Now that the college football regular season has mercifully wrapped up, the playoff picture is finally coming into focus. If the playoff were held today, we'd be looking at Clemson vs Iowa and Oklahoma vs. Alabama, and lots of insane ranting from Ohio State fans (because somehow OSU's loss to Michigan State shouldn't count) and Pac-12 fans (because East Coast bias) and Michigan State fans (because they haven't yet figured out that 1 loss is more than 0 losses) and SEC fans (because it's not a real playoff unless there's multiple SEC teams in it, and damn both Les Miles and the torpedoes).
But we still have that one week of conference championship games, and here's how things stand heading into them:
ACC: If Clemson beats UNC in the championship game, they are in and the #1 seed in the playoffs by virtue of being both undefeated and really good. They're also unusual for an ACC team in that they beat quality non-conference opponents. If, by some miracle, UNC beats Clemson in Charlotte, then the odds of an ACC team making the playoff drop precipitously. UNC's 11-1 record is impressive, until you remember their best non-conference win was Illinois, and their best win is, I dunno, Pitt? A discombobulated Miami team? A staggering Duke? Basically, UNC is Iowa with better BBQ and more academic scandals, and if they beat Clemson, that's about the only thing they'll have to hang their hat on.
B1G: Whoever wins the championship game is in. If, as many people suspect will happen, Michigan State flattens a thoroughly untested Iowa squad, then MSU is in. If Iowa (best wins: Northwestern and a squeaker over Pitt) wins, a lot of money will be changing hands in Vegas and the unbeaten Hawkeyes are in. Either way, Ohio State fans froth at the mouth about the unfairness of it all, and immediately start agitating for an 8 team playoff. If Clemson loses, then expect the B1Gheads to start lobbying for OSU to get invited leapfrogging whatever team actually lost the conference championship game.
Big 12: Oklahoma is in, and conference leadership has learned that the gods of the football playoff do not like being obviously played in the media. One team, and that's all.
SEC: If Alabama wins the conference championship game, they're in, no questions asked. If they lose, the playoff committee will desperately look for a way to disqualify Florida and have Alabama play anyway.
Pac-12: Forget it. The best team in the conference has 2 losses. The team they're playing for the conference championship has 4. The AAC looks at this, hears talking heads discussion how Stanford's "faint hopes are still alive", and says "Seriously?"
Notre Dame: After looking for a way to give away another game pretty much every week after the Clemson game, the Fighting Irish finally got it done against Stanford. There's no way they leapfrog so many teams to get a bid. Besides, they really should have lost to Temple.
The Group of Five: This still sounds like either a WWE cabal or a Sherlock Holmes villain, but nobody from the AAC, C-USA, Sun Belt, Mountain West or WAC is getting anywhere near the playoffs. Maybe if Memphis had held on after beating Mississippi, or if Temple had beaten Notre Dame they might have....ah, who am I kidding. The playoff is set up to funnel even more money to the 5 power conferences, and the odds of a Group of 5 team ever making the final throwdown are nonexistent. The winner of the Houston-Temple AAC championship will get the Group of 5's consolation bid, they'll cash the check, and it will be business as usual until one of the big conferences decides to poach Temple/Houston/Cincinnati/UConn.