The new College Football Playoff rankings are out, and it's looking like this could be a year when things get messy. Let's five into why that's the case.
First, here is how the bowl matchups would most likely work using these rankings following the committee's bowl selection process and assuming that the highest ranked team from each power conference would be the champion:
- Orange: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Notre Dame
- Cotton: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Ohio State
- Rose: No. 5 Iowa vs. No. 11 Stanford
- Sugar: No. 6 Oklahoma State vs. No. 8 Florida
- Fiesta: No. 7 Oklahoma vs. No. 9 Michigan State
- Peach: No. 10 Baylor vs. No. 16 Navy
The Oklahoma-Michigan State and Baylor-Navy pairings are pretty well set. The CFP website says that the committee should set matchups "avoiding rematches of regular-season games and avoiding rematches of recent years’ bowl games". Since Baylor and Michigan State played in a New Year's Six game last year, they wouldn't play again this year. Funnily enough, the semifinals are a regular season rematch and a rematch of one of last year's bowls.
Rematches aside, this is a clean set of bowl matchups. Everyone in the top 11 spots is in a New Year's Six bowl. It doesn't have to stay this clean, however.
You see, the BCS still lives inside the playoff. When not hosting a semifinal, the Rose Bowl can only get teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12. The same goes for the Sugar, only it's the SEC and Big 12. The Pac-12 may not be getting anyone into the final four, but it'll put a team in the Rose Bowl. If we assume that Alabama wins out, which isn't a big stretch, a second SEC team will get a bid to the Sugar Bowl.
Florida is doing all right for that Sugar Bowl bid. If the Gators finish 11-1, they'll probably be in the top 11 even if (in the worst case scenario) they take a blowout loss in Atlanta. Last year, Arizona lost the Pac-12 title game 51-13 to semifinal-bound Oregon and only fell from No. 7 to No. 10. UF would wander up a spot or two as teams ahead of it lose to each other, and then falling at worst three or four places would still keep them in the top 11.
But if the Gators lose to Florida State, they might not even be in the top 11 heading into the SEC Championship Game depending on how bad that loss is. Losing to Alabama would drop them even further, perhaps behind LSU. I say that, of course, assuming the Tigers don't lose another game. That's no guarantee, as they still have Ole Miss and Texas A&M to go. Let's say LSU loses one of those two. The second-highest SEC team would be either Florida or LSU somewhere in the mid-teens.
I'm slotting Stanford in as the Pac-12 champ above, but the Cardinal may not be done losing yet. It could easily pick up a third loss when it plays Notre Dame. The South champ may not finish with fewer than three losses either. Utah and USC are the only two-loss teams left in that division. Either could lose to UCLA, and USC still has rejuvenated Oregon too. The Pac-12 champ could have three losses and likewise end up in the mid-teens.
It's possible then that No. 10 and No. 11 could be left out of the New Year's Six bowls in favor of teams ranked below them thanks to bowl contracts. The BCS isn't dead; it just added two games and rebranded.