Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) runs the ball against Arkansas during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
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The championship weekend upsets that would trigger College Football Playoff chaos hardly ever come.

Since 2015, there have been 23 Power Five conference championship games and only two have been won by the point-spread underdog, according to ESPN research.

Last year, Oregon upset Utah in the Pac-12 championship, ending the Utes' playoff hopes. Penn State in 2016 was a slight underdog when it beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.

Still, it's fun to consider the possibility of the CFP selection committee being forced to pour over the wreckage after four or five of the top six teams in the latest rankings lose.

So, what happens if ...

Alabama loses to Florida?

The Crimson Tide (10-0) has been so dominant this season, winning by an average margin of 32 points per game, that Alabama looks locked into to a playoff spot no matter what happens in the SEC championship game Saturday.

As for Florida, things looked bleak for the Gators over the weekend but the committee didn't seem to mind that loss to LSU as a three-touchdown underdog at home. Florida still sits seventh in the rankings. The SEC champion has never been left out of the playoff.

Clemson loses to Notre Dame?

The Fighting Irish are No. 2 in the country and beat the Tigers in South Bend, but they still enter the ACC championship game as 10 1/2-point underdogs.

An Irish victory is the most likely lever to be pushed on the CFP chaos machine. Can a two-loss Clemson still make the field? Tigers coach Dabo Swinney has been pushing that position. If the committee keeps it simple, Texas A&M probably gets bumped up from fifth to fourth. It also could bring the Big 12 back into the mix with Iowa State sitting at sixth as it heads into the conference title game with tenth-place Oklahoma.

No two-loss team has ever made the playoff, but this has been an unprecedented season in so many ways already.

Ohio State loses to Northwestern?

The Buckeyes (5-0) are getting a lot of benefit of the doubt from the committee, but that seems contingent on being perfect. Lose as a 20-point favorite in game No. 6 of the season and that goes away. The Wildcats (6-1) are too far back at No. 14 to do anything but play playoff spoiler.

Texas A&M loses to Tennessee?

The Aggies still have a regular-season game to play, and if they lose it, combined with a Clemson loss, the choices for the final CFP spot become a bunch of potential two-loss teams — unless the committee wants to break form and look at a potential unbeaten team from outside the Power Five such as Cincinnati (ninth) or Coastal Carolina (12th). Or the committee could look to the Pac-12, the forgotten Power Five conference. Southern California is unbeaten and 13th in the CFP rankings going into the conference championship game against Oregon.

Realistically, that's not happening.

The picks:


Pac-12 championship: Oregon (plus 3) at No. 13 Southern California

First time the Ducks and Trojans have met in the Pac-12 title game and it took a COVID-19 outbreak at Washington to make it happen ... USC 31-24.

MAC championship: Ball State (plus 13) vs. No. 23 Buffalo

Bulls' only MAC championship came in 2008, when they upset an undefeated Ball State team ... BUFFALO 35-27.

C-USA championship: UAB (plus 5 1/2) at Marshall

Thundering Herd is making its first C-USA title game appearance since 2014, when it last won it ... MARSHALL 20-17.


SEC championship: No. 1 Alabama (minus 17) vs. No. 11 Florida

Tide has won the last six SEC championship games in which it has appeared, including three straight double-digit wins against the Gators ... ALABAMA 45-23.

ACC championship: No. 2 Notre Dame (plus 10 1/2) vs. No. 4 Clemson

Trevor Lawrence is back after missing Round 1 between the Tigers and Irish due to COVID-19; Clemson trying to make it six straight ACC titles .. CLEMSON 28-20.

Big Ten championship: No. 3 Ohio State (minus 20 1/2) vs. No. 15 Northwestern

Buckeyes trying to make it four straight Big Ten championships ... OHIO STATE 38-13.

No. 5 Texas A&M (minus 14) at Tennessee

Some style points probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Aggies ... TEXAS A&M 35-17.

Big 12 championship: No. 8 Iowa State (plus 5 1/2) vs. No. 12 Oklahoma

Sooners have won the last five Big 12 title; Cyclones are making their first appearance in the championship game ... OKLAHOMA 28-24.

American Athletic championship: No. 20 Tulsa (plus 14) at No. 6 Cincinnati

Bearcats can likely lock up a New Year's Six bowl with a victory ... CINCINNATI 31-13.

Sun Belt championship: No. 17 Louisiana-Lafayette (plus 3 1/2) at No. 9 Coastal Carolina

Ragin Cajuns have lost the first two Sun Belt championship games and the regular-season matchup against the Chanticleers ... LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 28-27.

Mountain West championship: Boise State (minus 6 1/2) vs. No. 25 San Jose State

Broncos have been in three straight conference title games and won two of them ... SAN JOSE STATE 31-27.



Last week: 10-5 straight; 4-11 against the spread.

Season: 160-62 straight; 106-115-1against the spread.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at and listen at


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