The first College Football Playoff rankings were revealed Tuesday. With them, a slew of sports junkies have given their opinions on what they like and what they don’t like. Here are three musings and one prediction after looking at the first poll.
Oklahoma isn’t dead: Many college football analysts have written off the Big 12, but let’s not be too quick to turn a blind eye to them just yet. Oklahoma still has a shot at a playoff spot, even if the chances are slim. They lost their two games early to Houston and Ohio State. Houston has faltered in recent weeks, but still has a big game against Louisville to prove how good it is. Ohio State is a top 10 team that still has playoff hopes. Both of these losses could prove to be “good” losses, especially since the Sooners took the initiative and scheduled them in their non-conference slate. Also, their final three games are against No. 17 Baylor, No. 20 West Virginia, and No. 18 Oklahoma State. While these teams do not pose a real threat to the College Football Playoff, a sweep of the Big 12 could prove Oklahoma worthy of a bid, especially if chaos occurs in other major conferences.
Texas A&M: One of the reasons the Aggies are in the No. 4 position right now is because their schedule was front-loaded. Their strength of schedule numbers are ridiculous, but they will come back down to earth. Three of their final four games are on the road against 3-5 Mississippi State, at home against 3-5 Ole Miss, and at home against 2-6 Texas San Antonio. If the playoff committee sticks to their mantra that the schedule matters, then Texas A&M could drop in the standings even if they sweep through those three teams. They do play LSU in the final week of the season, but by that point the Tigers could have one or two more losses than they have right now.
Washington must win out: The committee showed last night that they favor a tougher schedule over a better record. Washington played three non-conference games against Rutgers, Idaho, and Portland State. Also, the Pac 12 has been average at best all season. There are no games coming up on Washington’s schedule that can help their case, and that means a stumble in the last month of the season could cost them a spot in the playoff. They would need some chaos to occur in other conferences to have a chance even if they win the Pac 12 championship game with one loss. They should be a lock though if they go 13-0, even if their schedule is a little softer than a one-loss team without a conference championship.
Prediction – A team will get in that does not win a conference championship: All eight teams that have advanced to the college football playoff the past two seasons won their conference championship. The committee has had it easy, but this year should be different. Alabama could very well go 12-0 heading into the SEC championship game. Would a loss to possible opponent Florida knock them from No. 1 to No. 5? I am going to say “no.” Better scenarios exist in the ACC and the Big Ten. Clemson could very well be undefeated heading into an ACC title game matchup with Virginia Tech or North Carolina. A loss to one of those teams would not be enough to knock the Tigers out of the top four. In the Big Ten, Michigan could be 12-0 going into the title game against a Wisconsin team they only beat by seven in the Big House earlier this year. I do not see the committee leaving out a 12-1 Michigan squad if they lose the conference championship. Also, keep an eye on Ohio State, Louisville, and Texas A&M. There are scenarios where any of these teams could finish 11-1 but not even advance to their conference championship games. It is possible that they could get into the playoff if enough breaks go their way without the benefit of playing a 13th game.
By Ben Billman
Ben Billman is currently a doctoral teaching assistant at the United States Sports Academy. He lives in Mobile, Ala. with his wife Jennifer and son Derrick. He is originally from Indiana, and therefore has a deep love for the game of basketball. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.