In the final rankings of 2014, the inaugural season of the College Football Playoff, TCU dropped from No. 3 to No. 6, even though it finished the regular season 11-1. It was one of the most memorable and controversial decisions to date and serves as a reminder that while Tuesday's Top 25 is sure to provide some insight into what the 13-member selection committee is thinking heading into championship week and Selection Day, don't book your tickets just yet.
For the first time in the past three weeks, there will likely be a change in the top four, as No. 4 Michigan should fall out after it was clobbered by rival Ohio State 62-39. It should open the door for No. 5 Georgia to move up a spot, and give the Buckeyes an opportunity to climb higher than the No. 10 spot they've been stuck in.
Here's a look at four things we can learn from the committee's next-to-last ranking, knowing it can and probably will change once more:
1. Are we looking at two SEC teams again?
With the likely promotion of Georgia into the top four this week, it wouldn't be hard for the selection committee to justify keeping Alabama in the semifinals if the Tide lose a close game to the No. 4 team in the SEC championship. Should Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State win their conferences, it would be a three-team race for the fourth spot. In that case, the committee would have to decide how one-loss Alabama compares to Oklahoma and Ohio State. Protocol requires the committee to consider conference championships as one of its tiebreakers, along with strength of schedule, common opponents and head-to-head results. Or, as it did last season, it could deem the Tide "unequivocally" better than the Big 12 and Big Ten champs, nullifying the need for tiebreakers. There would have to be no doubt within the room, though, that Alabama was better than the conference champions. Committee chair Rob Mullens has already said that Alabama and Clemson have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. When asked last week about the possibility of Notre Dame joining the discussion for the No. 1 or No. 2 spots, Mullens said, "I think when you look at those, we see Alabama and Clemson through Week 12 as more complete teams with strength on both sides of the ball."
2. Are the Sooners still leading the Buckeyes, and if so, by how much?
No team improved its playoff position more during Rivalry Week than Ohio State, upending the committee's No. 4 team with ease, but was the offensive clinic against the nation's No. 1 defense enough to leapfrog Oklahoma? If not, just how close are the Buckeyes? Remember, Ohio State has trailed OU in the CFP Top 25 in each of the past four rankings. There are only six. Where these teams are ranked Tuesday won't definitively answer where they will finish because their résumés aren't complete, but if the Buckeyes close the gap, it could signify an opportunity for them to jump the Sooners when it matters the most. It wouldn't be the first time. In 2014, the only time Ohio State ever appeared in the top four was on Selection Day. If the two teams are neck-and-neck Tuesday night, how they look in their respective conference championship games could matter.
3. Who is best positioned to take advantage of chaos?
If UCF is in the No. 7 spot Tuesday, ahead of two-loss Michigan, it could get tricky if Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State all lose in their conference championship games. In that particular scenario (and assuming Georgia is ranked No. 4 on Tuesday night, followed in some order by Oklahoma and Ohio State), you're looking at teams Nos. 4, 5 and 6 all losing on championship weekend.
No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame would be in. The fourth spot could be extremely controversial but would likely boil down to two options: two-loss Georgia and undefeated UCF. The Knights would definitely be considered, but their fans need to brace themselves for the fact it could be Georgia, given how important strength of schedule is to the committee when determining the top four teams. Just because a team is undefeated does not mean it is one of the best in the eyes of the committee, as UCF learned last season. The committee has changed, with six new members this year, but that mantra hasn't. Should all that chaos happen (and there's less than a 2 percent chance it actually does, according to Playoff Predictor), UCF would rank last in ESPN's Strength of Record metric behind Georgia (7.4 percent chance the average Top 25 opponent achieves the same record), Michigan (19.1 percent), LSU (21 percent), Ohio State (23.1 percent) and Oklahoma (23.3 percent). The average Top 25 opponent would have a 24.5 percent chance to go undefeated against UCF's schedule.
4. How will the injury to McKenzie Milton affect UCF?
It shouldn't in Tuesday's ranking. UCF will likely remain in the top 10, and could possibly even move up a spot or two, given three teams ranked ahead of the Knights (No. 4 Michigan, No. 7 LSU and No. 8 Washington State) all lost and the Knights won again. CFP executive director Bill Hancock had this to say about it Friday night:
"First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers are with McKenzie Milton and his family," Hancock told ESPN. "I do understand that some people want to talk football tonight, so pivoting to that, the committee does consider injuries that may have affected a team's performance during the season. Obviously, UCF continued to play well after McKenzie left the ballgame. The committee also does not project what might happen next week. They only evaluate what has happened to this point in the season."
The bigger question is if UCF can beat Memphis without Milton on Saturday.