The College Football Playoff selection committee released its penultimate rankings on Tuesday night, with the focus falling on which team will fill the final spot in the four-team event.
The top three teams -- No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 LSU and No. 3 Clemson -- are unbeaten and likely would remain in the four-team playoff even with a loss on Saturday.
If No. 4 Georgia (11-1) loses to LSU in the SEC championship game, that will open the door for three other teams that enter the weekend with one loss.
No. 5 Utah plays No. 13 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game on Friday night, while No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 7 Baylor battle Saturday for the Big 12 championship. The winner of each game would make its case to move to fourth, should Georgia fail to upset the Tigers.
"I would describe it as that is the area where there was the most vigorous debate this week," selection committee chairman Rob Mullens, the athletic director at Oregon, said of the teams ranked fourth through seventh.
"We spent more time on those teams than anybody else on the board. ... You're looking at Oklahoma and their win over a ranked opponent (now-No. 25 Oklahoma State last week) and you check that box there. You look at Utah and say, 'Boy, they have been so consistent all season long and they have been dominant.' Their defense has been incredible."
Ohio State plays No. 8 Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, and Clemson will play 23rd-ranked Virginia in the ACC title tilt. Any loss among the top three teams might scramble the rankings, but each undefeated team's resume appears strong enough to remain in the semifinals.
Those games will be held Saturday, Dec. 28, at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
The championship game is Monday, Jan. 13, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Memphis, at No. 17, remained the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences (American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt). The Tigers beat visiting Cincinnati 34-24 last Friday, and they will host the rematch with the No. 20 Bearcats on Saturday in the AAC title game.
The highest-ranked team among the Group of Five conferences earns a spot in a New Year's Six Bowl, which this season will be the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.
Also in the mix is No. 19 Boise State, which hosts Hawaii in the Mountain West championship game on Saturday.
The matchups for the College Football Playoff and New Year's Six bowl games will be announced Sunday, starting at noon ET.
--Field Level Media