One final, fateful weekend remains for five more teams to succumb to the grasp of The Eliminator.
Yes, from 10 teams two weeks ago, we're all the way down to ... nine. Losses in Week 13 by No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Miami muddied the track, but none of the horses threw a shoe.
Here's a simple way to do the math. The four losers of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC championship games this weekend are out, leaving one team for the College Football Playoff selection committee to eliminate.
If Wisconsin and Oklahoma win on Saturday, it all works out nicely. Alabama is done.
If TCU or Ohio State wins, the Crimson Tide are back in play alongside a two-loss Big 12 or Big Ten champ. If the Buckeyes and Horned Frogs both win, you're looking at two spots for three teams.
Let the fun begin. The table is set for Saturday, headlined by Auburn-Georgia and Miami-Clemson in what are essentially CFP quarterfinals.
To clear up a couple of loose ends, the Pac-12 is still out. USC can't gain enough ground with a win Friday over three-loss Stanford. The Eliminator claimed the Trojans as a victim after their lopsided Week 8 loss to Notre Dame. Events since then have only reinforced the move.
UCF, despite its 11-0 record and an opportunity to beat Memphis, a second straight one-loss foe, on Saturday for the American Athletic Conference crown, was essentially done after Week 10, when the committee kept it at No. 18 in the second set of rankings. Fair or not to the Group of 5, this is the system we have.
Still in contention
Dabo Swinney's 100th win had to rank as one of his most satisfying as the Tigers routed upstart rival South Carolina 34-10 on the road to win their fifth straight game and remain on track for a third consecutive playoff appearance. Clemson controls its destiny, needing a win Saturday in the ACC championship game over Miami to earn a spot in the New Year's Day semifinals. Swinney's team is clicking offensively and defensively, and it has played especially well away from home -- a valuable trait as the calendar flips to December.
The story with the Sooners, as always, revolves around Heisman front-runner Baker Mayfield, who lit up West Virginia for 281 yards and three touchdowns on just 17 pass attempts in a 59-31 win. Oklahoma scored on all six of its drives in the first half, and Rodney Anderson rushed for four touchdowns. OU is a juggernaut offensively. But check out that defense, which played reasonably well for the third consecutive week. Maybe, as Oklahoma heads to the Big 12 title game with one hurdle to clear in a rematch against TCU, it is a complete enough team to deserve the No. 1 ranking.
Was it just two weeks ago that the Badgers' shaky schedule placed them in the crosshairs of pundits who questioned this team's playoff-worthiness, even as an undefeated Big Ten champion? The Badgers are the only Power 5 unbeaten left after Saturday, when they dispatched Minnesota 31-0 and allowed 133 yards to solidify their status as the top-ranked defense nationally. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw three touchdowns and was not intercepted for the first time since Week 3. Ohio State has won four straight over Wisconsin, including a 59-0 romp in the 2014 Big Ten title game, but these Badgers have a different look.
An easy win for the Bulldogs amid drama aplenty atop the rankings ought to provide momentum for Kirby Smart's team as it enters the SEC championship game against Auburn in need of one more victory to punch its first playoff ticket. Georgia beat Georgia Tech 38-7, holding its rival without a rushing touchdown for the first time in two years. UGA may still sit outside the top four this week, but no reason for worry exists. The stage is set perfectly, with the Dawgs in position to avenge their lone loss, a 40-17 thumping in Week 10 on the road.
The Hurricanes' path to the playoff got more complicated after a 24-17 loss to Pitt in which Miami gained just 232 yards of offense. Win over Clemson Saturday in the ACC title game and the Canes are in. That's simple. Without that loss to the Panthers, Mark Richt's team might have slid into the semifinals even if it came up short in Charlotte. No margin for error exists for Miami any longer. While no team in the playoff era has earned a spot when losing after the third release of the rankings, the committee wouldn't dare leave out Miami as a one-loss ACC champ.
Speaking of candidates to rank as the new No. 1, why not these Tigers? Auburn has played the best football of any team since mid-October. Its five straight wins -- all by at least 12 points -- include a pair of home defeats of the top-ranked team nationally. That Week 2 loss to Clemson is a long time gone. QB Jarrett Stidham's performance Saturday in the 26-14 win over Alabama served notice that Auburn is equipped to make history as the first two-loss playoff participant. Now, if running back Kerryon Johnson is healthy against Georgia, the Tigers are on track.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Even as the injuries mounted and the Crimson Tide looked vulnerable this month, wow, who saw that coming? Alabama was disjointed and downright inefficient at Auburn. Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson completed as many third-down throws as Bama QB Jalen Hurts. So the big question: Can Alabama sneak into the playoff at 11-1 as the runner-up in its own division, a la Ohio State in 2016? If Oklahoma and Wisconsin win this week, the answer is surely no. But if there's a two-loss conference champ outside of the Pac-12, Nick Saban wants a word, please.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Any day is a good day for the Buckeyes when they beat Michigan, but Saturday sure did test Ohio State's resolve. J.T. Barrett was bumped by a cameraman before the game, aggravating a knee injury that led to the quarterback's exit in the third quarter. Urban Meyer all but levied accusations of foul play. Then Alabama lost, unlocking new scenarios that put Meyer's team at a disadvantage. Even if Barrett plays in the Big Ten title game and even if the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin in Indianapolis, Ohio State is no lock to earn a spot in the final four over the one-loss Tide.
TCU Horned Frogs
The Frogs are in a position entirely opposite from 2014, when they entered championship weekend at No. 3 and fell three spots despite a win over lowly Iowa State. Three years later, TCU sits on the outside after its win over lowly Baylor, hoping that a Week 9 loss to the bowl-bound Cyclones is overlooked by the committee -- and that somehow, a win over Oklahoma in the reborn Big 12 title game boosts TCU over a victorious Ohio State or idle Alabama. As solid as the Frogs' chances looked in 2014, they're just as poor this year.
Better luck next season
Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Pokes collapsed defensively down the stretch, allowing 188 points in a four-game stretch, capped by a 45-40 home loss in Week 12 to Kansas State as QB Skylar Thompson, in his second start, strangled the last bits of air out of Mike Gundy's playoff bid.
Others who won't make it
Eliminated after Week 6: Duke Blue Devils, Florida State Seminoles, Kansas State Wildcats, Louisville Cardinals, Maryland Terrapins, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Oregon Ducks, UT San Antonio Roadrunners, Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Eliminated after Week 5: Cal Golden Bears, Colorado Buffaloes, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, LSU Tigers, Memphis Tigers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Northwestern Wildcats, Ole Miss Rebels, South Carolina Gamecocks, Tennessee Volunteers, Vanderbilt Commodores.
Eliminated after Week 3: Air Force Falcons, Arizona State Sun Devils, Army Black Knights, Boston College Eagles, Central Michigan Chippewas, Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, Kansas Jayhawks, Missouri Tigers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Old Dominion Monarchs, Oregon State Beavers, Pittsburgh Panthers, SMU Mustangs, UConn Huskies.
Eliminated after Week 2: Boise State Broncos, BYU Cougars, Cincinnati Bearcats, Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors, Idaho Vandals, Fresno State Bulldogs, Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Marshall Thundering Herd, New Mexico Lobos, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Ohio Bobcats, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Syracuse Orange, Texas State Bobcats, Tulane Green Wave, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, UAB Blazers.
Eliminated after Week 1: Akron Zips, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Charlotte 49ers, Colorado State Rams, East Carolina Pirates, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, FAU Owls, FIU Golden Panthers, Kent State Golden Flashes, Louisiana Monroe Warhawks, Miami (Ohio) RedHawks, Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico State Aggies, Northern Illinois Huskies, South Alabama Jaguars, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Temple Owls, Troy Trojans, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Utah State Aggies, UNLV Rebels, UTEP Miners, Western Michigan Broncos, Wyoming Cowboys.