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Ask LGHL: Predicting this week’s College Football Playoff rankings and final seedings

I think the Buckeyes will be facing a traditional and future rival in the CFP semifinals

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 29 Cotton Bowl Classic - USC v Ohio St Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Every day for the entirety of the Ohio State football season, we will be asking and answering questions about the team, college football, and anything else on our collective minds of varying degrees of importance. If you have a question that you would like to ask, you can tweet us @LandGrant33 or if you need more than 280 characters, send an email HERE.

Question 1: What will this week’s College Football Playoff rankings be?

On the spectrum of college football chaos, yesterday’s slate mostly maintained the status quo. No. 4 TCU did go to the wire with No. 18 Texas, but the highest-ranked team to lose was No. 6 Oregon who fell to Pacific Northwest (and future Big Ten) rival No. 25 Washington.

So, when the College Football Playoff committee unveils its latest rankings, I think that it’s a pretty safe bet that the top four will remain the same from last week:

1) Georgia
2) Ohio State
3) Michigan
4) TCU

Given that those are the only four undefeated teams remaining in the country, I don’t think that there’s much of an argument to be made for anyone else making the leap into position for a berth at this point. Even though TCU is on the last line currently, the team has three really good wins over Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and now the Longhorns that would preclude them from being jumped by a one-loss Tennessee, who currently sits in fifth place.

However, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, it is the Vols that have the fourth best odds to win the national championship at +1200, while TCU is in fifth place, back a considerable margin at +2500.

As of publication time, DraftKings does not have odds available to make the CFP, but they usually do following each week’s rankings reveal. So, if you want to us (or fade) my predictions below, you should be able to do that in a few days’ time.

Question 2: What will the final College Football Playoff seedings be?

Given that Tuesday’s CFP rankings are essentially a foregone conclusion, I figured we could pull out the turban and crystal ball to make some predictions about what the actual playoff field will be three weeks from when the announcement is officially made.

Let’s start on the top line. The Georgia Bulldogs have regular-season games against Kentucky and Georgia Tech remaining before an SEC Championship Game matchup against LSU. While I would love to see UK pull the upset this coming weekend in Lexington, I just don’t see that being possible. So, the only real chance that UGA has to lose is in the conference title game against the Tigers.

Even if the Dawgs were to lose that game, I have to think that — unless it is a 2014 Big Ten Title Game-level embarrassment — that they will remain in the final four. However, I don’t think that’s going to happen. The CFB spirits from the other side are telling me that when the official College Football Playoff seedings are revealed on Sunday, Dec. 4, the Georgia Bulldogs will be No. 1.

No. 1: Georgia Bulldogs

If you are reading this here on Land-Grant Holy Land, chances are pretty good that you can guess where I (and nearly all of the writers on the site) stand in terms of our national championship picks. So, needless to say, I am predicting the Ohio State Buckeyes win at Maryland next week and to get revenge on That Team Up North on Nov. 26.

That would put OSU in the Big Ten Championship Game against whatever the B1G West spits out of its increasingly convoluted standings, Currently, there are four teams tied atop the division with identical 4-3 conference records. Of course, there are differences in overall and divisional records, but with Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, and Minnesota all bunched up top, anything can (and probably will) happen.

But whichever also-ran comes out of the west, the team should not present any legitimate challenge for the Buckeyes.

No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes

Now here is where things get interesting because by virtue of my pick of Ohio State over the Corn and Blue, it is practically an inevitability that there would need to be a new No. 3 in the rankings. Of course, I could simply slide TCU up a slot from 4 to 3, but that would imply that I think that the Frogs are going to win out including the Big 12 title game, but, friends, I don’t think that they will.

My instinct is to always assume that things are going to go haywire in the Big 12, because they usually do, so looking at the road ahead of the Horned Frogs, they will play 6-4 Baylor and 4-6 Iowa State to wrap up the regular season before probably taking on Kansas State in the conference title game.

While TCU did beat the Wildcats 38-28 when the two teams met on Oct. 22, I think that the circumstances for a rematch will be much different. In that game, backup quarterback Will Howard replaced injured starter Adrian Martinez in the first quarter and did fairly well in relief. Howard again stepped in for Martinez early on yesterday as K-State pasted Baylor 31-3.

The difference now is that I don’t think that head coach Chris Klieman will go back to Martinez. Unlike with his last injury, the former 17-year Nebraska starter was on the sideline with his helmet on for the duration of the game, and appeared to be able to go in if called upon... he was not called upon.

Instead, Howard was 19-for-27 for 197 yards and 3 TDs and has played really impressive football whenever given the opportunity. The offense just seems to run better with Howard at the helm, and considering that he is likely to be the starter next season once Martinez’s college career finally comes to a close, it wouldn’t make sense to go back to the banged-up Martinez.

With Howard getting all of the starting snaps in games and practices against West Virginia and Kansas, he should be fully ready and prepared to take on TCU from the jump at Jerry’s World on Dec. 3.

So, if TCU isn’t the pick at No. 3, then who is? Call up Keith Jackson, because I think that the Buckeyes’ semifinal opponent will be the Men of Troy from the University of Southern California. USC’s only loss was by one point to a very good Utah squad and with games against UCLA and Notre Dame remaining on their regular season schedule, they have an opportunity to bank some quality wins before the Pac-12 Championship Game, presumably against the winner of this coming week’s Utah and Oregon game — since they both should be heavy favorites in their respective regular-season finales.

The Trojans already have the 10th-ranked strength of record, and throwing in back-to-back-to-back wins over ranked teams and a conference title, should be enough to get them in the tournament. I realize that this will likely be the most controversial of my picks today, as many people are already discounting the whole of the Pac-12, but of the one-loss teams that still have a chance to bring home conference titles, USC has what would be the best resume if they come through.

USC would actually have an even better case if the Utes beat Oregon next weekend, providing the Trojans a chance to avenge their only loss of the season. If USC wins the Pac-12 title with victories over UCLA, Notre Dame, and Utah (or Oregon) to end the season, I can’t imagine a situation where they get left out.

No. 3 USC Trojans

Now, here’s where things really get interesting. In my imagined scenario, the remaining contenders would be three Power 5 non-champions (TTUN, TCU, and Tennessee) and the eventual ACC champion, who I am going to predict will be the North Carolina Tarheels.

If things go as the prophets have foretold to me, all four candidates would have positives and negatives on their playoff résumés. Obviously, all of the rankings and metrics below are as of Nov. 12 and their corresponding records are if things play out as outlined above.

TTUN (11-1)

Pro: Currently top 4 in game control metric. If they play OSU close, would be a bonus.
Con: Not in conference title game. Really bad strength of schedule. No marquee out-of-conference games. Best win over Penn State.

TCU (11-1)

Pro: Played in conference title game
Con: Quality wins over Kansas State (though it would have been avenged), Oklahoma State (assuming they can avoid getting skunked the remainder of the season), and Texas. No. 1 strength of record.

Tennessee (11-1)

Pro: Quality wins over Alabama, Kentucky (though they will likely fall out of top 25 following game against UGA), LSU. No. 3 in strength of schedule and strength of record. No. 2 in game control. Never really in contention against Georgia.
Con: Not in conference title game.

North Carolina (12-1)

Pro: Conference champion. Strength of record is currently 11th with theoretical wins against NC State (though likely not in top 25) and Clemson.
Con: Strength of schedule is 75th. Game control is 39th. No marquee out-of-conference games,

So, while my heart wants to put the Tar Heels in the fourth spot, and I think they will be in consideration, given the committee’s rules (not that they ever stick to those) favoring conference champs when it’s close, I just can’t see them really competing with the Vols or Weasels.

Therefore, I am going to go with the SEC to get two teams (as much as it pains me) unless the Harboys lose a very close game in Ohio Stadium in two weeks. In that case, I think they would vault into fourth place; but, since I think Ohio State will win 100-0, I’m going with the Vols.

In the past, we have seen the committee arrange the seedings to avoid intra-conference matchups in the semifinals, but that is normally to avoid immediate rematches following conference title games. So, since by the time the playoffs roll around, UGA and Tennessee will be seven weeks removed from their matchup, I think the only non-conference champ in the playoff this year will slide into the fourth and final spot.

No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers

With three weeks of action left before the CFP committee makes its final determinations, lots of chaos can still (and probably will) happen to mess with Miss Cleo’s predictions, but I’d be pretty happy with Ohio State playing USC’s 88th-ranked defense in the semifinals.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.