Two Weeks of Chaos
With two weeks left in the college football season the only thing about the playoff that anyone knows at this point is that anything is still possible. Each of the Power Five conferences have benefits and challenges that could shape the playoff picture. Granted, some have a decidedly upper hand, but if the ball bounces wrong, as it tends to this time of year, we could all be very surprised on December 4th. Let’s run through what each of the conferences is facing:
Currently the ACC is in a good position to land a team in the playoff. Everything, at this point, hinges on Clemson’s performance in the last two games. Unfortunately for them there won’t be any big one’s left. This week they host a very bad South Carolina team then they’ll likely face either North Carolina or Virginia Tech, neither of which are in the College Football Playoff Rankings.
As for the rest of the ACC, after Louisville’s loss to Houston there is basically no chance the ACC will get two teams in the playoff this year. In order to leap frog other champions you need to have a much better schedule. Outside destroying Florida State, Louisville has a pretty weak schedule. If Clemson loses this weekend, or in the championship game, the ACC is likely out.
The Big Ten
At this point the odds of the Big Ten missing the playoffs are pretty slim. What’s really at stake is who would represent the Big Ten within the playoffs. In the West, Wisconsin pretty much has the division tied up. If they beat Minnesota, they are in, if they lose Nebraska is in, assuming they beat Iowa.
In the East, it is all messed up. If Michigan beats Ohio State this weekend they have the division locked up, end of story. However, they also lost their quarterback and struggled against Indiana after. Should Ohio State beat Michigan at home, then Penn State will represent the East, assuming they beat Michigan State at home. If Ohio State wins and Penn State loses, then the Buckeyes will go. I’m pretty sure the committee is hoping and praying that last scenario happens because Michigan is not as good without their quarterback, Ohio State has a tremendous schedule, and Penn State is ranked behind them both.
This is where it all starts to go south for the Big Ten. If Penn State wins the East then that leaves two teams in that division ranked higher who are not playing for a championship. The committee has stated time and time again that the playoff favors champions, so they’ll need to ensure the rankings reflect that. If Penn State faces Nebraska in the conference championship game, the odds of the Big Ten getting someone in the playoffs actually starts to get hazy if Nebraska wins.
The Big Ten is really the only confernece who could sneak two teams into the playoffs this year, but even for them it will be very difficult to do that without a lot of other teams losing. If Michigan and Ohio State play an extremely close game and Michigan wins, then they go on to destroy Wisconsin in the title game, Ohio State could move into the fourth slot of the playoffs. This could also play out if Wisconsin beats Michigan and gets the bonus for being a champion, where they would jump over a two loss Oklahoma/Oklahoma State. At that point Ohio State or Michigan could still sneak into the last spot. If Ohio State beats Michigan, however, they need Penn State to win out to get in. If Wisconsin wins the crown they’ll replace them.
Got all that? The short story is all of the playoff drama is focused on the Big Ten where five teams are still vying for one spot.
The Big 12
The good news for the Big 12 is they are in a position where their top two teams will both be in the Top Ten of the Playoff Rankings and will play each other on championship weekend. The bad news is, even with that, they’ll need some help to get in the dance.
Obviously Oklahoma has the upper hand. Not only do they have the bigger brand, but they also have two better losses than Oklahoma State, who will continue to pay for the Central Michigan loss. If the Sooners win out, they will likely make the playoff unless Washington wins out, putting a Power Five conference game champion in each of the four spots. Due to that, the Big 12 needs some help, specifically, it needs a loss by either Clemson or Washington.
For Oklahoma State to get in, they definitely need Washington to lose, but also need USC to win the Pac 12. Colorado would jump them as would every other conference champion.
The Pac 12
The Pac 12 may not seem like it at the moment, but they are in a pretty good place. Currently if they place Washington and Colorado into the championship game either of the victors will likely make the playoffs, but the Huskies would be a lock. Colorado would be in a knife fight with Oklahoma for the last spot. On the other hand, if Washington State and USC end up in the conference championship game, the conference could be out all together. The Buffs and Huskies are key here.
Like the ACC, the only team the SEC can put in the playoffs is Alabama. They have the strongest chance of any team to make the playoffs, even with a loss in the Iron Bowl this week. If they were to lose to both Auburn and Florida, however, they would be not only out of the playoffs, but so would the SEC as Florida would only have a 4% chance of making into the top four. As unlikely as that may be, it does indicate just how stratified the SEC has become. It is Alabama, then an extremely large gap, then everyone else.
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