College Football Ranking Week 12 2019: Can Alabama Still Make CFP Top Four Without Tua Tagovailoa?

The status quo remained unchanged in the third set of weekly College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday.

As expected, the committee confirmed LSU in the top spot, followed by Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia rounding up the top four.

Alabama remained in fifth place, with Oregon and Utah unchanged at No.6 and No.7 ahead of Penn State, while Oklahoma moved up a slot to No.9.

Here's five talking points from Tuesday.

Alabama needs help to make the playoffs

Since the CFP inception in 2014, Alabama has always made the playoff but that streak looks in danger of coming to an end this year. The Crimson Tide fell out of the top four for the first time since November 28, 2017 last week and remained at No.5 on Tuesday.

Alabama hosts Western Carolina on Saturday, before ending the regular season in the Iron Bowl against No.15 Auburn on November 30. Convincingly defeating the Tigers is the Crimson Tide's best chance of sneaking into the top four, provided Georgia loses to LSU in the SEC Championship Game.

With no conference title game to speak of and with Auburn being its only shot at defeating a ranked opponent, Alabama has little room for error and that margin got even slimmer after it lost Tua Tagovailoa to a season-ending injury.

"Our job is to evaluate the games through Week 12 and obviously we're aware of the injury to the quarterback late in the second quarter of last week's game," said CFP Committee chair Rob Mullens. "But Alabama continued on to a convincing win [...] so it didn't impact the rankings this week."

Nick Saban, Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa
Nick Saban, head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, on the field watching his team warm up before a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium on November 16 in Starkville, Mississippi. The Crimson Tide defeated the Bulldogs 38-7. Wesley Hitt/Getty

Utah and Oregon still in the hunt

Oregon remained the CFP selection committee's highest-ranked one-loss team from outside the SEC, while Utah is just a spot below because of a loss to USC—a team the Ducks beat.

On Tuesday, CFP Committee chair Rob Mullens admitted the selection panel had "talked a lot about Alabama and Oregon" when determining the No.5 ranked team, a comment that should give both the Ducks and the Utes reason for optimism.

While Alabama only has two regular season games left, Oregon and Utah be in action on both weekends as well as in the Pac-12 Championship Game, whose winner could have a major shot at top four spot—particularly if the Crimson Tide fails to beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

Oklahoma's run is far from over

The Sooners were rewarded for their spirited 21-point comeback against Baylor with a two-place gain, as they moved up to No.8. At 9-1, Oklahoma has five one-loss teams ahead in the rankings, but it also has two ranked opponents left on the schedule—No.22 Oklahoma State in the final regular season game and Baylor in the Big 12 Championship Game.

If the Sooners finish 11-1 and win their conference championship game, it will be hard to make a case against them reaching the playoff as they would have four wins under ranked opponents under their belt.

Win vs Texas A&M is crucial for Georgia

The Bulldogs' resume and some impressive defensive performances have dragged Georgia back into the top four. As the highest ranked one-loss team, the Bulldogs can take a decisive step towards the playoff with a win against Texas A&M on Saturday, which would give them a fourth win against a ranked program this season as the Aggies are No.24 in the AP Top 25 poll.

With a SEC Championship Game looming large against LSU, the Bulldogs must do all they can to ensure a defeat to the Tigers on December 7 would not prevent them from being in the top four come Selection Sunday.

Jake Fromm, Georgia Bulldogs
Jake Fromm #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts after passing for a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers in the first half at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 16 in Auburn, Alabama. Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Clemson's dominance offsets an easy schedule

When Clemson debuted at No.5 in the first CFP rankings of the season, some suggested the Tigers' relatively easy schedule—they have not played a single ranked program this season—would work against them.

Fast forward two weeks and there is little doubt the Tigers will be in the playoff again. The reigning national champions are one win away from going undefeated in the regular season for a second consecutive year, and few would back South Carolina to interrupt that run on November 30.

The Tigers have scored 50 or more points in the last four games and at least 45 in its last six, becoming only the third team since the Associated Press poll era began in 1936 to win four straight games by at least 45 points.

The schedule might have been easier than those of its rivals, but Clemson has made no mistake.

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