-loss champ being compared with No. 19 Boise State, which defeated Hawai’i 31-10 to win the Mountain West. No. 21 Appalachian State also defeated Louisiana to win the Sun Belt, but all of them have been looking up at the AAC in the committee’s rankings this season, and that’s unlikely to change on Selection Day.
No. 2 LSU 37, No. 4 Georgia 10
Joe Burrow puts defenders on ice skates and completes a 71-yard pass to Justin Jefferson which eventually leads to an LSU touchdown.
Undefeated No. 2 LSU handled No. 4 Georgia with ease, winning the SEC and locking up a spot in the top four — but was it enough to unseat Ohio State for the No. 1 spot? It should be the committee’s biggest debate this year. Selection committee chair Rob Mullens said on Tuesday that Ohio State’s defense had a slight edge and was a separating factor between the two teams, but the Tigers shut down a depleted Georgia offense and forced Jake Fromm into two interceptions. With four wins against four opponents ranked in the committee’s top 12 (Florida, Auburn, Alabama and now Georgia), LSU has a case for the best résumé in the country. LSU’s win also knocked Georgia out of the playoff and opened the fourth spot for Big 12 champion Oklahoma.
No. 23 Virginia vs. No. 3 Clemson (7:30 p.m. ET/ABC)
Can Clemson avoid what would be the biggest upset in the Power 5 title games? It should, because the Tigers are averaging 50.4 points since Oct. 12 and facing a three-loss team making its first appearance in the ACC championship game. If Clemson doesn’t? There’s a good chance the defending national champs would be left out. It would be hard for the selection committee to deem Clemson “unequivocally” one of the four best teams in the country with the No. 85 strength of schedule.
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (8 p.m. ET/Fox)
Can Ohio State hang on to the top spot? Even if the Buckeyes lose, assuming it’s a close game, they’re probably still in, but if Ohio State and LSU both win, how they look in the process could determine who finishes No. 1. They have comparable résumés and have been extremely close in the eyes of the committee. Heading into Saturday, LSU was No. 1 in ESPN’s strength of record metric, and Ohio State was No. 2.