Someone has to be No. 4.
It might as well be the USC Trojans.
The 11-1 Trojans take on No. 11 Utah Friday night in the PAC-12 championship game out in Las Vegas.
It is a chance for USC to avenge their only loss of the season, win the PAC-12 and clinch a spot for the first time in the four-team College Football Playoff.
And everyone who ever watches college football knows that there’s never any controversy or issues around the four teams who make the playoff.
The CFP semifinals are slated to take place Dec. 31 in Tempe, Arizona and Atlanta, with the title game right here in Los Angeles at SoFi Stadium on Jan. 9.
Wow, USC in the title game in LA? That would be something. Currently, the Trojans are -155 to make the Playoff at DraftKings Sportsbook.
But they have to get there first. Let’s look at the teams vying for the four spots and who/what could mess up the Trojans drive to the CFP.
No. 1 Georgia (12-0)
Remaining schedule: The Bulldogs play LSU in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta Saturday afternoon. Full disclosure, the author is an LSU alum. That said, Georgia should roll.
The case for Georgia: Georgia is defending national champs. They destroyed Oregon in the season opener giving them a huge out-of-conference win. They beat Tennessee 27-13, crushed Auburn, Mississippi State and South Carolina.
Doomsday Scenario: Maybe LSU stomps Georgia and gets all the breaks. That would cause chaos. But even if that happened, Georgia is still probably getting into the four-team playoff.
Are they in? Yes, 99 percent.
No. 2 Michigan (12-0)
Remaining schedule: Michigan plays Purdue in the Big 10 Championship game Saturday night in Indianapolis. Michigan is the heavy favorite.
The case for Michigan: It basically boils down to the fact that they beat Ohio State….on the road last week. The Wolverines had a close win over Illinois the week before, but they’re the best team in the Big 10.
Doomsday Scenario: A loss to Purdue makes the committee wonder if Michigan belongs. Remember, they did get crushed by Georgia in the CFP semifinals last year. But that may be more because Georgia was so good.
Are they in? Yes, 85 percent. A loss to Purdue would really mess things up though.
No. 3 TCU (12-0)
Remaining schedule: The Horned Frogs face Kansas State in Jerry World Saturday at noon in the Big-12 Championship game.
The case for TCU: TCU has quietly been the best team in the Big 12 all season, but the problem with that is people don’t think of the Big 12 as being any good. Texas and Oklahoma were down this year. TCU also hasn’t won with much style. It beat SMU by eight, Kansas by a TD, Oklahoma State by three and needed a last-second field goal to beat 6-6 Baylor.
Doomsday Scenario: They’d never say it, but the CFP (and TV networks) would love it if Kansas State won the Big 12 title game. TCU would be knocked out and it would open the door for Alabama or Ohio State.
Are they in? Only with a win, and grudgingly.
No. 4 USC (11-1)
Remaining schedule: Against Utah Friday in PAC-12 title game.
The case for USC: They’re a blueblood. They’ve never played in the CFP before. They beat UCLA. They beat Notre Dame – You gotta beat Notre Dame. Quarterback Caleb Williams has emerged as a Heisman candidate. But it’s like Star Wars…USC has to face Vader (Utah) again and this time they have to win.
Doomsday Scenario: The Utes are confident and don’t get pushed around. Utah quarterback Cameron Rising has another big game and USC falls.
Are they in? USC is three-point favorite on the sportsbooks. A win and the CFP committee will happily pencil them in to be Georgia fodder.
What If There’s Chaos?
If USC or TCU loses, what will happen then? There are three teams on the outside of the CFP now each with a claim to make it. Not a strong claim, but still. Those teams are.
No. 5 Ohio State (11-1)
Why They Should Be In? They have wins over Notre Dame and a 44-31 win over Penn State. They’ve been in the CFP four times and won the first title back in 2015. Yes, history counts for something. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.
Why Not? They lost to Michigan…at home. Everyone knew that the winner of that game was going to get in, and Ohio State didn’t get the job done.
What Are They Rooting For? Everyone to lose, especially TCU and/or USC. They’re rooting against Michigan too, just because.
No. 6 Alabama (10-2)
Why They Should Be In? Name recognition, plus they have the reigning Heisman winner in Bryce Young at quarterback. Also, they can say they have two close losses, one on a field goal to Tennessee and the other in OT to LSU.
Why Not? No two-loss team has ever made it to the CFP. Alabama has been strangely inconsistent this season. Plus, see the team below.
What Are They Rooting For? Chaos. Also, they know that people want to see Alabama play Georgia again.
No. 7 Tennessee (10-2)
Why They Should Be In? To be blunt, if it comes down to Alabama or Tennessee, how can the committee not put the Vols in? They beat them head-to-head. Don’t the results of the game matter more than anything else?
Why Not? They had a shot against Georgia and didn’t look in the Bulldogs class. Two weeks ago they lost to a bad South Carolina team, 63-38, and star QB Hendon Hooker tore up his knee. The South Carolina loss is a bad one.
What Are They Rooting For? Two upsets in the conference title games so it looks like Alabama has a shot to get in, then let the debate rage.