The College Football Playoff rankings are due out in a couple hours and they’ve taken on a certain clarity. There a number of things we know for sure, with a handful of teams needing chaos. Here’s what I would consider to be certain…
*The SEC champion is going. Even if it’s two-loss Auburn, the winner of that championship game in Atlanta is a lock.
*The ACC champion, either Clemson or Miami is going.
*Alabama is going. Even if they lose to Auburn. The Crimson Tide are not dropping from #1 all the way to #5 because of a potential loss in the Iron Bowl and they certainly won’t drop that far if they win that game, but lose to Georgia in the SEC title game.
*Oklahoma controls their destiny.
*The Big Ten champion, either Wisconsin or Ohio State is the first alternate—if Alabama wins the SEC, that leaves a spot open. Or if Oklahoma loses, another opening materializes.
Of course “certainty” is a relative term in college football, especially in November. I would simply define “chaos” as anything that happens outside of the neatly packaged box outlined above. There’s still hope for any of the following…
*The loser of Clemson-Miami
So what do they need to happen to blow up the landscape and sneak into the Playoff through the backdoor. Here’s a few scenarios that are not completely out of the question…
*Ironically, rooting for chaos starts with rooting for the most predictable thing in college football—root for Alabama to take care of business and ensure the SEC is a one-bid league.
*Oklahoma loses to either West Virginia this weekend or TCU, the likely opponent in the Big 12 title game.
*Ohio State loses at Michigan, then turns around beats Wisconsin for the Big Ten title. Or Wisconsin is upset at Minnesota (who is fighting to get bowl-eligible) and then wins the Big Ten title. Either way, something happens that the Big Ten champ is either a one-loss Wisconsin (disrespected for its schedule strength) or a three-loss Ohio State.
*If you’re USC, you also need to root for Stanford to beat Notre Dame, due to ND”s head-to-head victory over the Trojans.
*If you’re Notre Dame, you’ve got other head-to-head problems. You’d prefer that Miami win the ACC and instead be compared to two-loss Clemson rather than a Hurricane team you got trounced by. You’d prefer two-loss Georgia not be in the picture either, meaning the Bulldogs would have to lose to Georgia Tech this weekend before getting knocked out for good by Alabama.
Are you following all that? Let’s assume that Alabama and Clemson win, as they’ll likely be favored to do in their conferences. Then let’s assume Oklahoma loses and something happens in the Big Ten along the lines of what’s described above. Who do you take for the final two spots? I’m betting Miami and Georgia go, fresh off losses in their conference championship games.
That’s what I think would happen. Personally, I’d prefer to see a rule in place that disqualified teams that lost a conference title game, thus making that first Saturday of December a de facto start of the playoffs. It would drastically simplify the process…although that might mean that the weekly TV show unveiling the rankings that ESPN has wouldn’t be as important and we’d just have to watch the games play out.