Auburn jumped Alabama in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday night, making the Tigers the fourth-highest ranked SEC team in the rankings and opening up a slim shot at an invitation to a prestigious New Year’s Six bowl game.
Auburn is ranked No. 11 in the playoff committee’s new rankings, ahead of No. 12 Alabama, after Auburn’s thrilling 48-45 win in the Iron Bowl last Saturday.
Committee chair Rob Mullens said later Tuesday night that Auburn was “in the range” of making a New Year’s Six game.
Most likely, it will take a certain set of chaos to ensue from here, but Auburn could potentially leap its way onto the big stage, and if not find itself as the league’s top pick for destinations outside that group, when bowl matchups are ultimately decided Sunday after this Saturday’s set of conference championship games.
LSU is No. 2 and Georgia is No. 4, ahead of the two teams’ SEC Championship Game showdown. Florida is No. 9.
If Georgia beats LSU and both teams make it into the College Football Playoffs’ final four, Florida could take the SEC’s spot in the Sugar Bowl, always awarded to the best-ranked available non-playoff SEC team, and Auburn could sneak into the Cotton Bowl or the Orange Bowl if pieces fall a certain way.
In both scenarios, Auburn almost certainly needs No. 8 Wisconsin to fall below Auburn after a loss to No. 1 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Auburn’s positioning is seemingly static behind Florida and No. 10 Penn State, which is not playing in the Big Ten Championship Game. But if the scene shifts, Florida could get sent to the Sugar Bowl opening up Auburn’s shot at the Orange Bowl, and Penn State could get sent to the Rose Bowl opening up Auburn’s shot at the Cotton Bowl.
After the New Year’s Six selections, the Citrus Bowl has first choice at the remaining SEC teams still available and seeking bowl destinations.
Mullens is the athletic director at Oregon and this year’s committee chair. He said in a teleconference after the rankings were released that Auburn’s head-to-head win over Alabama “probably did carry the day” in the decision to rank 9-3 Auburn ahead of 10-2 Alabama.
When asked whether Auburn was in the discussion for a New Year’s Six bowl, Mullens pointed to how the conference title games coming up and the contractual bowl tie-ins cloud the projections.
“The New Year’s Six are decided strictly based on rankings and contracts,” Mullens said. “We’ll have to wait and see what the final rankings are.
“But I would say being at 11 puts them within the range where that could be a topic of conversation after we get through next week’s games.”
The Peach Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl are hosting the College Football Playoff semifinals this postseason. The Sugar Bowl traditionally pits Big 12 teams against SEC teams. The Rose Bowl traditionally pits Big 10 teams against Pac 12 Teams.
Auburn’s only perceivable path to a New Year’s Six game goes to the Cotton Bowl or the Orange Bowl.