The scoreboard told the story as Auburn defeated No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Saturday. The Tigers' victory scrambles the college football playoff picture.
Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Losses by top-ranked Alabama and No. 2 Miami have scrambled the postseason college football playoff picture. Tuesday, the College Football Playoff selection will release the fifth of its six rankings, and the top four teams certainly will be different.
Clemson and Oklahoma will make strong cases to be ranked at No. 1, and Wisconsin and Auburn should receive some strong consideration for a top-four seeding.
Much of the playoff picture will be settled when the conference championship games are played next weekend. Who will be left standing when Selection Day rolls around on Dec. 3?
Auburn now has knocked off two teams ranked No. 1 in the CFP rankings, defeating Georgia 40-17 on Nov. 11 and then topping Alabama 26-14 on Saturday. If Auburn should win the Southeastern Conference title game against Georgia on Dec. 2, that would give the Tigers a strong case to make the CFP semifinals even though they have two losses. Auburn’s only defeats have come against ranked teams -- Clemson and LSU.
Since the current playoff system has been established, no team with two losses has made the semifinals.
Oklahoma, meanwhile, has three victories against ranked opponents, defeating Ohio State, Oklahoma State and TCU, and five road wins against Power 5 opponents. The Sooners’ lone loss came against Iowa State (7-5). To remain in the top four, Oklahoma must win the Big 12 conference championship game by defeating TCU for a second time this season.
Clemson has defeated Auburn and has seven wins overall against Power 5 opponents. The Tigers’ lone loss came against Syracuse (4-8), but the committee most likely will overlook that loss as a momentary stutter in their schedule.
Don’t count out Alabama and Ohio State just yet. Despite the loss to Auburn, and even though the Crimson Tide will not play in a conference title game, there are scenarios where Alabama could back into the semifinal round. Ohio State proved last season that the lack of a conference championship game victory is not necessarily a hindrance to reaching the playoffs.
Alabama’s best chance would come if Auburn defeats Georgia in the SEC championship game, coupled with losses by Oklahoma and Wisconsin in their respective conference title games. The Atlantic Coast Conference title game pits Clemson against Miami, and both teams have one loss. The winner of that game -- particularly Clemson -- has a good shot at making the postseason playoff.
Ohio State, with a victory against Wisconsin, could receive consideration even with two losses, which included an embarrassing 55-24 defeat to Iowa. A victory against the only Power 5 team with an undefeated record could push the Buckeyes past Alabama if a fourth berth should open up. Plus, Ohio State’s wins against ranked opponents such as Penn State and Michigan State might give the playoff committee some pause.
In The Associated Press poll released Sunday, Clemson is new No. 1, followed by Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Auburn.
Next weekend’s games will go a long way toward clearing up the playoff picture. But it could remain murky until Selection Day.