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- Through 11 weeks, the College Football Playoff picture is starting to clear up.
- No team is locked in yet, but we do know where two of the teams will come from.
- The final two spots will likely come down to four teams for the committee to choose from.
There are only three weeks left in the college football regular season and we still don’t know who will be in the College Football Playoff, but after a weekend in which top teams fell, we do have a good idea where two of the teams will come from.
In a wild weekend of action, we saw: No. 1 Georgia get blown out by Auburn, shaking up the top of the ranking, but also keeping the Tigers alive; Miami announce their presence with authority with a blowout win over No. 3 Notre Dame at home; Oklahoma keep their hopes alive with a win over TCU; Wisconsin finally add a big win that they desperately needed, by manhandling Iowa; and Alabama survive a scare with a late touchdown to beat Mississippi State.
At this point, there are nine or ten teams that appear to still be in the playoff hunt. We know where two of the spots will come from and then it will be up to the committee to decide the rest.
Of course, unexpected upsets will certainly throw a wrench in any projections, but let’s take a look at where the playoff stands as of now.
The first two spots in the playoff appear to be spoken for.
The winner of the SEC Championship game – Auburn could be the first 2-loss team to make the playoff if they run the table. That seemed like a long-shot a week ago, but after they blew out No. 1 Georgia, they just need to beat Alabama at home and then Georgia again in the SEC title game and they are in. If that doesn’t happen, the SEC champ will be a 1-loss Georgia or Alabama. Either way, the winner will be in.
The winner of the ACC Championship game – Miami did not lock up a playoff spot yet, despite being undefeated and putting together back-to-back impressive wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. But The U is close. What we do know is that, barring a huge upset between now and then, the winner of the Clemson-Miami matchup in the ACC title game is in the playoff.
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The other two spots in the playoff will likely come from this group of teams.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin beat Iowa easily, one week after Iowa did the same to Ohio State. Wisconsin’s schedule in the Big Ten West is still nothing to brag about, but for the most part they have handled it easily. In addition, they can still add wins over Michigan and (probably) Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. Notre Dame’s loss certainly helped the Badgers, and if they win out, they are almost certainly in the playoff. But they need to win out.
Oklahoma – Oklahoma has fought their way back into consideration after a disappointing mid-season loss at home to an Iowa State team that turned out to be better than most thought. There is still no guarantee the Big 12 will be included in the playoff, but if Oklahoma takes care of business and wins the Big 12 title game, it will be hard to keep them out out of one of the final two spots.
A second SEC team– Here is where things start to get complicated. Auburn is out if they don’t win the SEC. The same goes for Georgia. But what about Bama? If they beat Auburn and then lose to Georgia in the SEC title game, Alabama is sitting there at one loss. Would the committee take, let’s say, a 1-loss Oklahoma team over a 1-loss Alabama, just because OU won an arguably weaker conference? We might find out.
A second ACC team – This would have seemed absurd a couple of weeks ago, but if Clemson beats Miami in the ACC title game, the Hurricanes would be another 1-loss team with some impressive wins. You could make a strong case for Miami to also make the field with Clemson over some other 1-loss teams.
These teams are still on life support.
Ohio State – It’s hard to imagine Ohio State getting into the playoff with two losses, especially after the embarrassing performance against Iowa. But if they win the Big Ten and beat both Michigan and undefeated Wisconsin on the way, they at least deserve a mention depending on what happens to other teams.
The winner of the Pac-12 championship – USC is in a similar position to Ohio State. They need a lot of help, but they can still win the Pac-12 and make a case. USC does have two losses, but both were on the road to ranked opponents. The Pac-12 still has two other teams with two losses, Washington State, and Washington, but thay also need a lot of help. Stanford is still alive in the Pac-12, but has three losses, and is out of the playoff hunt.
TCU– TCU was probably knocked out with their loss to OU this weekend. But they are another 2-loss team that could still win their conference. Even then, this is a long shot. But if some other top teams fall in the coming weeks, they could get some mention simply because they won a conference and avenged one of their losses (OU) in doing so.
At this point, things look pretty straight-forward. The SEC and ACC champs are in. The other two spots could simply go to the Big Ten and Big 12 champs – assuming that is Wisconsin and Oklahoma – and we could call it a day.
But there are potentially some 1-loss teams who will have strong resumes. And of course all of that is thrown up in the air if Oklahoma or Wisconsin lose between now and selection day.