This should be an interesting, precedent-setting evening for the College Football Playoff committee.
For the first time in Playoff history, a Power 5 school — the Big 12’s Oklahoma — has officially clinched its conference title before Championship Weekend. In 2014, Baylor and TCU didn’t earn the distinction of Big 12 “co-champs” until the first Saturday of December.
As such, don’t be surprised if the Sooners (temporarily) leapfrog over Alabama and/or top-ranked Clemson come Tuesday night.
That statement has a tinge of blasphemy considering that Clemson has been the only No. 1 in the CFP committee’s eyes since the inaugural Playoff rankings were released Nov. 3. Alabama — boasting nine consecutive wins, with an average victory margin of 22.5 points — has been firmly entrenched at No. 2 since its rout of LSU on Nov. 7.
But this is an important night for the committee. It represents a golden opportunity to back up its long-standing creed of how Conference Championships Matter. And right now, the Big 12 champion Sooners are the only ones who can officially cash in their “championship” bonus, relative to the Playoff standings.
Which raises the question: How high could Oklahoma end up in this week’s rankings?
Oklahoma (11-1) versus Alabama (11-1)
**Citing ESPN’s Football Power Index, Oklahoma and Alabama hold the No. 1 and No. 2 slots.
**Oklahoma has more victories over top-10 FPI teams (two) than Alabama (zero).
**Alabama has more FPI wins over top-40 schools (eight) than Oklahoma (six).
**Citing TeamRankings.com’s “Strength Of Schedule” analysis, Oklahoma and Alabama hold the No. 1 and No. 2 spots.
**Alabama (SEC West champion) still needs to beat Florida to capture the SEC crown.
**Citing the vast majority of metrics, Alabama’s loss to Ole Miss supersedes Oklahoma’s bad defeat to 4-7 Texas.
**Common opponents: Both Alabama and Oklahoma earned narrow victories over Tennessee.
**Total defense: Alabama ranks second nationally; Oklahoma sits at 31st overall.
**Total offense: Oklahoma ranks seventh nationally; Alabama stands at 51st overall.
**The eye test: Oklahoma recently swept through Big 12 powers Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State in consecutive weeks.
Clemson (12-0) versus Oklahoma (11-1)
**Citing ESPN’s Football Power Index, Oklahoma (No. 1) has a higher ranking than Clemson (No. 6)
**Oklahoma and Clemson have an equal number of victories over top-10 FPI schools (two).
**Oklahoma has more FPI wins over top-40 schools (six) than Clemson (five).
**Citing TeamRankings.com’s “Strength Of Schedule” analysis, Oklahoma and Clemson hold the No. 1 and No. 20 spots.
**Clemson (Atlantic Division champion) still needs to beat North Carolina to claim the ACC title.
**As one of only two unbeaten clubs among the CFP25 (along with Iowa), Clemson easily trumps Oklahoma’s bad loss to Texas.
**Common opponents: None
**Total defense: Clemson ranks seventh nationally; Oklahoma sits at 31st overall.
**Total offense: Oklahoma ranks seventh nationally; Clemson stands at 14th overall.
**The eye test: Oklahoma recently swept through Big 12 powers Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State in consecutive weeks. Clemson, led by probable Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson (3,984 total yards, 36 touchdowns at quarterback), handled its five most prominent opponents — Florida State, Notre Dame, Miami, Louisville, South Carolina — by a composite score of 162-84.
ADVANTAGE: Clemson … by a whisker
Here’s a refresher course on the CFP’s committee criteria for choosing the four national semifinalists:
The criteria to be provided to the selection committee must be aligned with the ideals of the commissioners, presidents, athletic directors and coaches to honor regular season success while at the same time providing enough flexibility and discretion to select a non-champion or independent under circumstances where that particular non-champion or independent is unequivocally one of the four best teams in the country.
When circumstances at the margins indicate that teams are comparable, then the following criteria must be considered:
- Championships won
- Strength of schedule
- Head-to-head competition (if it occurred)
- Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory)
NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS
Oklahoma’s potential reign over Alabama and Clemson should last only one week, provided the Crimson Tide and Tigers take care of business on Championship Saturday.
It all balances out in the end.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.