The final regular-season College Football Playoff ranking confirmed one thing: that most of the drama about this season’s playoff field has already been drained.
Tuesday’s ranking release basically laid out the template for the four-team playoff: Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and the Big Ten championship game winner, Michigan State or Iowa, are headed toward semifinal matchups on New Year’s Eve in the Orange and Cotton bowls.
Oklahoma, despite its loss to Texas early in the season, is a lock because the Sooners are finished playing. The Big 12 is the only power conference that does not have a title game.
Clemson retained the top spot this week in spite of a lackluster win over woeful South Carolina. Alabama is second, followed by Oklahoma, Iowa and Michigan State.
Ohio State is No. 6, followed by Stanford, which moved up two spots after Saturday’s win over Notre Dame. The Irish dropped from fourth to eighth; Florida State and North Carolina moved up to Nos. 9 and 10.
The winner of the Michigan State-Iowa game is in, so any change to the playoff lineup would have to start with a loss by Clemson and/or Alabama in their conference title games, which could open a possible path for Stanford.
Clemson plays North Carolina for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship; Alabama plays Florida for the Southeastern Conference title.
If it can win the Pac-12 championship Saturday against USC, Stanford is likely to move up at least two spots, jumping the loser of the Big Ten title game as well as Ohio State, which did not win its Big Ten division.
The final ranking and pairings will be announced Sunday.