Projected Final College Football Playoff bracket, Top 25 rankings: Alabama upends UGA, Florida State perseveres

2023 SEC Championship - Georgia v Alabama
2023 SEC Championship - Georgia v Alabama / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages
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Coming into conference championship weekend, there were still eight teams with a conceivable chance of making it into the College Football Playoff bracket. But as we all know, only four can make it, and the Selection Committee has some extremely tough decisions to make on Sunday to determine that Top 4.

Alabama was the biggest chaos-maker for the final College Football Playoff rankings. The No. 8 team in the penultimate CFP Top 25 went into Atlanta and upset the back-to-back national champion Georgia Bulldogs to take the SEC crown and stay alive for the Playoff. But that's where things get tricky.

Texas, a team with a head-to-head win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa, also won its conference in dominant fashion with a blowout Big 12 title game win over Oklahoma State. And to further complicate matters, Washington beat Oregon for the second time on Friday night while Florida State, despite immense injury woes, got past Louisville to win the ACC.

It's a ton of calamity to sort out and the Selection Committee does not have an enviable job. But let's try and project what they'll do with the final College Football Playoff bracket and Top 25 rankings.

Projected Final College Football Playoff rankings: No. 25-21

25. SMU Mustangs

So long, Tulane! Even with starting quarterback Preston Stone out for the AAC Championship Game, SMU went on the road with Kevin Jennings and delivered a gem to top the Green Wave, 26-14. While Jennings had a strong first career start – even with some mistakes – the Mustangs defense was the real star, holding Michael Pratt and Co. to just 269 total yards of offense. They’ll fall short of a New Year’s Six bid but it’s a phenomenal 11-2 finish going into bowl season.

24. Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Pokes didn’t have the best of times in JerryWorld on Saturday afternoon as they just watched the Texas offense run by them for 60 minutes. Oklahoma State was deserving of being in the Big 12 Championship Game, but they were just outmatched by the Longhorns. With Ollie Gordon II being limited, the game was in Alan Bowman’s hands, but the QB just didn’t have enough to even keep it close against Texas. 

23. Kansas State Wildcats

Full disclosure, seeing Kansas State at No. 25 in the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings was not at all what I expected… especially after the Wildcats finished the regular season at 8-4 with a loss at home to Iowa State. But it’s still a phenomenal year for Chris Klieman’s group, though the bowl game could be tough as star quarterback Will Howard has already put his name into the transfer portal, among others. 

22. Clemson Tigers

After watching the rockfight between Florida State and Louisville for the ACC Championship Game, you have to think that the iteration of Clemson we saw in November might’ve been the best team from that conference. Alas, they struggled too often early, so they didn’t get their flowers. However, the Tigers do appear to be figuring things out – and Dabo is starting to use the portal! Look at that old dog learning a new trick. 

21. Tennessee Volunteers

For my money, Tennessee is not one of the 25 best teams in college football this season. However, these are projections and the Selection Committee continued to insert the Vols into the Top 25, so here we are. Fans in Knoxville should hope that they get a full glimpse of freshman Nico Iamaleava in their bowl game, though, as the Joe Milton experience simply was a bust in comparison to the 2022 campaign. Time to start the new era.