Welcome to the top 10, UCF.
Thanks in part to West Virginia’s loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday and UCF’s strong performance in its win over Cincinnati, the undefeated Knights jumped ahead of No. 10 Ohio State to No. 9 this week, becoming the first Group of 5 team to crack the top 10 in the College Football Playoff era.
While it was a boost for the Knights, whose fan base has lamented a perceived lack of respect from the 13-member selection committee, UCF fans should temper their optimism, as the top eight teams stayed the same for the third straight week.
Ohio State’s stale position at No. 10 also shows how much work the Buckeyes have to do in the eyes of the committee, starting with beating Michigan on Saturday to win the Big Ten East. Given its current position, a one-loss Ohio State that wins the Big Ten isn’t a guarantee to finish in the top four.
Bring on the rivalry games … and the chaos!
The selection committee has had it relatively easy this season, with No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 Michigan owning the top, but the two most important, season-defining Saturdays remain: Rivalry week and conference championships.
Here’s how the bracket would look today:
No. 1 Alabama would face No. 4 Michigan in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic because the committee won’t put the No. 1 seed at any geographic disadvantage, and while marginal, Arlington is slightly closer than Miami, where No. 2 Clemson will face No. 3 Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl.
The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual is a contract bowl and historically guarantees the Big Ten champ against the Pac-12 champ. Since No. 3 Michigan is the projected conference champion and already in a semifinal, the next highest-ranked Big Ten team would be No. 10 Ohio State. The Buckeyes would face projected Pac-12 champ No. 8 Washington State. The Allstate Sugar Bowl is also a contract bowl, which is guaranteed the Big 12 champ and the SEC champ. Since the SEC champion, in this case No. 1 Alabama, is in a semifinal, the Sugar Bowl would get the next-highest ranked SEC team, which is No. 5 Georgia. The Bulldogs would play No. 6 Oklahoma, which is the projected Big 12 champion in this ranking.
No. 9 UCF would likely head to the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl as the highest-ranked champion from a Group of 5 conference, which is guaranteed a spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl, because it played in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl last year. The Knights would face No. 7 LSU, based on fan interest and matchup.
The Peach Bowl would then have No. 11 Florida and No. 12 Penn State, as they are the highest-ranked remaining teams, and would also be chosen based on fan interest, geography and matchup.
(All games can be seen on ESPN and the ESPN App)
Saturday, Dec. 29
Noon ET: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 12 Penn State vs. No. 11 Florida (Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta)
4 p.m. ET: College Football Playoff semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 1 Alabama (AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas)
8 p.m. ET: College Football Playoff semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl: No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Clemson (Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida)
Tuesday, Jan. 1
1 p.m. ET: PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: No. 9 UCF vs. No. 7 LSU (State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona)
5 p.m. ET: Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual: No. 8 Washington State vs. No. 10 Ohio State (Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California)
8:45 p.m. ET: Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 5 Georgia (Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans)CFP, Played, Today, yearamp039s