Last week I started writing an article about how there was a big gap between the top 6 teams in the country and everyone else, and I planned on finishing it with this past weekend’s scores to back it up.
That article is now in my trash bin, never to see the light of day because the College Football Playoff picture is as unpredictable as it has ever been with teams 2, 3, 4, 7, 8 and 9 all losing in the span of 6 hours on Saturday.
There is just one single truth that we can all agree on within the standings, that Alabama is so number 1 right now that they should already have their team hotel booked for the playoffs.
One week after blanking LSU on prime time television, they Tide embarrassed Mississippi State 51-3, improving their record to a perfect 10-0. If that wasn’t scary enough for the rest of the country, their true-Freshman quarterback is coming off the best game of his career, scoring 4 touchdowns on a total of 447 yards, and playing like a veteran with a decade of experience. With production like that, combined with a near perfect defense, it is going to be tough for any team in the country to hang in with Alabama on the scoreboard.
So it’s the Crimson Tide, and then everyone else, that much we know. But who fills out the final three for the playoffs?
Yes, there are just two weeks left in the season before the conference championships, but we are going to need all of that time to determine the rankings. One team from the ACC and Big Ten will make the playoffs, and the 4th seed is a real wildcard.
Who will represent the ACC? Will it be Clemson, or Louisville?
Clemson should have run over Pittsburgh last week, but instead lost on a last minute field goal. We shouldn’t have been surprised after the Tigers barely got NC State due to a missed Wolf Pack field goal, so a loss to Pittsburgh wasn’t entirely shocking. The good news for Clemson is they hold the tie-breaker with fellow ACC powerhouse Louisville since they beat them earlier in the season.
They should, and I am using the word ‘should’ again, beat Wake Forest and South Carolina and then meet Virginia Tech in the title game. The Hokies are moderate this season with some bad losses to teams like Syracuse, but then again, this is a Clemson team who has won 5 of 9 games by 7 points or less.
Sharing the race to the playoffs in the ACC are the Louisville Cardinals. After losing a shootout to Clemson in week 5, they have won convincingly the rest of the way, albeit against non-ranked colleges. With teams 2 through 4 losing this weekend, and Louisville smashing Wake Forest by 32 points, they should be in the top 4 when the ratings are released Tuesday. If they win out, and beat Houston and Kentucky in the following two weeks, they should secure a spot in the title qualifier.
Would the ratings committee take two ACC teams in the final four? That might just come down to how the Big Ten shakes out in the next 21 days.
There are two 9-1 teams in the conference, Michigan and Ohio State, and then a pair of 8-2 teams, Wisconsin and Penn State. All four will be ranked inside the top ten, and all with legit playoff aspirations.
Ohio State is the driver’s seat right now. After back to back 62-3 wins against good teams, the Buckeyes should fly by Michigan State this weekend and be waiting at the Horses how for Michigan on November 26th. That meeting between could feature two top 4 teams and will be the most important game of the season for all of college football, and it couldn’t happen between two better rivals.
If that wasn’t a tough enough task for the Wolverines, if they do beat Ohio State they would then meet Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. This is going to be a difficult way to make the playoffs, but if they do, they will be coming off back-to-back must-win contests, which would have them post season ready.
Ready for the wild card in the conference? Penn State.
If Ohio State and Penn State both win out, they would each finish with just one loss in the conference, and with the Nittany Lions winning their head-to-head contest, they would be in the conference title game. Would that eliminate Ohio State, even though they are playing the best football in the country right now aside from Alabama? Are they good enough to make it to the playoffs without having to play in a conference title game?
That leaves the Washington Huskies on the outside looking in. They were left out of the top 4 two weeks ago even thought they were undefeated, and then they went on to lose to 20th ranked USC. They really need the Big Ten to beat up on each other badly for them to have a shot of the playoffs, but it would require a generous selection committee, which we know they are not, and some really bad play by Michigan and Clemson in the final three weeks.
So what does all this mean? Well, the playoffs should feature Alabama and then at least one team from the Big Ten and ACC. The fourth spot is up for grabs and will likely change three times over the next three weeks.
Who would have thought that Saturday morning we would have expected Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington to be in the playoffs, and then 72 hours we realize that it could instead be Alabama, Louisville, Penn State and Ohio State?
This time of the year is always exciting to watch college football, and with so much still to play for across the board, this has become must-see-TV!
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