On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff selection committee will release the fifth of its six rankings, and there will be a makeover after losses by No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Miami. Expect a strong debate about Clemson and Oklahoma for the No. 1 spot, and undefeated Wisconsin and two-loss Auburn should both join the top four.
Next week's conference championship games are the final opportunity for teams to make a good impression for the committee. Here's a look at some of the questions the committee will consider after rivalry week, as well as the possibilities still looming ahead of Selection Day on Dec. 3:
1. No. 1 goes down: What does Bama's loss mean?
The Tide probably will fall out of the top four this week after their loss to Auburn leaves them at 11-1 and without even a division title. This is significant because when it comes to the criteria the committee uses to separate comparable teams, the Tide come up short in a few areas, including their lack of a conference championship. That can be overcome, as Ohio State proved last season, but Alabama has given the selection committee reason to call its schedule strength into question.
Entering Saturday's game against Auburn, Alabama was No. 1 in ESPN's game control metric, which measures how a team controls a game from start to finish. So while the Tide have been dominant, the committee will also point out that their best wins have come against three-loss LSU, which lost to Troy, and four-loss Mississippi State. Their only other Power 5 win against an opponent over .500 was vs. Texas A&M.
The best-case scenario for Alabama would be to have Auburn win the SEC. It would also help the Tide if there were other two-loss conference champions. The ACC is guaranteed a one-loss champion, which probably will get in, so Alabama's best bet would be to see Wisconsin and/or Oklahoma lose in their respective conference championships.
Alabama's situation is different than Ohio State's last season in that the Buckeyes were rewarded for their nonconference win over Oklahoma. Alabama's season-opening win over Florida State does not resonate in the same way. Also, the Buckeyes were the sole Big Ten team in the CFP last season, despite not winning their own division. It's hard to envision the SEC champion, whether it's Auburn or Georgia, not making the top four. So who will the Tide take the place of, if not a team from their own conference?
As for Auburn, if the Tigers beat Georgia to win the SEC, they would make a great case to become the first two-loss team in a CFP semifinal. With upsets over two teams the committee had ranked No. 1 in Georgia and Alabama, plus a second win over Georgia in the conference championship game, Auburn would arguably have the best wins in the country. Their only losses would be to Clemson and LSU, two ranked opponents.
2. So who's the new No. 1?
The debate probably will focus on No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Oklahoma, each of which won convincingly on Saturday. Oklahoma has five road wins against Power 5 opponents and three wins against ranked opponents (Ohio State, Oklahoma State and TCU). Clemson has a win over the SEC West winner, Auburn, and Oklahoma has a win over Big Ten East winner Ohio State.
Oklahoma has five wins against Power 5 teams over .500 and no FCS opponents. Clemson has seven wins against Power 5 opponents with winning records, which is a big reason why the committee continues to forgive the Tigers' loss to 4-8 Syracuse. The Sooners' only loss is to Iowa State, which finished a respectable 7-5.
It's a significant debate because seeding matters when it comes to where each semifinal game is played. The committee won't put the No. 1 seed at a geographic disadvantage.
3. Can the Big 12 play its way out of the playoff with a title game?
In 2015, Oklahoma sat comfortably in the top four heading into the final ranking of the season, with no conference championship game to play and nothing to lose. This season, Oklahoma will again be firmly in the top four, but the Sooners will play TCU in the resurrected Big 12 title game, which was brought back for the sole purpose of best positioning the league for a spot in the top four.
Now Oklahoma has to beat TCU for a second time this season to stay in the top four. If the Horned Frogs win, the Big 12 will have a two-loss conference champion that could be snubbed in favor of, for example, a one-loss Alabama that didn't even win its division. The Big 12 title game could end up being a dagger to the league's playoff hopes, not the boost it was intended to be.
4. What about a two-loss Ohio State?
If the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, it might come down to whether the committee would favor them over a one-loss Alabama that didn't win its conference title. As bad as Ohio State's 55-24 loss at Iowa was, ending the season with a top-four win against the only undefeated Power 5 team left in the country might trump anything on the Tide's résumé in the eyes of the committee.