The SEC has been a major player in the national championship race every season since 2006. That’s not likely to change this year, as LSU, Alabama and Florida are all expected to be in or near the top 10 of Tuesday night’s College Football Playoff rankings.
Last fall, a selection committee replaced BCS computers as the NCAA’s solution to its annual problem: deciding which teams are worthy of playing for a title.
The first rankings featured three SEC West teams in the top four, but Mississippi State (No. 1), Auburn (No. 3) and Ole Miss (No. 4) all collapsed down the stretch.
Oregon (originally No. 5), Alabama (No. 6) and Ohio State (No. 16) all swooped in to join Florida State (No. 2) by the end of the season. Essentially: Tuesday’s first ranking won’t mean jack, except to identify some of the committee’s tendencies (i.e. how much does Memphis impress them?).
Here’s a quick breakdown of what you need to know before flipping on the tube:
- ESPN will broadcast the show at 7 p.m. ET.
- The committee will select a new Top 25 every week until the final ranking on Sunday, Dec. 6, when four teams will be selected to compete for this season’s national championship.
- There are 12 people on the selection committee, including SEC representatives Jeff Long (Arkansas) and Bobby Johnson (Vanderbilt).
- The committee makes decisions based on five primary categories: “conference championships won” (irrelevant until December), “strength of schedule,” “head-to-head competition,” “comparative outcomes of common opponents (without inventing margin of victory)” and “other relevant factors such as key injuries.”
- Ohio State
The order isn’t that important, but it would be surprising if a different team snuck in. In that case, TCU and Michigan State are the obvious party crashers.
- Michigan State
Ohio State and Michigan State will settle things on Nov. 21, but until then, the Spartans have a signature win (at Michigan), while the Buckeyes don’t. It’s sort of a dogpile at the top; No team has been dominant this season. Clemson has a huge “W” versus Notre Dame on its resumé, as well as a 58-0 beatdown of Miami two weeks ago.
- LSU at Alabama (Nov. 7) — If LSU wins, it controls its Playoff destiny. If Alabama wins, it will need some help from LSU two weeks later.
- LSU at Ole Miss (Nov. 21) — Ole Miss is still very much alive in the SEC championship race. The Rebels still need to get past the Tigers and rival Bulldogs in back-to-back weeks, though.
- Florida State at Florida (Nov. 28) — The ACC’s Seminoles are effectively out of the race, but Florida can still get into the Playoff by winning out.
- 2015 SEC Championship Game (Dec. 5) — Winning this game usually means a chance at a national title; the only exceptions would be two-loss Ole Miss or a one-loss Florida team that slips again before heading to Atlanta.
- Ohio State at Michigan State (Nov. 21) — The winner will take the Big Ten East and then can punch a Playoff ticket by winning the Big Ten championship game.
- Baylor at TCU (Nov. 27) — There’s still no Big 12 championship game, so — provided there are no other hiccups — the winner of this one will skate into the Playoff.
- Notre Dame at Stanford (Nov. 28) — If both teams can take care of business beforehand, this game could propel the winner into the committee’s top four.
- Ohio State at Michigan (Nov. 28) — The Wolverines have two heartbreaking losses against elite teams. There’s a good chance they’re better than the rival Buckeyes, who will be coming off a presumably exhausting matchup in East Lansing.