AP College Football Poll: Alabama loss opens door for Oklahoma, Baylor or Utah

Utah wide receiver Samson Nacua (45) celebrated with his teammates after their victory over Colorado in Salt Lake City on Saturday. / Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer

As noted a couple of weeks ago, there are some Utah fans who have made their displeasure with my voting pattern this season very clear.

And if any of them saw last week’s comment about how difficult it would be for any Pac-12 team to make it to the College Football Playoff they couldn’t have liked that much, either — because by then it was clear that “any Pac-12 team” meant the Utes.

I’ve come around; Utah is one of the half-dozen or so best teams in the country. Top four? We’ll see.

It didn’t look good for the Utes going into rivalry week. It appeared barring divine intervention that the westernmost big-time conference would be left watchng from outside for the third year in a row when the four-team playoff got underway.

But Alabama’s upset loss to Auburn changed all that.

Since the Utes (11-1) took care of business against Colorado they are now ranked No. 5, right behind Georgia (on my ballot, Oklahoma is still between them).

A Utah win over Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game Friday puts it in position for a claim to the fourth CFP berth (assuming LSU, Ohio State and Clemson win their confererence title games).

The winner of the Baylor-Oklahoma Big-12 championship tussle has a case, too, though.

The Utes and the winners of the Bears-Sooners game would each have one loss. In Utah’s case, that one loss would be to USC in September — which looked bad early-on as it was surrounded by three Trojans losses. But USC has been hot since and is ranked No. 24.

Baylor’s only loss was to Oklahoma 34-31 a couple of weeks ago. Oklahoma’s only loss was at Kansas State 48-41 in late October. The Wildcats were ranked briefly after that, but have been inconsistent.

The Sooners have squeaked by their opponents since, except for Saturday’s 34-16 win at Oklahoma State. Taking care of the Cowboys is why I kept them ahead of the Utes.

Utah doesn’t have any wins against fancy opponents yet, conference or non-conference, but it pretty much crushes everyone in its path not called USC. On paper, they’re almost like Clemson, both with weak schedules — but with that 30-23 loss to the Trojans instead of the 20-19 win over North Carolina where the Tigers survived a two-point conversion try by the Tar Heels.

This is not to say Utah is as good as Clemson … just that it is only a play or two away from a resume similar to or better than the undefeated defending national champions.

None of this matters if Georgia beats LSU for the SEC championship and Clemson and Ohio State win. Then it would be those four, with the biggest question remaining being who would have to play the Buckeyes first.

But if Virginia somehow beats Clemson? Or Wisconsin wins the rematch with Ohio State? And Utah takes down Oregon?

Messy, messy, messy. Good luck, CFP committee, figuring out what to do with all those one-loss teams. We’ll find out if conference championships really mean anything.

Here’s how the entire AP panel voted this week, with last week’s ranking in parentheses:
1. LSU (1)
2. Ohio State (2)
3. Clemson (3)
4. Georgia (4)
5. Utah (6)
6. Oklahoma (7)
7. Florida (8)
8. Baylor (11)
9. Alabama (5)
10. Wisconsin (13)
11. Auburn (16)
12. Penn State (12)
13. Oregon (14)
14. Notre Dame (15)
15. Minnesota (9)
16. Memphis (17)
17. Michigan (10)
18. Iowa (19)
19. Boise State (20)
20. Appalachian State (22)
21. Cincinnati (18)
22. Virginia (NR)
23. Navy (24)
24. USC (25)
25. Air Force (NR)
Dropped out: Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech
Also receiving votes: Southern Methodist, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, UCF, Virginia Tech, Iowa State, Arizona State, California, Washington, North Dakota State

Here’s the ballot I submitted:
1. LSU (1)
2. Ohio State (2)
3. Clemson (3)
4. Georgia (4)
5. Oklahoma (6)
6. Utah (7)
7. Baylor (8)
8. Alabama (5)
9. Wisconsin (9)
10. Florida (10)
11. Auburn (13)
12. Penn State (11)
13. Oregon (15)
14. Notre Dame (17)
15. Michigan (12)
16. Iowa (14)
17. Memphis (18)
18. Minnesota (16)
19. Boise State (20)
20. Appalachian State (21)
21. Cincinnati (19)
22. Navy (23)
23. Air Force (25)
24. Virginia (NR)
25. USC (NR)
Dropped out: Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State,