College Football Playoff Scenarios (Week 12)

College Football Playoff Scenarios (Week 12)

Notre Dame’s surprising inclusion in last week’s playoff committee top four was a bit misleading. As the committee has stated, each week’s ranking is how the teams stand at this very moment. There is no looking ahead or projecting involved. It’s a cross-section of what the playoff would look like if the season ended on that day. Thus, being slotted in fourth doesn’t mean a team will remain fourth even if it wins out. It is important to keep the same thing in mind with Iowa at five. Just because it was fifth last time doesn’t mean it will stay as the team ‘next up’ for the remainder of the year. One more week of games changes the whole calculation. Everything is fluid. There is no win-and-you’re-in rhetoric.


The Cream of the Crop:

Clemson (10-0): Clemson is in position to win a very weak conference. The Tigers will likely remain number one in the committee rankings all the way through the regular season. However, once the conference championships roll around and other top teams play each other, Clemson may slip. A win over North Carolina in the ACC Championship won’t be enough. It would be a rude awakening for Tigers fans to cruise along at number one for so long, never really being tested all year outside of two games, to then drop out of the top spot come year’s end. A 13-0 Clemson will not fall out of the top four though, so don’t completely panic.

Alabama (9-1) or Florida (9-1): Alabama notched another easy win over a ranked conference foe. It is on the precipice of clinching a spot in the SEC Championship against Florida. Although the Gators have struggled to win games recently, a matchup with Florida State and then Bama for a conference title would be enough to propel the Gators into the playoff discussion. It would be close, but that would conceivably be a better resume than the likes of Notre Dame, Michigan State, etc.

Big 12 conference champion: All of Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU have one or zero losses in-conference. They all also have one or zero losses overall. They all also still play each other. The tricky math comes if OSU loses once but still wins the conference. The Big 12 may then see a replay of last season.

Big 10 champion not named Michigan: The Ohio State Buckeyes still have to play Michigan State, Michigan and (likely) Iowa back-to-back-to-back to round out the season. A loss to any one of those teams knocks Ohio State out of the playoff top four. If MSU or Iowa win out and end up winning the conference, it would take this spot in the playoff.


On the Outside Looking In:

Notre Dame (9-1): Notre Dame’s win over Wake Forest was inconsequential outside of the fact that it wasn’t a loss. The real news for Notre Dame happened in a game that the Irish didn’t even participate in. With Stanford’s loss to Oregon, the Irish lost some value on their pending trip to Stanford in the season’s final week. A win over a top-five team in Stanford could have secured a playoff berth for ND. Now, Stanford may fall outside the top 10, and that type of victory is worth far less. ND may now need to bank on another upset in a different conference.

Michigan (8-2): First, Ohio State obviously needs to lose. Second, Notre Dame may need to lose; it depends. The Wolverines could win out and win the Big 10 and still find themselves outside of the final top four. That’s what two losses will do, no matter how close the final scores were and who they came against.


All Intents and Purposes:

North Carolina (9-1): UNC is going to jump up considerably in the latest playoff rankings almost by default. It is going to make the ACC title game by default as well. The Tar Heels haven’t played any opponent with a ranking higher than Pittsburgh’s No. 23. They haven’t played any team who is within ESPN’s FPI top 30 all year. They lost to a bad South Carolina team the first game of the season. North Carolina is rolling now, but it would appear that even if it wins out and upsets Clemson to win the ACC title, that will simply push a different team into the playoff. UNC will not take Clemson’s place.

Stanford (8-2)/Utah (8-2): The Pac-12 is going to be shut out of the College Football Playoff. Stanford and Utah each had a chance to make it with strong remaining schedules, but both lost in upsets this past weekend. Stanford still plays Notre Dame to finish out the regular season before meeting either Utah or USC in the conference championship, so the Cardinal have the best chance of jumping back up. It won’t be able to jump back into the top four though.

Houston (10-0): Houston scratched out a victory over a good Memphis team to reach 10-0. The Cougars still have to beat Navy (and UConn) to win the AAC West and then beat Temple to win the conference. If that happens, at 13-0, Houston will have had a very good year but probably won’t find itself even in the top six, let alone the top four, at year’s end.


Dead and Buried:

LSU (7-2): LSU’s second straight loss knocked it out of playoff contention and may have dethroned Leonard Fournette from the Heisman Trophy pedestal as well. The best the Tigers can now finish is 6-2 in the SEC West, which would tie them with Alabama should the latter lose its remaining conference game. With the head-to-head loss, LSU can no longer make the SEC Championship.