The Pulse: CFP scenarios

The College Football Playoff rankings for this week aired later than usual last night thanks to a long basketball game (more on that in second). The top four remained the same:


Ohio State



The next three is where it gets interesting: No. 5 Tennessee, No. 6 LSU and No. 7 USC. With LSU set to play Georgia in three weeks, the Vols — who already have a win over LSU — and USC are the best NCAAF odds to slide in.

A few scenarios:

It will be fascinating to see how the committee treats whichever team loses Ohio State-Michigan next weekend. A close game could see the loser get the No. 4 seed, while a blowout loss opens the door for Tennessee.

TCU still has the Big 12 title game to play. Plenty of room for a loss, with no Big 12 team primed to replace them in the top four. That means one of those lurkers gets in.

If my LSU Tigers beat Georgia? The committee has a tough choice to make between a two-loss SEC champ (LSU), a one-loss SEC runner-up (Georgia) and a one-loss Tennessee, who throttled LSU earlier in the season.

Here is a full breakdown of every scenario here. Again, it’s going to be a fun few weeks.

The Volunteers’ path to the Playoff: The Vols are 21-point favorites on the road Saturday against South Carolina and may be even bigger favorites against Vanderbilt next week.

That’s nice on the field but prevents them from making a final statement to the committee. Tennessee can’t do anything to improve its profile, but it doesn’t need much help to make the field after Oregon and UCLA lost last week.

The Vols would have a reasonable chance to get in the field over a one-loss Pac-12 champion USC because their resume is so much better. The Vols’ wins over Alabama and LSU are better than any win USC has now, but the Trojans would log Top 25 wins over Notre Dame, UCLA and its Pac-12 title game opponent if it gets to the finish line with one loss.

It would be close if the fourth spot comes down to Tennessee or USC, but Tennessee would coast into the Playoff with two of the following four results: a USC loss, a TCU loss, a two-loss ACC champion or a lopsided Ohio State loss to Michigan. It likely would be favored to make the field even if just one of those four things happened, with slightly varied odds depending on which of the four occurred.

There’s also a fascinating, albeit unlikely scenario in which the committee would have to debate two-loss SEC champion LSU with wins over Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss with a Tennessee team that didn’t win its division, but it seems far-fetched to believe the committee would put in an LSU team over a Tennessee team with one fewer loss that beat the Tigers by four touchdowns in Death Valley. It’s not impossible, but putting in LSU over Tennessee would be the committee’s most controversial decision in its history.

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