College Football Playoff Scenarios (Week 13)

College Football Playoff Scenarios (Week 13)

Three teams fell from the ranks of the undefeated in week 12. Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State was surprising considering the latter played without its starting quarterback. Oklahoma State’s loss to Baylor wasn’t very surprising at all despite the Bears playing with their third-string quarterback. And Houston’s loss to Connecticut was a textbook look-ahead game. Unfortunately for Cougars fans, taking the Huskies for granted knocked Houston out of the national conversation entirely. Just two undefeated teams remain: Clemson and Iowa.


The Cream of the Crop:

Clemson (11-0), Alabama (10-1): At this point, with civilizations crumbling around them, Clemson and Alabama are 1 and 1a for the College Football Playoff. If each wins its conference title, there is no one who can unseat it from a playoff position. These two schools are so far ahead of the rest of the pack that if an upset occurs in their respective conference title games, there is no sure thing that that new conference champion will even make a playoff appearance. For the ACC and SEC, it’s Clemson and Alabama or bust.

Big 12 conference champion: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are 7-1 within the Big 12 and play each other this week. The winner will be 8-1 and finished with its schedule. Baylor is 6-1 and has games remaining against TCU and Texas. If it also finished 8-1, we will have the same situation that developed last season where two teams finished the regular season with the same conference record. We can only assume that the Big 12 will finally declare One True Champion this year by the common-sense tiebreaker of who won the head-to-head matchup. In that scenario, Baylor has the tiebreaker over Oklahoma State but does not have it over Oklahoma. There you go; the Big 12 does not screw itself out of a playoff spot this season.

Big 10 conference champion: Iowa is in the conference title from the West. If it wins out, the Hawkeyes make the playoff. As for the East teams, Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan are all tied at 6-1. MSU has the tiebreaker over each of the others thanks to head-to-head wins. If the Spartans win next week, they’re in the Big 10 title game. And if they defeat Iowa, they’re in the playoff. OSU and Michigan play each other, so the winner will also be 7-1 in-conference. It would need Michigan State to lose this week, but if it gets into the conference title, each of those schools could defeat Iowa and grab a playoff spot. As recently as a week ago, it didn’t seem like a two-loss Michigan would make the playoff even if it won the conference. That is no longer the case.


On the Outside Looking In:

Notre Dame (10-1): Notre Dame is in the trickiest spot of all. With no conference to win and no title game pending, the Irish’s season comes down to a game against Stanford. The Cardinal is a good opponent but no longer one who boosts the resume of someone who beats it. Notre Dame likely needs a Clemson or Alabama upset in the ACC and SEC title games to get into the top four now. Either that or to have Michigan win the Big 10 and force the committee to split hairs in the final ranking to determine which school gets in.

Florida (10-1): Florida had been on the first rung of this conversation since an upset win over Alabama in the SEC title game would surely have propelled the Gators into the top four. That was before it took overtime for them to defeat Florida Atlantic. UF has no offense and passes no one’s eye test. Even if it wins out and wins the SEC, Florida would need help to make the playoff.

North Carolina (10-1): An underwhelming win over a not-yet bowl-eligible Virginia Tech team did little to improve UNC’s resume as far as the playoff is concerned. The Tar Heels only chance had always been to defeat Clemson in the ACC title. It didn’t look like that was going to be enough last week, and the sentiment seems to be solidified now.

The only possible scenario would be a series of dominoes in which UNC wins out, Alabama and Florida both lose this weekend then Florida wins the SEC, Notre Dame loses to Stanford but the Cardinal doesn’t win the Pac-12, etc, etc. It’s not going to happen.

Stanford (9-2): Similarly, the Pac-12 is likely out of options. Its best chance is Stanford, who will play Notre Dame and then the Pac-12 South winner between UCLA, USC and Utah in the conference title game. Even then, the Cardinal would need outside help from all other conferences, a la UNC. Stanford at least has the leg up on UNC in that it controls its own destiny in knocking Notre Dame out of the picture.


Dead and Buried:

Houston (10-1) and the AAC: Houston had its chance to create some havoc, albeit overrated and rather pointless havoc. If the Cougars had finished undefeated, they could have created a stir about expanded playoffs, blah, blah, blah. Instead, they fell to UConn before even facing Navy and then a possible AAC title game opponent. Now the Midshipmen have the chance to finish as the highest ranked team outside of the Power 5…which means nothing for the playoff.