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Utah, Alabama in winners, losers

For all the debate and controversy that has been berthed from the advent of the College Football Playoff, the heavy focus has annually been on the fourth and final spot. Again in 2019, the debate rages on: No. 5 Utah, No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 7 Baylor are set to go down to the wire in determining the final team in the field, unless one of No. 4 Georgia or No. 8 Wisconsin — if not both — throw the entire enterprise into chaos during this weekend’s slate of conference championships.

The race for No. 4 matters, but so does the chase for No. 1. The latter has always carried some importance due to the ability to land at the semifinal destination closer to home. This year’s competition for the top spot has another layer of intrigue.

Alabama looks on after a missed field goal that would have tied its game against Auburn in the fourth quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

With Clemson locked in at No. 3 should No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 LSU win on Saturday, the team atop the final playoff rankings gets to avoid the defending national champions in the semifinals, instead drawing one of the champions from the Pac-12 or Big 12 — tough matchups, sure, but neither potential pairing intimidates quite like Clemson.

POWER RANKINGS:ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

PLAYOFF RANKINGS:Ohio State still No. 1, while Utah leads Oklahoma

BOWL PROJECTIONS:Oklahoma passes Utah into fourth playoff spot

In terms of the fourth and final spot, it’ll come down to games on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Utah and No. 13 Oregon meet on Friday to settle the Pac-12. The Sooners and Bears meet in a rematch on Saturday to decide the Big 12. Style points could matter. Here are the winners and losers from the penultimate playoff rankings: