The fifth and penultimate edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings was released Tuesday night with Georgia remaining the No. 1 team in the nation. The next team in the rankings was a fresh one, however, with Michigan ascending to the No. 2 spot after soundly defeating Ohio State in The Game during Rivalry Week. It is the Wolverines’ first trip to the top four since late in the 2018 season; however, UM did not make the final CFP field that year.
Alabama and Cincinnati took the final two spots entering a weekend of conference championship games. The Bearcats, at 12-0 with two Power Five wins, remain the first Group of Five program to be placed among the top four in the CFP Rankings. Cincinnati has made history all season as the highest-ranked Group of Five program in the process but now have a legitimate opportunity to make the playoff. Whether that will come to fruition depends on the Bearcats beating Houston in the AAC Championship Game and hoping Georgia defeats Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
It’s also possible Cincinnati could be jumped by Oklahoma State in the top four. Outside of the current top four, the only other teams with a realistic shot at finishing among those spaces are the Cowboys (vs. Baylor in the Big 12 Championship Game) and Notre Dame, which does not have a league title game to play and just lost coach Brian Kelly to LSU on Monday. As Oklahoma State faces a top-10 opponent Saturday, there could be enough momentum to move it ahead of Cincinnati if both teams win.
In the history of the CFP, no team ranked outside the top seven at this late point in the season has moved into the four-team field after the conference title games. The No. 7 team has advanced to the top four twice: Oklahoma in 2017, Georgia in 2019….