Everyone has heard of March Madness, but what about the madness that ensues in late November; the college football playoff. With only one week of games left, the top four teams should be clear cut, right? Wrong. With only the conference championships left to play, there are still 8-10 teams in the conversation to make the playoff. In the third year of the playoff system, chaos rules.
Before we understand how each team can make the playoff, we must first understand the playoff itself. The top four teams in the final rankings make the playoff. A committee comprised of 12 members with experience as anything from coaches and players, to journalist and college administrators, decide the rankings. Above everything else, the committees job is to get the four best teams in the nation into the playoff; a task that is much easier said than done. The committee looks at the full body of work, or résumé, of each team. Wins against top 25 ranked teams, conference championships and quality losses are a few things that the committee looks at. They also value the winner of head to head matchups, when considering two similar teams. The committee also decides who plays in the new year’s six bowl games. The highest ranked group of five conference champion also makes a new years six bowl. Come Sunday, the final rankings will be released, and America will know who is in.
The top ten is as follows:
- Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0)
- Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)
- Clemson Tigers (11-1)
- Washington Huskies (11-1)
- Michigan Wolverines (10-2)
- Wisconsin Badgers (10-2)
- Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2)
- Colorado Buffaloes (10-2)
- Oklahoma Sooners (9-2)
- Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-2)
SEC: The SEC is the most clear cut conference in the nation. Usually head and shoulders above the pack, they fell off this season. Unbeaten Alabama, however, is still the obvious favorite to win the national championship. They are a 24 point favorite against 15th ranked Florida in the SEC championship on Saturday. Most believe that even with a loss to the Gators, Bama will still make the playoff. In all likelihood, the Crimson Tide will be playing come December 31st and the college football playoff.
Big Ten: This is where it gets interesting. The big ten has 4 teams in the top ten, and the two highest ranked are not the two who will be playing in the championship. Penn State and Wisconsin will be playing in Indianapolis on Saturday for the Big Ten title. With the Big Ten being as good as it is this year, it makes sense that the champion would make the playoff. It all comes down to how well Clemson and Washington perform in their championship games. If they both win, it becomes a very difficult decision between Ohio State and the winner of Penn State/Wisconsin. If Penn State wins, they have the head to head victory against the Buckeyes, but only one top 25 win, compared to OSU’s three. Also, they have two losses compared to the Bucks one. However, a win against Wisconsin would give Penn State two top 25 wins, and if Temple beats Navy in the American Championship, that could catapult the Owls in the rankings, bringing it to three top 25 wins for the Nittany Lions; matching Ohio Sates three. Then it becomes a much more interesting conversation for the selection committee. It is hard for Wisconsin to jump frog Ohio state, due the fact that they lost in the head to head matchup. If either Clemson or Washington lose, then it becomes easy for the Big Ten to get two teams in the playoff: Ohio State and the conference champion. If both Clemson and Washington lose, it is very possible that three Big Ten teams could make it in. It would come down to a conversation between Michigan and Colorado. The Big Ten will have at least one team in the playoff, that is for certain.
Pac 12: As of today, Washington still sits in the one final spot. They play Colorado on Saturday for the Pac-12 championship. If Washington wins, it makes sense that they would be in. However, if the Big Ten champion wins impressively, and the committee values Ohio State’s résumé over Washington’s, they could still be passed up by a Big Ten team. If Colorado wins, they would need help getting in. Clemson losing would help, because then it becomes a conversation between the Buffaloes and Michigan. Colorado would have a conference championship, but Michigan won the head-to-head matchup. Things look up for the Buffaloes, though, because the loss to Michigan came early in the season, and they are on an eight game win streak since, while the wolverines lost two of their last three games. Not to mention, their starting quarterback was knocked out of the head-to-head matchup. The committee would take that all into consideration.
ACC: Things in the ACC are simple. Clemson plays Virginia Tech in the championship game. Tech is playing spoiler. Clemson wins, and they are in. Clemson loses, and it opens the door for chaos.
Big 12: The big 12 doesn’t have an official championship game, but the winner of Oklahoma State/Oklahoma wins the conference. There is almost no way that the Big 12 gets a team in the playoff. The conference just is not strong enough.The only team with any type of chance is Oklahoma, but with the abundance of quality two loss teams ahead of them, it is extremely unlikely.
Group of Five: 17th ranked Western Michigan is the only undefeated team in the nation other than Alabama, and therefore the clear favorite to get the spot in a new years six bowl. They play Ohio in the MAC championship tonight. If Ohio can pull off the upset it opens the door for 19th ranked Navy, who plays Temple in the American Championship. If Temple wins and Western Michigan loses, it puts the Owls in a great position to get the group of five new years six spot.
Even with only one week of games left, the possibilities are endless for the final four teams. College football is a chaotic sport, and this year is no different. The only thing you can be certain about, is that Saturday is going to be a whole lot of fun.