Wisconsin controls its destiny – The Badgers sit at No. 7 in the new College Football Playoff rankings. They are the highest ranked team with two losses. Projections have them winning their last three games of the season to finish 10-2 with a 6-2 Big Ten record. This would be enough to push them into the Big Ten championship game against either a 12-0 Michigan team or an 11-1 Ohio State team both currently ranked in the top five. Wisconsin lost to both of these teams earlier this year by seven points respectively. If they were to beat one of these teams in the title game, they would earn a season split with that team and potentially move on to be the Big Ten representative in the college football playoff. This scenario may open the door for two Big Ten teams advancing to the college football playoff, but that will be discussed later.
Auburn controls its destiny too – The chances are slim, but Auburn sits in a position right now where if it wins out, it would be the SEC champion and advance to the College Football Playoff. The Tigers currently sit at 7-2 with losses coming against Clemson and Texas A&M. Both of these can be considered quality losses with both teams sitting in the top 8 nationally in this week’s poll. If Auburn can beat Georgia this week, it will enter the Iron Bowl against Alabama with the winner being crowned as the SEC West champion. Alabama is heavily favored, but if Auburn were able to win that game and an SEC title game over either Florida or Tennessee, they would sit at 11-2 overall with a win on the road against the #1 team in the country. This could open a path in which two SEC teams make the college football playoff.
Louisville and Lamar Jackson – In the 18 years since the BCS era of college football began, the Heisman Trophy winner has played in the national championship game 12 times. The facts and figures seem to point to the idea that the best player in college football should be featured in the biggest game of the year. Lamar Jackson of Louisville is the Heisman frontrunner, and the margin between him and the field is fairly wide right now. The Cardinals may not win their division in the ACC, but could Jackson become a deciding factor in their inclusion based on the insane numbers he is putting up this season? The committee would probably say that the selection process is designed to get the best four teams in the College Football Playoff, but Louisville and Lamar Jackson may be too exciting to leave out even if they are the fifth or sixth ranked team heading into the final week of the ratings.
Prediction – Two teams from the same conference will make the College Football Playoff.
Washington could very well lose a game before the season is over, basically eliminating them and the rest of the Pac 12 from playoff contention. Oklahoma probably won’t have enough momentum down the stretch to jump from eleventh to the top four. That leaves four spots for the Big Ten, the SEC, and the ACC. The SEC is the least likely of these three conferences to get two teams in, but as explained before, there is a scenario where both Auburn and Alabama get in if Auburn beats No. 1 Alabama and wins the SEC title game. The committee would not leave out an 11-1 Alabama team with so many high quality wins. The Big Ten could get two teams in if the scenario explained above occurs with Wisconsin beating an undefeated Michigan or a one-loss Ohio State in the conference championship. This would be more likely if the conference championship game opponent was a 12-0 Michigan squad. The Wolverines have looked dominant almost all season, and losing a conference title game would not be enough to shift them out of the top four. The most likely scenario for one conference to get two teams in the college football playoff is in the ACC. Clemson should sweep through the rest of its schedule and win the ACC title game to finish 13-0. Louisville should finish 11-1 with the lone loss coming at Clemson in a shootout. If both teams win out, there is little doubt that Clemson and Louisville both belong in the top four.
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.