You'd expect major change to the College Football Playoff projection if two teams ranked in the top four lost on the final week. And there will be change. Just not as big as maybe people are expecting or hoping.
Southern California's loss created an opportunity for one team to step through after the No. 4 Trojans were surprised by Utah in the Pac-12 title game. No. 3 TCU falling to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship, however, is less likely to provide a second door for a team outside the the top four at the start of the day.
So the debate turns to whether USC stays in the field or if Ohio State — which was fifth in the committee rankings last week — will knock them off.
First, we will quickly dispense with those beating the drum for No. 6 Alabama to jump USC or possibly TCU. It's not happening for the Tide even with their brand name and outstanding quarterback having some people calling for their inclusion.
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As for the debate between Southern California and Ohio State, this could go a couple of different ways. USC could be rewarded for finishing first in the Pac-12 regular-season standings. They also had an equivalent result against the one common opponent between the two sides — Notre Dame. The problem for the Trojans is they lack a comparable win as the Buckeyes got on the road at Penn State. They also lost twice to Utah — the second time in dominant fashion.
It's probably a close call for the committee, but they'll likely go with Ohio State and move them up to the No. 4 spot. The reward for the Buckeyes is a matchup against Georgia in the Peach Bowl, but it is a second life.
The results this weekend also solidified the New Year Six lineup. Utah moves into the Rose Bowl, and Ohio State jumping to the playoff opens a spot for Penn State to face the Utes. Southern California drops to the Cotton Bowl against Tulane, which confirmed its place by beating Central Florida.
All but two spots of the 82 available bowl spots in the projection were filled by six-win teams under the usual guidelines. New Mexico takes one of the remaining vacancies after successfully appealing to the NCAA for a waiver after going 6-6 with two Championship Subdivision wins because of a canceled game. The last spot will go to Rice, which has the highest Academic Progress Record of teams finishing 5-7.
Reminder: Some conferences may not fulfill their bowl allotment. Asterisks denote a replacement pick. Teams in bold have accepted berths.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football bowl projections: Ohio State in playoff, TCU holds on