College Football Playoff Picture Week 13: Will Cincinnati reach the final four?

As the College Football Playoff Picture continues to take shape, what would the matchups be ahead of Week 13, and who's likely left out?

The final week of the college football regular season is here, bringing on the rivalries. With just one more full weekend of regular-season action, all eyes are turned towards the College Football Playoff Picture. With Oregon falling completely out of the race, just who makes the cut to be in the final four?

College Football Playoff Picture for Week 13

Utah’s dismantling of Oregon gives the College Football Playoffs a clearer picture ahead of Week 13. While everyone knows who the top team is (Georgia), who their likely opponent will be remains to be answered. The fourth-seeded team will have the unfortunate task of battling Georgia as the Bulldogs are the undisputed No. 1 team in the country. With the Ducks out of the way, the playoff picture currently has a clear top three:

1. Georgia Bulldogs
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
3. Ohio State Buckeyes

With Oregon no longer in the picture, the roadmap for the Cincinnati Bearcats to be ranked No. 4 is there. But will the committee decide to put Cincinnati in the playoffs yet? Head-scratching has been the best way to describe not only the committee’s approach to ranking teams, but their “explanations” behind their rankings. So, nothing is out of the realm of possibility.

That being said, after the way Cincinnati dominated SMU this past weekend, their résumé has taken shape quite nicely. They now have wins over AP Poll-ranked Indiana, Notre Dame, and SMU. Sure, Indiana has fallen off, but Notre Dame is rounding into form. Furthermore, SMU has a formidable offense that the Bearcats stymied in their most recent outing.

College Football Playoff potential matchups prior to Week 13

For all intents and purposes, Cincinnati, at 11-0 and presumably 12-0 after Week 13, is the most deserving team to grab that fourth spot in the College Football Playoff Picture. Even the committee can’t deny that, right?

With Cincinnati penciled in for our purposes here, what do the games actually stack up to look like before Week 13 begins? With several caveats, let’s take a look.

Georgia Bulldogs vs. Cincinnati Bearcats

Though likely, this one probably isn’t even going to happen. Georgia would have to win out, defeating Georgia Tech and Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. The victory over Alabama would push Alabama to 11-2, presuming they defeat Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

In that scenario, Georgia would remain No. 1, Cincinnati would likely move up to No. 3, and we’d see a rematch between Georgia and Alabama. This is also presuming Cincinnati defeats ECU and wins the American Athletic Conference to close out their season at 13-0.

If Georgia defeats Alabama and the Crimson Tide remain ahead of Cincinnati for some reason, this matchup favors the defense. Georgia has a slew of first-round candidates for the 2022 NFL Draft, as well as potentially the best defensive player in the 2023 class. The Bulldogs are stacked on defense and haven’t needed much on offense to win games this year, even if their offense has played incredibly well.

Cincinnati is also uber-reliant upon defensive prowess. They’ve limited every opponent to fewer than 28 points this season and held six to just 2 scores in a game. Their back-end coverage unit would go toe to toe with what Georgia does in the passing game, and rushing attacks would take center stage. Jerome Ford would be the ace in the hole for Cincinnati — if he can stay healthy.

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Sound familiar? Yeah, of course it does. These two teams have combined for 10 College Football Playoff appearances. In fact, no College Football Playoff bracket has ever not had Alabama or Ohio State in it. Furthermore, these two have both made the Playoffs three times together (2014, 2016, 2020).

Going even further, Ohio State and Alabama have played each other twice in the Playoffs, most recently for the National Championship last season. They’ve split the matchups, and the winner of each game was the national champion that season.

This time, their potential meeting would likely not come in the opening round, even if that’s where the current seeding is. Ohio State would need to beat Michigan and win the Big Ten Championship to remain at No. 3 or even move to No. 2. Alabama needs a win against Auburn in Week 13 and then plays Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

Alabama defeating Georgia would most likely move the Crimson Tide to No. 1, slide Georgia down to No. 2 or 3, and shuffle the Buckeyes to No. 2 or keep them at No. 3. Either way, in that scenario, No. 1 Alabama wouldn’t match up with the Buckeyes.

And if Alabama were to lose to Georgia in the SEC Championship, the best Alabama would do is get to No. 4, behind OSU and Cincinnati, paving the way for a rematch with Georgia in the opening round of the playoffs.

It’d be another classic if Alabama and OSU did meet in the opening round, but in all likelihood, if OSU wants revenge on ‘Bama, it’d have to be for all the marbles.

College Football Playoff Picture: Last two out

At the current moment, there will certainly be a few teams who thought they were deserving of more consideration and even placement in the College Football Playoff — some due to strength of schedule, others due to a variety of other factors. As it stands right now, here are the most likely last two teams to get axed from playoff contention, or putting it nicely, the fifth and sixth-ranked teams when it’s all said and done.

5. Oklahoma Sooners
6. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Stay with me here. The Sooners are sitting on the outside looking in right now. But by season’s end, if they’re sitting there at 12-1 with a lone loss to Baylor, they’ll absolutely believe they should be in the College Football Playoff. That’s mainly because they’ll have to beat archrival Oklahoma State twice, once in the annual Bedlam game to close the regular season and then again in the Big 12 Championship Game the following week.

Oklahoma has a roadmap to make the College Football Playoff, and don’t rule out the Sooners if they get a little help. With a Cincinnati loss, an Ohio State loss in the Big Ten Championship, and commanding victories over Oklahoma State, they’re right back in the thick of it.

As for Notre Dame, their chances are hurt by their loss to Cincinnati. They sit at 10-1 but will most likely finish at 11-1 as Stanford comes to town to close out the regular season. With no championship game tie-ins, Notre Dame is left in the cold for a week while all others make one last recent claim for their place. The Irish will be right back in the playoffs as a road apple for the No. 1 team if Cincinnati loses.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of NFL News/Analysis for Pro Football Network. He is also the co-host of Between the Hashes, a college football and NFL draft podcast. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter @CamMellor