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Panic in the streets! Pac-12 is doomed for CFP

The Pac-12 will have a representative in the College Football Playoff if either Stanford or Utah can finish 12-1 and the conference title. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

The first College Football Playoff rankings screwed over the Pac-12. It's clear that the selection committee, with USC athletic director Pat Haden no longer in the room, essentially decided that it hates the West Coast and wanted to crush the spirits of Pac-12 fans.

We jest. Mostly.

Fact is, Stanford ranking 11th and Utah 12th, making them the fourth- and fifth-highest ranked one-loss teams, is ridiculous but also isn't that big of a deal with these initial rankings on Tuesday. Heck, there's a month left in the season.

Though, if you wish, cue the outrage: No top-10 teams! It feels good to be mad.

Folks, if Stanford or Utah wins out, it will be in the College Football Playoff. I rate my certainty on that at 91.42 percent.

Other people will write and say other things. That's fine. The anticipation of a smug "I told you so!" is almost as enjoyable as its delivery.

Start with this: Clemson is No. 1 in large part because it beat Notre Dame at home. If Stanford concludes the regular season with a win over Notre Dame and then beats the South Division champion in the Pac-12 title game, it will be in the playoff.

If Utah wins out, it also will be in the CFP. It obviously could use Stanford beating Notre Dame to bolster its resume. Yet when you also throw in the dominant win over Michigan, the Utes' resume looks strong.

How could I end up being wrong? While entertaining the very idea might collapse the space time continuum (Me wrong? Let's not even pretend to think that!) here's how: The Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 champions finish unbeaten and Alabama, Florida or LSU win the SEC with one (or fewer) losses.

So there's a chance.

At 12-1, Stanford/Utah would beat out a two-loss SEC champion. At 12-1, Utah/Stanford would beat out a once-beaten Big 12, Big Ten or ACC champion.

Part of that is simple logistics. Stanford would be riding a 12-game winning streak and Utah six while teams from those conferences would be losing between now and season's end. How a team is playing late in the season gets more weight than how it played early, the committee has told us. See Ohio State last year.

Again, take Clemson. It's No. 1 this week. Congrats on that. But if the Tigers lose to Florida State on Saturday and then finish 12-1, they will end up behind a 12-1 Stanford or Utah.

That also is probably true for a one-loss Big Ten or Big 12 champion and a two-loss SEC champ.

We throw in the "probably" because it only has to be true once. With five Power 5 conferences -- see that "5" -- a 12-1 Stanford/Utah would only need to eclipse one other Power 5 champion (assuming Notre Dame loses to Stanford, as the opposite result would complicate things). The combination of a quality nonconference win, a nine-game conference schedule, and a conference title game would put the Pac-12 champion over the top because no other conference matches that rugged road to season's end.

Of course, the biggest variable here isn't what other teams do in other parts of the country. It's up to Stanford or Utah to arrive at season's end at 12-1. That's certainly no sure thing. Some might even rate it a long shot. Just ask ESPN Stats & Information, which rates the Pac-12's chances to have a two-loss champion highest among Power 5 conferences.

So first, the Pac-12 needs to get to Dec. 6 with a 12-1 champion.

Then, if the CFP selection committee bypasses the Pac-12, you can grab the pitchforks and torches.