By Joel Silverberg / @JoelSilverberg
And just like that, two more playoff hopefuls are gone.
It was already unlikely for Penn State needing to beat Ohio State on the road and then knock off either Minnesota or Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game to get in to the College Football Playoff, but the Buckeyes delivered the knockout punch in Columbus on Saturday 28-17 to put an end to the Nittany Lions’ playoff chances.
And then there’s Oregon. Going on the road as a two touchdown favorite into Tempe to take on a 5-5 Arizona State team. A place that’s dangerous to play for ranked opponents, especially at night. Arizona State’s 31-28 win over the Ducks was the fifth time in the past three seasons the Sun Devils had beaten a ranked team at home.
Oregon’s loss leaves Utah as the lone playoff contender from the Pac-12. The two teams could meet in the conference title bout assuming the Utes take care of Colorado on Saturday. If Utah loses the Ducks will face USC.
There seems to be some controversy surrounding the latest College Football Playoff rankings. Ohio State jumped LSU for the top spot. The Buckeyes had the better win over the past weekend, but I still think the Tigers have the overall better resume. LSU has four top ten wins, but the Texas win early looks less impressive than it did in September. Ohio State’s early wins over Cincinnati and Indiana look stronger than they did at the time, but I’d still probably lean in favor of the Tigers. Regardless, it’ll sort itself out in the next two weeks.
The other point of contention is Georgia still sitting at No. 4 over Alabama. I get that Georgia lost to a South Carolina team at home that Alabama destroyed on the road. However, up to this point, what is Alabama’s best win? Texas A&M on the road? The only other Power 5 team the Crimson Tide have beaten with a winning record is Tennessee. Georgia has a neutral site win over Florida, a win on the road at Auburn and a win at home against Notre Dame.
So sure, Georgia has the worse loss, but the strength of victory outweighs the strength of defeat here. Alabama can match part of Georgia’s resume with a win in the Iron Bowl, but Georgia would still have more quality wins.
Ultimately none of it matters. Georgia’s getting in if it beats LSU in Atlanta for the SEC Championship and Alabama’s sitting at home and the Bulldogs aren’t getting into the playoff at all if it loses a second game. The committee has made it clear two-loss teams are just going to have that much less of a chance to sneak in.
I think right now the top nine teams in the College Football Playoff rankings all have some fashion of a path to the four-team playoff. The top four teams — Ohio State, LSU, Clemson and Georgia can each get in by simply winning out. They all control their own destiny.
For Alabama it needs some chaos like it did in 2017. It needs Georgia to lose. Alabama isn’t getting in over LSU if the Tigers are 12-1. The SEC could get two teams in that way with Alabama missing out. The Tide would also benefit from Oregon beating Utah and Oklahoma and Baylor maybe cancelling each other out. I’d image Alabama will be rooting for Oklahoma State in the annual Bedlam game.
A one-loss champion from the Pac-12 or Big 12 would have a chance. Oklahoma would probably have a better chance to get in than Utah. The Sooners’ wins over Baylor and Iowa State are stronger than Utah’s win over Washington and a win over Oregon in the Pac-12 title game may not be enough. Baylor could have a similar resume if it beats Oklahoma, but would a revenge win over the Sooners be enough to get the Bears into the top four?
Finally if Minnesota beats Wisconsin and Ohio State, while highly unlikely, would get into the playoff. It’s tough to deny a team that boasts three top-15 wins in the final month of the season.
Which brings me to my psychotic scenario that won’t happen, but would cause nothing but chaos if it did; what if Wisconsin wins out?
The Badgers play Minnesota in the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe on Saturday. A win would clinch Wisconsin the Big Ten West and set up a rematch against Ohio State in the conference title bout. Two top-ten wins in consecutive weeks for the Badgers would make things interesting, but what would the committee do? If Georgia, Utah, and Oklahoma all lost, could the Badgers sneak in at No. 4? Wins over Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio State would be significantly better than Alabama’s victories over Auburn and Texas A&M.
It’s unlikely to happen and it’s a conversation that we probably won’t get to have, but it’s worth noting there may be a couple scenarios that can develop when it comes to college football.
Finally, thanks to everyone who checked out the blog this season. I’m excited for the final couple of football weekends before the final playoff selections are announced.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and enjoy this week’s good, bad and ugly from the past football weekend.
Good: Ohio State. Chase Young’s return was a big boost for Ohio State as the defensive star was named a finalist for the Bednarik Award after the Buckeye’s win over Penn State. A couple of fumbles made it interesting in the second half, but Justin Fields delivered a game-sealing touchdown and Ohio State’s defense did the rest as the Buckeyes clinched the Big Ten East.
Honorable Mention: Baylor. Texas seemed like a scary matchup for the Bears to drop two straight after blowing a 25-point lead to Oklahoma the week before. Instead Baylor’s defense limited Sam Ehlinger and the Longhorns’ offense en route to a 24-10 win. Baylor will have another chance at Oklahoma in a couple weeks in the Big 12 Championship game.
Bad: Georgia. As I mentioned above, I think Georgia deserves to be in the top four in the playoff rankings, but it won’t beat LSU if the offense doesn’t get better. The Bulldogs’ defense is lights out, but unless Georgia holds Joe Burrow and Co. to 17 points or less, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Kirby Smart’s team beats the Tigers and gets into the playoff. Jake Fromm hasn’t thrown a pick since the South Carolina loss, but he’s completed less than 50 percent of his passes in each of Georgia’s last three games. Georgia has earned the right to play for a playoff spot, but it still needs to be better to beat LSU.
Honorable Mention: Texas. Seriously, this team has plummeted since September. The Longhorns aren’t getting blown out, but there’s been little to write home about lately with Texas losing four of its last six and giving up 48 points in surviving against Kansas. Once a top-ten team, Texas will finish 7-5 at best if it beats Texas Tech. It’s a severe disappointment for a team that made the Big 12 title game last year.
Ugly: Oregon. Really, Oregon? Really? You blew a shot at the playoff to a head coach who didn’t know his own school’s mascot when he took the job? You make me sick. All jokes aside, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Oregon screwed over the rest of the conference by handing Utah its second loss in a couple weeks and cancelled out the Pac-12 entirely from the playoff race.
Honorable Mention: UCLA. I don’t know which is worse; the fact that the Pac-12 South was so poor that UCLA still had an outside shot at winning the division until two weeks ago, or that the Bruins gave up over 500 passing yards to a backup quarterback in a blowout loss to USC in the annual rivalry game. For today I’ll choose the latter.