Sometimes it doesn’t take upsets to clarify things in the College Football Playoff race.
As the season winds down, the possibilities shrink and contenders fall out. Neither Oregon nor Michigan State were favored on the road last weekend, so their defeats were not surprising. The only unexpected part of the result was how thoroughly they were beaten. The Ducks would need a miracle to get back into the race, while the Spartans are eliminated from the Big Ten title and have a ceiling for their ranking.
So where does that leave things with the rest of the field?
Georgia and Ohio State continue to be significant favorites to win out and be the respective top two seeds. Cincinnati would appear to need wins against East Carolina and then Houston in the American Athletic championship game to all but assure its place. Alabama remains in good shape for the fourth spot if it wins against Georgia in the SEC title game or plays the Bulldogs close.
LOOKING AHEAD: Predicting the College Football Playoff rankings release
OVERREACTIONS: Alabama beat Georgia. Michigan State was exposed
WEEK 12 ANALYSIS: Cincinnati has great weekend; Penn State finds QB
A group of four lurks behind the top four. Michigan hosts Ohio State on Saturday and would win the Big Ten East with a victory. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, both with one loss, also meet. The Sooners would earn a rematch with the Cowboys in this year’s Big 12 title game with a road win Saturday. (Oklahoma State would face Baylor in the Big 12 title game with a win.) And then there’s the case of one-loss Notre Dame: The Irish could benefit from a series of losses from the teams above, but a lot will have to go right.
The complete postseason picture appears to be clarifying, too. There are 72 teams already with the requisite six wins needed to qualify for a bowl game. Four games this weekend will match 5-6 teams. That means six other 5-6 teams need to win before we get to the point of losing teams getting selected.
Reminder: Some conferences may not fulfill their bowl allotment. Asterisks denote a replacement pick.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football bowl projections: Playoff race starting to make sense