After watching No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Miami, No. 8 Notre Dame, No. 13 Washington State, and No. 14 Mississippi State all lose on Rivalry Weekend, the selection of the four teams for the College Football Playoff next Sunday is going to be one of two things:
1--Smooth as silk with relatively little debate or:
2--An all-out nuclear war (metaphorically, of course) between the Big Ten and the SEC.
Here is the ultra-smooth route: [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
**--The winner of the SEC championship game between Georgia (11-1) and Auburn (10-2) will get in and the loser will be out.
**--The winner of the ACC championship game between Clemson (11-1) and Miami (10-1) will get in and the loser will be out.
**--Oklahoma (11-1) will beat TCU (10-2) in the Big 12 championship and be in.
**--Wisconsin (12-0) will beat Ohio State (10-2) in the Big Ten championship and be in.
How those four winners will be seeded will be anybody’s guess. But nobody will really have a beef against four Power Five champions.
Here is Playoff Armageddon:
**--The SEC champ, ACC champ, and Oklahoma still get in. (Yes, TCU could beat Oklahoma but we’ll deal with that issue on another day.)
**--Ohio State beats Wisconsin for the Big Ten championship and finishes at 11-2.
So the Selection Committee will have three teams locked in and will debate on who’s No. 4. Here are their options:
**--Ohio State (11-2) and Big Ten champions.
**--USC (11-2) and Pac-12 champions if it beats Stanford (9-3)
**--Wisconsin (12-1), Big Ten runnerup.
**--Georgia (11-2) if the Bulldogs lose to Auburn.
**--Clemson (11-2) if the Tigers lose to Miami.
Under this scenario the committee will have some choices but I think the argument about the fourth spot will come down to just two teams: Alabama and Ohio State.
Here are the arguments:
Alabama’s fans will argue that the Crimson Tide has been No. 1 in the polls all season and dominated almost every game it played except for Auburn. That game was on the road to a team that could be the SEC champions. Ironies of ironies: Alabama needs for Auburn to beat Georgia to strengthen its case.
Ohio State’s fans will argue that the Buckeyes are Big Ten champions and that should be the tiebreaker in the final decision. Here’s more irony: A year ago Ohio State (11-1) was a non-conference champion but got in the playoffs while Penn State (11-2), the Big Ten champ, got left out. Penn State had also beaten Ohio State head to head. But, as an athletics director once said: “That was then and this is now.”
Alabama’s detractors will say that the Tide’s only quality win this season was against 9-3 LSU. They will argue that the opener with Florida State doesn’t count for much because the Seminoles, while ranked No. 3 in the preseason, finished 5-7.
Ohio State’s critics will point out that the Buckeyes have two ugly losses—31-16 at home to Oklahoma and 55-24 on the road to Iowa. They will also point out that when Ohio State was placed in the playoffs last year, the Buckeyes proceeded to get boat-raced by Clemson in the semifinals (31-0). That’s not supposed to matter but it won’t keep fans from making the argument.
But when you strip all of the what-ifs away, here is the ultimate question that the selection committee might face: Would it be willing to put in a non-conference champion (Alabama), which would be the SECOND team from a conference, into the playoffs, while leaving the Big Ten champion out for the second straight year?
Alabama Coach Nick Saban wasted no time making his team's case after Saturday's 26-14 loss to Auburn.
"They (Alabama) won 11 games and not many teams are able to do that," Saban said in his post-game news conference. "I really don't know what all the scenarios might be where we'd have the opportunity to do it, but I'd certainly like the see this team get an opportunity to do it."
The rules of the selection committee state that if a non-conference champ is going to be placed into the playoffs ahead of a conference champ then the non-conference champ must be clearly better in the eyes of the committee.
Just remember this: In 2011 two SEC teams, LSU and Alabama, made the BCS championship game. It was the impetus that made the four-team playoff a reality in 2014.
And if the SEC champion and Alabama both get in and the Big Ten champ gets left out, that explosion you will hear in Rosemont, Ill., will be coming from the office of Jim Delany, the commissioner of the Big Ten.
Buckle up friends. This could be quite entertaining. [/membership]