College Football Playoff Scenarios with Expert Predictions
Last weekend's games were supposed to provide clarity for the College Football Playoff picture. The Crimson Tide and Miami were going to win. Things were going to be simple and straightforward. This weekend's conference championship games were going to have little intrigue. Simple. But those two teams didn't win, of course, and now we have a fair bit of chaos.
It's not as bad as it could be, but there are still eight teams that could feasibly be playoff teams. Two of those teams will be knocked out no matter what - the loser of the SEC title game between Auburn and Georgia and the loser of the ACC showdown between Clemson and Miami can kiss their playoff dream goodnight. But there is still a whole lot of drama left to play out. Let's take a look at the teams and what their path looks like (Odds to win the national title are from BetOnline ).
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Teams listed in order of CFP rankings
Clemson (+300): The committee loves the Tigers. If they beat Miami in the ACC Championship Game then they are a lock to be the top seed in the playoffs. That could lead to an unfortunate pairing in the first round, but that's a debate for another day. There's no real drama here, though - if they win. Things could get much more interesting if they lose a close game to Miami, though. There is a decent chance that they could still get in ahead of Alabama. They would have two losses - a first for the playoff - but the Syracuse loss is easily discounted because QB Kelly Bryant was hurt. So, unless Clemson gets blown out by Miami they are in solid shape.
Auburn (+450): Auburn has beaten two teams ranked No. 1, so they are easy to like despite their two losses. But those two losses make this simple - win and they are in, lose and they can't be. They beat Georgia handily, so they have the better chance of making the playoff - but it is far from a lock.
Oklahoma (+400): This one is very straightforward, too. Oklahoma is a mortal lock for the playoff if they beat TCU and win the inaugural Big 12 title game, and they are doomed if they lose. The committee hates the way this team plays defense - or doesn't - and that will be their downfall if they don't take care of business.
Wisconsin (+1200): The Badgers are the only major conference team that has yet to lose, yet they have a very small margin for error here. If they can beat Ohio State and win the Big Ten then they are a playoff team. If they lose - even in a close game - they are done. It's all about the schedule here - they haven't played enough good teams to survive a loss.
Alabama (+300): This is where things really get interesting. Alabama's best win was against a pretty mediocre LSU team. They were manhandled by Auburn. But the committee loves them - especially their defense. A lot of it has to do with their name and reputation. They don't have any control of their situation, though. They need Ohio State to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. And then they will need the committee to take one-loss Alabama over a two loss Ohio State team that has a conference title. That is no certainty. If I was a fan of the Tide I would be bracing myself for disappointment. Since they can't cheer for their team this weekend they should cheer for TCU and Wisconsin. Wins by both of those squads would give Alabama their best chance of making it.
Georgia (+500): If Georgia beats Auburn in the rematch they will almost certainly be in as the SEC champions. If Auburn wins again Georgia has no path.
Miami (+1200): The story is the same as Georgia's - if they win the ACC over Clemson they are playoff bound, but if they lose then the two losses will haunt them and they'll be stuck with a lesser bowl game.
Ohio State (+700): The Buckeyes have some control of their destiny - they have to win the Big Ten Championship Game over Wisconsin or they have no hope at all. Winning the title doesn't guarantee anything, though. Their easiest path is if TCU upsets Oklahoma. That would almost certainly get Ohio State in. If Oklahoma wins, though, then they will have to hope that the committee likes them more than Alabama - and also Clemson if the Tigers lose a close game to Miami. If they do beat Wisconsin, though, I don't think they need to be too nervous.
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