College Football Playoff rankings reaction and 12-team bracket

Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the top spot, Georgia.

The back-to-back national champion is the College Football Playoff selection committee's No. 1 team for the first time this season, usurping No. 2 Ohio State in the third of six rankings. The Bulldogs' resounding 52-17 win against No. 13 Ole Miss on Saturday gave Georgia its second win against a ranked opponent in as many weeks, as they also defeated No. 9 Missouri on Nov. 4.

For the first time this season, Georgia gave the committee the best combination of résumé and eye test, and the SEC East champs will face No. 8 Alabama in the SEC championship game. Georgia's two top-15 wins now trump Ohio State's best wins, which are against No. 12 Penn State and No. 19 Notre Dame.

Georgia's promotion to the top spot was the most noticeable difference in Tuesday's ranking, but the bigger reaction will likely be around what didn't happen. In spite of three wins against ranked opponents, undefeated Washington is still on the bubble at No. 5, looking up at No. 4 and undefeated Florida State.

Here are the three biggest takeaways from the third ranking, starting with ... wait, what?!

Jump to: What would a 12-team CFP look like?

What does No. 5 Washington have to do to move up?

The question is not meant to detract from undefeated Florida State's perfect season, but if there was a week when the selection committee could have easily justified moving Washington into the top four, this was it. Florida State's résumé pales in comparison, as its lone win against a top-25 opponent was the season-opener against No. 15 LSU.

Washington has defeated the committee's No. 6 and top one-loss team, Oregon, in addition to wins against No. 17 Arizona and No. 22 Utah. Washington is No. 2 in ESPN's strength of record metric, which means the average top-25 team would have just a 6% chance to achieve the same 10-0 record against the same opponents. Florida State is right behind the Huskies at No. 3. Washington ranks higher than Florida State in game control and strength of schedule. Washington is also playing in a stronger conference this year, as evidenced by the committee's own ranking. There are five Pac-12 teams ranked, compared to three in the ACC -- and Florida State doesn't play No. 10 Louisville or No. 20 North Carolina during the regular season. But the committee seems to have concerns about the Huskies' defense.

Washington will face its fourth ranked opponent in seven games Saturday when it travels to No. 11 Oregon State. Florida State, meanwhile, will play North Alabama. If both teams win and Washington still doesn't move up, it could come down to their respective conference championship games. Washington could face No. 6 Oregon again in the Pac-12 title game. Another Huskies win against the Ducks would again be better than Florida State's win against No. 10 Louisville. But if it hasn't been enough at this point, it certainly raises the question whether it would be enough on Selection Day. By then, though, Ohio State and Michigan would have played and at least one would naturally sink. It's certainly possible that the top four ultimately includes the SEC champ, the Big Ten champ, Florida State and Washington.

To this point, though, the committee clearly believes Florida State is a better team, even without the better résumé. The good news for Washington is that it's still leading the best team in the Big 12, Texas. Speaking of ...

What will it take to separate the top one-loss teams?

Probably conference championship games.

For the third straight week, No. 6 Oregon, No. 7 Texas and No. 8 Alabama have been stuck in a logjam. Oregon still has a great opportunity to impress the committee with a win in its regular-season finale against No. 11 Oregon State. Plus, a win against No. 5 Washington in the Pac-12 title game would punctuate the Ducks' résumé with one of the best wins in the country.

No team has a better chance remaining to impress the committee, though, than Alabama, which will face No. 1 Georgia in the SEC championship game. That alone would likely catapult the Tide into the top four, but the committee would still have to consider the head-to-head loss to Texas in Tuscaloosa. While it would be a factor, it's not weighted in the discussions and is one of several tiebreakers the committee would consider when records are comparable. If Alabama and Texas both finish as one-loss champs, the committee would also consider their schedule strength. Texas has three wins against CFP top-25 teams (No. 8 Alabama, No. 21 Kansas State and No. 25 Kansas). Alabama also has three (No. 13 Ole Miss, No. 15 LSU and No. 18 Tennessee). The difference in all of it could be a win against Georgia.

Of course, the one-loss club will get more crowded in two weeks when the loser of Ohio State-Michigan joins. Speaking of Michigan ...

This had nothing to do with Jim Harbaugh

Yes, the selection committee knew Harbaugh was at a hotel 20 minutes away last week when his team earned a statement win at No. 12 Penn State. Anyone who follows college football knew. That's not what the ranking are about, though.

The committee considers key players and coaches missing for illness, injuries, suspensions or whatever the reason might be, but its ranking is about the Wolverines' entire body of work. And while beating Penn State was an important win against a ranked opponent, it was also Michigan's only win against a ranked opponent. That's why Michigan is No. 3. Georgia has two wins against ranked opponents. Ohio State has two. The Buckeyes are still No. 1 in strength of record. The Wolverines are No. 4.

Michigan is an outstanding football team -- better than the Buckeyes statistically when it comes to several categories, including fewer turnovers and penalties. The Wolverines have the best quarterback in the Big Ten. They'll have a chance to move up. Maybe after a road win at Maryland, if they're dominant and Ohio State struggles with Minnesota. Definitely if they beat the Buckeyes.

And it can happen whether Harbaugh is on the sideline or not.

What a 12-team playoff would look like

The Bulldogs jumping Ohio State wouldn't do much to shake up what a 12-team playoff bracket would look like, but there was plenty of other movement from a week ago.

No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 4 Florida State and No. 5 Washington would receive first-round byes as the highest-ranked conference champions.

Ole Miss is out of the bracket after its ugly 52-17 loss at Georgia last week, its second defeat of the season. So is Penn State, which fell 24-15 to Michigan at home in a game that never felt that close.

With Oregon and Washington moving from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten and Texas going from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2024, those two newly expanded leagues would have eight of the 12 teams in an expanded playoff.

The Rebels and Nittany Lions have been replaced by Missouri and Oregon State.

Here's how the first-round matchups would look:

No. 24 Tulane at No. 3 Michigan

The Wolverines wouldn't get the first-round bye because Ohio State would be the higher-ranked champion of the Big Ten. Of course, that's assuming the Buckeyes would have defeated the Wolverines at the Big House on Nov. 25, which might be a pretty big assumption at this point. Hey, at least the Wolverines would have coach Jim Harbaugh back for the CFP, regardless what a state judge in Ann Arbor, Michigan, decides Friday. College football, you gotta love it.

Tulane keeps winning close games but hasn't looked great doing it. Still, the Green Wave remains the highest-ranked team from a Group of 5 conference -- and the only one in the top 25. The Green Wave defeated Tulsa 24-22 at home last week, their third straight win by three points or fewer. How many touchdowns would Michigan be favored by in this one? Three? Four?

No. 11 Oregon State at No. 6 Oregon

Who said we wouldn't get to watch the rivalry game between the Beavers and Ducks after Oregon leaves the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024? The Ducks previously announced they intended to keep playing the in-state rivalry game that dates to 1894 and has been played continuously since 1945. But the Beavers aren't on their schedule next season as a nonconference opponent.

Hey, at least football fans in the Pacific Northwest would get to see the game twice this season if there was an expanded playoff. Oregon hosts Oregon State at Autzen Stadium on Nov. 24. If both teams win this week -- the Beavers play Washington at home, and the Ducks travel to Arizona State -- a spot in the Pac-12 championship game could be on the line when they meet in the regular-season finale. Oregon leads the all-time series 67-49-10, but Oregon State has won two of the past three games, including a 38-34 victory last season.

No. 10 Louisville at No. 7 Texas

Two of the more-improved teams in the Power 5 would take on each other in a first-round game at Darrell K Royal Stadium in Austin. The Longhorns have won four games in a row since falling to Oklahoma 34-30 in the Red River Rivalry game. The Cardinals have won three in a row since inexplicably falling at Pittsburgh 38-21 a week after they beat Notre Dame.

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian's team seems to have turned the corner in his third season. Louisville, in coach Jeff Brohm's first season, has already won one more game than it did in 2022. The Cardinals and Longhorns have met on the gridiron only twice, with Louisville winning 41-10 at home in 1993 and Texas taking a 30-16 victory in Austin the next year.

No. 9 Missouri at No. 8 Alabama

It would be an all-SEC matchup but one that hasn't been played very often since Missouri joined the SEC in 2012. The Crimson Tide and Tigers have played just four times as conference foes, including Alabama's 42-13 rout in the 2014 SEC championship game in Atlanta. The Tigers are 0-4 against the Tide as SEC members, losing by an average of 27.5 points.

Given Missouri's performance the past few weeks, I'm guessing this game would be closer. Behind tailback Cody Schrader, the SEC's leading rusher, and dual-threat quarterback Brady Cook, the Tigers won 38-21 at Kentucky and routed Tennessee 36-7 at home. In between, they put a pretty good scare in Georgia before falling 30-21 at Sanford Stadium. Missouri's defensive front is legitimate, and its one-two punch on offense is potent.