The College Football Playoff committee treated Utah better than the AP Top 25 voters did this week, in another healthy development for the Pac-12.
Idle last weekend, Oregon (No. 6) and Utah (No. 7) each moved up one spot in the CFP Top 25, released Tuesday. Penn State (No. 9) fell below the Ducks and Utes, while Minnesota (No. 8) made a big jump – but not enough to overtake Utah in these rankings, unlike the case with the AP poll.
The Utes (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) will return to action Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium, hosting UCLA in a highly meaningful game for both teams in the Pac-12 South. Oregon hosts Arizona, Utah’s opponent next week in Tucson.
So if Oregon and Utah keep winning, with three regular-season games remaining, the winner of their matchup in the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 6 would have strong credentials in hopes of being ranked in the top four and playing in the CFP semifinals. In turn, that would give the loser the conference's berth in the Rose Bowl.
Many variables will remain in play for the next four weekends, through the conference championship games. For example, the Pac-12 would need No. 1 LSU to beat No. 4 Georgia in the Southeastern Conference title game, knocking out he Bulldogs. The other question for the moment is whether the Pac-12 champion would move ahead of No. 5 Alabama. In that regard, it would help if Georgia beats Auburn this week, creating less value for a potential Alabama win over Auburn.
Yet to further illustrate how complicated all of this is, Oregon benefits from the success of Auburn, as the only team to have beaten the Ducks.
The Pac-12 also would benefit from No. 2 Ohio State’s remaining dominant in the Big Ten, keeping No. 8 Minnesota and No. 9 Penn State from rising. If the Pac-12 champion misses the Playoff and goes to the Rose Bowl, the runner-up would be in line for a Cotton Bowl bid against the highest-ranked winner of a Group of Five conference. No. 17 Cincinnati maintains that spot, with No. 18 Memphis, No. 21 Boise State and No. 23 Navy also in the picture.