The Playoff Race Is Interesting and Fun Right Now, So Let’s Talk About It
Saturday was a historic day in college football, as two of last week’s playoff teams lost to unranked opponents, and another lost to a left-for-dead-and-revived USC.
We got so much chaos, that…things should hardly change from where we were a week ago. Clemson, Michigan, and Washington’s losses don’t actually HELP the two reasonable teams we could’ve slotted into the playoffs in their stead, because they’re no closer to division championships.
If anything, the race only got more interesting because there’s a lot less room for error. Let’s handicap teams with a shot by conference:
That’s it. They’ve clinched the West, everyone else has a loss, and they’re unequivocally the best team in college football. Even if you’re dumb enough to think Auburn and Florida can BOTH beat them, that’s too bad because they’re still probably in and coming for your cookies.
ACC: Clemson and Louisville.
— Chad Floyd (@Chad_Floyd) November 13, 2016
You could’ve come up with a scenario whereby North Carolina and Virginia Tech both had outside shots. North Carolina lost to Duke, and Virginia Tech lost to Georgia Tech. Despite my best efforts in pumping up the ACC Coastal on this website and my Twitter account, the Coastal done Coastal’d.
While the Coastal was doing Coastal things, Clemson reverted back to Clemsoning. Failing to run out the clock needing just a yard on third and fourth down, the Tigers allowed Pitt to drive the field and kick a walkoff field goal, losing 43-42 at home.
And it doesn’t really matter, unless you think Wake Forest is beating Clemson this week. They still hold the tiebreaker over Louisville. Assuming Clemson takes care of Wake, South Carolina, and probably still Virginia Tech (ugh), they’re solidly in.
Louisville is an interesting case study without precedent, as the first two CFP’s were fairly clean with deserving conference champs. Saturday broke perfectly for them, as an 11-1 Louisville probably gets in if Michigan can keep the B1G fairly clean (thus eliminating Ohio State and Wisconsin in the process), and Washington drops one more (suddenly feasible).
So, the ACC still stands as the league with the best case to get two in the playoff for the first time, like we all saw coming three years ago. Clemson is basically 2014 Florida State and will lose the semifinal. Louisville is fascinating.
B1G: Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State
This is where things get wonky, because Barry Alvarez has too much influence. In order of simplicity, this is how these teams make it:
- Michigan wins out, thus eliminating Ohio State (2 losses), Penn State (head-to-head), and Wisconsin (title game).
- Wisconsin wins out, and gets in with two close losses to Michigan and Ohio State.
- Penn State wins out and Ohio State beats Michigan, giving us by FAR the weakest CFP team in its short history. This is a team that got DRUG by Michigan and lost to Pitt (playoff team-killer Pitt, apparently). They hold the tiebreaker over OSU, and the B1G will have a representative.
- Ohio State beats Michigan, Rutgers or Michigan State beats Penn State (lolyeahright).
I said above that the ACC has a clear path to two teams. The B1G may have a better case. Ohio State is likely #2 in this week’s rankings, so they’ll already have a leg up on Louisville. Win out, don’t participate in a silly 13th game, and set up a Saban/Urban rematch in the 1/4 game.
Pac-12: Washington, Washington State (?), Colorado (?)
Washington’s hold is now tenuous, but a bump from a win over a smoking hot Wazzu and a Pac-12 Championship probably puts them back in the 4 spot. Based on what I saw the other night, I wouldn’t give them even odds to get through the next three weeks alive.
Washington State and Colorado are fascinating. Wazzu lost to Eastern Washington and Boise early on, but has swept the Pac-12. An 11-2 Wazzu is probably Rose Bowl-bound, so they’d need all of the 1-loss non-champs to lose. Same goes for Colorado…but Colorado has super-quality losses to Michigan and USC.
No, Washington State and Colorado don’t have a shot unless we’re looking at UT-Chattanooga starting Alabama on a three-game losing streak and eliminating the SEC. Or Virginia Tech winning the ACC while Louisville drops one to Houston or Kentucky.
XII: West Virginia, Oklahoma
Thank God we don’t have to talk about Baylor anymore (this is a week late, but even more so now).
WVU and Oklahoma conveniently play this Saturday– assuming WVU wins out, their case really is pretty compelling. 11-1, the all-important “scheduling intent” with wins over Mizzou and BYU– there would have to be some committee mental gymnastics taking place, but a 1-loss WVU SHOULD be in over a 2-loss Washington, and probably a one-loss Ohio State or Louisville…right?
Oklahoma, meanwhile, lost to Houston and Ohio State, so their ‘scheduling intent’ game is SKRONG. A 9-0 finish would push them over a 2-loss Washington, I suppose.
I think both would need help from the B1G’s #2 and Louisville, but they’re not dead yet.
My Playoff Ranking Guess, Because I Love Being Wrong
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- West Virginia
- Oklahoma State
- USC (highest 3-loss team)
- Florida State
- Washington State
- Western Michigan
- Texas A&M (somehow)
- Boise State
- San Diego State
- Virginia Tech
Posted on November 15, 2016, in ACC, Alabama, Auburn, Big 10, Big 12, Blog, Clemson, Florida Gators, Florida State, Louisville, LSU, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio State, Pac-12, SEC, Texas A&M, USC, Virginia Tech. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.