The college football playoff rankings are out and the top 10 is as follows:

1. Alabama (10-0), +1
2. Clemson (9-1), +2
3. Miami (9-0), +4
4. Oklahoma (9-1), +1
5. Wisconsin (10-0), +3
6. Auburn (8-2), +4
7. Georgia (9-1). -6
8. Notre Dame (8-2), -5
9. Ohio State (8-2), +4
10. Penn State (8-2), +4

The committee is definitely valuing head-to-head and better wins over particular losses. That is true with Clemson having a loss, but better performances in their wins than Miami (plus their loss coming without a quarterback and Miami barely beat the same team healthy). The same holds true with Auburn despite having two losses, but winning large over Georgia last week.

So now we are left wondering how things change over the next few weeks to give us our final top four ranked teams. Multiple teams within the top 10 still have to play each other before it’s all said and done:

#1 Alabama at #6 Auburn (November 25)
#2 Clemson vs. #3 Miami (ACC Championship, December 2)
#5 Wisconsin vs. (most likely) #9 Ohio State (Big Ten Championship, December 2)
#7 Georgia vs. #1 Alabama OR #6 Auburn (SEC Championship, December 2)

Not to mention Oklahoma still has a ranked game left in the Big 12 title game most likely against #12 TCU and Notre Dame has a road game against #22 Stanford.

So if things stay status quo over the next three weeks, the playoff would include:

– SEC Champion (Alabama, Auburn or Georgia)
– ACC Champion (Clemson or Miami)
– Big 12 Champion (Oklahoma)
– Big Ten Champion (Wisconsin)

But what chaos can happen to lead to a different final four teams? Here are the routes each team need to take (and hope others take) to make the final four on December 3:

1. Alabama

Win out. Simple, right? Maybe not when you have to go to Jordan-Hare next weekend and if you survive that, beat Georgia in Atlanta.

Let’s say they lose to Auburn close on the road to end the season and end up at 11-1. They must hope that Auburn then beats Georgia again in a dominant fashion like they did last week. Then your loss looks like the strongest of anyone since Auburn will be the hottest team in the country, even if they aren’t #1. So Auburn would be in. Alabama must hope that either Oklahoma or Wisconsin lose somewhere along the way, so that they can be considered either a stronger 1-loss team or considered because they have one loss instead of two.

Let’s say the beat Auburn and lose to Georgia. That will be tough because Georgia would be in at that point and Alabama will have beaten the team that just whooped Georgia. They will need the same chaos to happen in front of them and hope they can be in with Georgia. However, with that game being played on a “neutral field” (and a fresh loss the day the committee chooses), I doubt they would allow both in. If two SEC teams are to make it, it will have to be Alabama and Auburn in my opinion.

2. Clemson

Win out and you’re in. If Clemson loses to Miami, they are out. Their one saving grace would be the win over Auburn, but the committee would also note that the win came early in the season and arguably the best player on the team wasn’t there in Kerryon Johnson due to injury. I also don’t see anyway Clemson makes it in if they lose along the way to either South Carolina or Miami.

3. Miami

Win out and you’re in. If Miami loses one of their final regular season games, they will still most likely have a play-in against Clemson. Their last two games can’t be overlooked in an improved Virginia team this week and on the road at Pittsburgh to end the season. Miami has proven enough to jump up into the rankings, but there is a reason Clemson is ahead of them with a loss. This is essentially coming down to the title game for the ACC, and the only argument to be made is that if Miami loses, and it’s their first loss in a closely contested game, then perhaps you toy with the idea of Miami coming in as another team if Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Auburn all lose. Miami might have a tough time being chosen over a 1-loss Alabama team.

4. Oklahoma

Win out and you’re in. The Iowa State loss may be diminished a little bit with the losses that the Cyclones have, but Iowa State has also beaten other good teams which helps. They have nothing to worry about if they win out. A loss could change things. Losing to Kansas would eliminate them. Losing to West Virginia may not as long as they win the Big 12 title, but it depends who they will play in the Big 12 title game since there are three teams tied for second and a West Virginia win will make it four teams tied for first most likely.

5. Wisconsin

Win out and you’re in. Anyone that says they will leave out an undefeated Wisconsin team in favor of any two-loss team, including Auburn, is crazy. If that did happen, then the committee will have no doubt failed at it’s job. Now, if both teams made it and Auburn was a higher seed, then that could be for a number of reasons (geography, money, fan travel, match-ups, etc.). But there is no way that an undefeated Power 5 champion should ever be left out for any multiple loss team.

Never.

However, if Wisconsin loses in the regular season to either Michigan or Minnesota, then still wins the Big Ten title game, I think you still have to consider them. Michigan is a ranked team again and so that would be a decent loss. They would need Auburn to lose to guarantee a spot as a 1-loss champion.

6. Auburn

Win out and most likely you’re in. When Notre Dame was in the top four before last week, I said that a 2-loss Auburn team, even with all of their recent big wins, would still not be guaranteed in over a 1-loss Clemson, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and undefeated Wisconsin. Now that Notre Dame is out of the picture, it’s almost guaranteed that the SEC champion will be in because the tough games left are only against each other. If Auburn loses anywhere along the way, they are no doubt out with three losses. But if they win out, there shouldn’t be anything stopping them.

7. Georgia

Win out and you’re in. Auburn may be ahead now, but Georgia has every opportunity to jump them again. If Auburn loses to Alabama, then Georgia moves back up into the top 6, and has a shot at #1 themselves just like Auburn did and will play their way in. If Georgia beats Auburn in Atlanta, then Georgia will have still played it’s way in by essentially erasing that Auburn loss. If Georgia loses anywhere along the way, they are 100% out.

8. Notre Dame

This is interesting because I don’t see any way they make it in. They may be ranked ahead of Ohio State and USC, but both of those have real shots at conference titles and an extra win. Notre Dame doesn’t have that as an independent. If Notre Dame wins out, they will grab another win over a current top 25 team in Stanford, but would need at least Auburn and Clemson to lose. That would move them up to potentially #6, depending on how they view the Clemson loss.

Alabama, Miami, Oklahoma, Wisconsin would be ahead of them. If Oklahoma lost, then Notre Dame could potentially be that fourth team in instead. Their losses would be to Georgia (who would probably still barely be top 10) and Miami who would be top 2. If Georgia beat Alabama, then you could argue that Notre Dame played Georgia extremely close (although at home) and argue them in over Alabama since Alabama’s loss will be fresh.

9. Ohio State

Ohio State is the second 2-loss team I could see getting in if they win out and beat Wisconsin. Michigan probably won’t be ranked anymore if Wisconsin beats them, but they will still be a good team and then Ohio State will end the season with a win over a top 5 team.

If Auburn and Clemson lose, plus Georgia in the SEC title game, then you’ll have:

Alabama
Miami
Oklahoma

With a choice between 2-loss Big Ten champion Ohio State, 2-loss Pac-12 champion, 1-loss Wisconsin (who would have lost to Ohio State) and that’s basically it. There will be other 2-loss teams, but none with conference titles because the other three would be the three teams above. The only other option would be 2-loss Notre Dame.

10. Penn State

I just don’t see it. Even with chaos.

But who knows?