Half of the equation is pretty simple. Georgia and Ohio State look destined to win their final three games and lock up spots in the College Football Playoff.
After that, things get dicey. Cincinnati is in strong position with an undefeated record, even though its strength of schedule is lacking. The Bearcats, however, need some help – a loss by either Oregon or Alabama – to make the field.
The good news for Cincinnati is the Ducks and Crimson Tide have difficult roads ahead. Oregon faces Utah on the road this week and likely again in the Pac-12 title game. There’s also rival Oregon State sandwiched in between. Alabama travels to Auburn and then must beat Georgia in the SEC title game.
It seems more likely both teams end up losing, putting Cincinnati comfortably in as the third seed and creating team controversy around the fourth spot.
RANKINGS PREDICTION: Notre Dame has a path to the semifinals
OVERREACTIONS: Kiffin’s off-field antics are hurting Mississippi
Among the possibilities in this dilemma:
One-loss Notre Dame
Two-loss Alabama after a close game against Georgia
Two-loss Oregon as a Pac-12 champion
A one-loss Big 12 champion – either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State
One-loss Wake Forest as an ACC champion
None of this group would have a clear case with each having significant flaws in their profile. This is where the committee has to sort out a convoluted scenario with at-large teams and conference champions.
Alabama testing Georgia would probably be enough to land the last spot, even if there’s going to be significant criticism and a perceived SEC bias. The committee clearly loves the Crimson Tide as shown by its No. 2 ranking. Would they really drop three places after pushing the clear No. 1 team that hasn’t been threatened all season? The most-likely answer is no.
Oklahoma’s loss pushed the Sooners down into the New Year’s Six group this week. Joining them is Wake Forest and Michigan. Falling out are Penn State and North Carolina State.
Reminder: Notre Dame is part of the ACC bowl pool. Some conferences may not fulfill their bowl allotment. Asterisks denote a replacement pick.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football bowl projections: Alabama jumps Oklahoma into playoff