November 11, 2015

LEWIS | Trying To Predict The College Football Playoff

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The year’s second College Football Playoff (God, I hate that name) rankings were released on Tuesday. There were a few surprises, but all in all, I was largely satisfied with the list. It’s hard to argue with the top three choices in the ranking — undefeated Clemson clearly belongs at the number one spot and, even though I hate to say it, Alabama is looking like they might be the best team in the country. Although Ohio State has continued to look sloppy, there’s no way the committee keeps an undefeated Buckeye squad out of the top four, and their number three ranking is appropriate.

The biggest debate on the ranking is the number four spot. Notre Dame currently fills the spot, and if the playoff were to begin today, they would play Clemson in a rematch of earlier this season. Although I’m thrilled that my Irish are currently in the playoff, I’m sure that many people would disagree with their ranking. Baylor, who many believe was snubbed last year, is undefeated yet is still only ranked sixth. Oklahoma State is also undefeated and just had an impressive win over TCU. Yet the Cowboys come into the rankings at number eight. Both teams have a strong case for the fourth spot, and you could even make the case that teams like Stanford and Iowa do as well.

Although there are problems now, it looks like these issues will be sorted out by the remainder of the season. Most teams currently have their College Football Playoff destiny in their own hands. Let’s look through the different scenarios that could occur by year’s end.

If Clemson wins out, they’re a lock for the number one spot in the playoff. However, they have no margin of error. If, let’s say, North Carolina knocks them off in the ACC Championship game, they likely don’t get the nod. This would also spell doom for the ACC as a whole, as there is no other team in position to make a push for the CFP.

If Alabama wins out, they’ll obviously be a lock for the playoff. If Alabama wins the SEC West, and Florida beats Alabama in the SEC Championship game, then Florida would likely make the playoff. However, if Bama doesn’t win the SEC West, and Ole Miss or LSU go on to beat Florida in the SEC Championship, there is a strong possibility that no team from the SEC gets a nod. While LSU could potentially get in, a two loss Ole Miss team has no shot.

Now to the Big 10. Michigan State was likely doomed by their loss to Nebraska, and Michigan was previously doomed by their punters inability to do the most basic job in football. So the only real chance the Big 10 has of making the playoff is Ohio State winning out. If Iowa remains undefeated and beats Ohio State in the Big 10 championship game, then things would really get interesting. Would an undefeated Iowa squad be more impressive than an undefeated or one loss Big 12 champion? I’m leaning towards no.

If Baylor wins out, I don’t see any way that the committee snubs them again from the playoff field. The Bears would have wins at TCU and Oklahoma State, as well as against a hot Oklahoma team. If Oklahoma State wins out, they also would be in the same situation. TCU needs to win the rest of their games and hope that Ole Miss wins the SEC, and Notre Dame loses to Stanford, both of which are very real possibilities. All in all, the Big 12 has a good chance of making the playoff.

So where does this leave Notre Dame? If Notre Dame wins out, and Stanford goes on to win the Pac-12, would their resume be more impressive than that of an undefeated Big 12 Champion? I don’t think the committee would snub the Big 12 two years in a row, so I think Notre Dame wouldn’t make the playoff in that situation. However, if Notre Dame wins out and the Big 12 produces a one-loss champion, they’re a lock.

The champion of the Pac-12 is a longshot to make the playoff, but it could happen. Stanford must win out, or Utah must win out and hope Stanford loses to Notre Dame. Both teams must hope that Ole Miss wins the SEC, and either Clemson loses or the Big 10 produces a one-loss champion.

The popular projection of the final CFP rankings is this: Clemson at number one, Alabama at number two, Baylor at number three, and Ohio State at number four. However, I have a feeling that Ohio State will lose against either Michigan State or Michigan, and that Oklahoma State will win out and win the Big 12. Notre Dame is also going to beat Stanford. If that happens, then we end up with Notre Dame at number three, and Oklahoma State at number four.