It’s that time again. The playoff committee will be releasing their first rankings for the season. I like that they waited until the first week of November. Last year was too early. So what should we expect to see?
Well, there are 11 undefeated teams left. Of those 11, I can tell you a few that definitely will NOT be in the top four: Toledo, Houston, Memphis, Oklahoma State…sorry, but not there yet. I can tell you two who definitely WILL be in the top four initially: Clemson and LSU. One handed Notre Dame their only loss and the other handed Florida their only loss. The other unbeatens haven’t proven anything frankly. Michigan State got a road win against a ranked Michigan team, but did they really outplay them or get lucky on the final play?
Thing are sure going to get interesting down the stretch. The Big Ten and Big 12 both have back heavy schedules. All the powerhouses still have to play each other. Florida has basically gotten a berth in the SEC title game already, so that side of things is figured out, but the west is still up in the air. If LSU beats Alabama, then every SEC fan in America will be rooting against Ole Miss. Why? Because if LSU only loses once to Ole Miss and Ole Miss finishes with just the two losses, they are playing Florida for the SEC championship. And if they win it, the SEC won’t get a representative in the playoff.
But who knows, Alabama could trounce LSU this weekend. Then LSU could beat Ole Miss and send Alabama to meet Florida. It’s all going to get decided in the next four exciting weeks.
Leonard Fournette is still my Heisman pick. Trevone Boykin will get an invite to the ceremony, and just to keep things interesting, so will Ezekiel Elliot and Christian McCaffrey.
Here is how I think things will shake out in the end:
SEC champion: LSU over Florida
Pac-12 champion: Stanford over Utah
Big Ten champion: Ohio State over Iowa
Big 12 champion: Oklahoma
ACC champion: Clemson over North Carolina
Playoff: (1) LSU vs (4) Stanford and (2) Clemson vs (3) Ohio State
Championship: LSU over Clemson
Right now with Baylor’s QB situation being what it is, and TCU showing inconsistency all season, I’m thinking Oklahoma has the best chance of finishing on top with how they are playing. And North Carolina just asserted itself as the favorite in their division, with a huge assist from the refs of the Duke game. And you can quote me on this: Iowa has a great shot to win the Big Ten and go undefeated into the playoff. Don’t count them out.
If I were on the playoff committee, this is how I would rank the top 25 as of right now:
4. Ohio State
5. Michigan State
8. Oklahoma State
14. Notre Dame
17. Florida State
18. North Carolina
20. Ole Miss
25. Texas A&M
Of course as last year showed us, initial rankings are meaningless, so don’t read too much into these. All we can really understand is what the committee is thinking and what they value. Early on I think they will look only at the undefeateds for the top four, and they are looking for big wins among that group. With the one loss group, they are looking at the quality of the loss. Good opponent? Home or on the road? This is what will work against Alabama as they lost at home to a now two loss team, a loss that included several turnovers. That performance will haunt them, but if they win out they will definitely still make the playoff. One more loss and they are done though.
I will say this. You won’t think it now, but the conference most likely to get shutout of the playoff will again be the Big 12 because of the lack of a title game. Each of their big four teams will get three quality games between Oklahoma, Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State. That’s good, but each team in every conference will get that too, minus the ACC. It’s the title game that will make a difference. Stanford could get a one loss Utah. Someone could get an undefeated Iowa. Those title games are huge, and there is a distinct possibility of the Big 12 getting a three-way tie atop their conference, or at least a two way tie.
Will they decide a champion this time? I don’t know, but the way I see it, no one is coming out undefeated from that conference. No one. Which means they are the most likely conference again to not get in the playoff.
And when that happens, mark my words, the Big 12 will get to 12 again, and I mean fast. They will see the value in the system and model the other conferences have created. Separate the power teams, ensure a quality conference championship. That’s the ticket in.
When they do that, the first school they will call is BYU. Already lots of connections there, huge school, brings competition and value to the conference. It’s really a no brainer. The second one? Big toss up. Colorado State would have an outside chance because of proximity to BYU. Cincinnati has proximity to West Virginia. But I think they would eventually settle on Memphis. The football program seems to be on track and basketball is always strong. Memphis is a great recruiting area as well and you know they would say yes.
That would give the Big 12 a zipper formation of divisions. Each team gets a permanent rival in the other division. You would have BYU rival Memphis, Kansas rival Kansas State, Oklahoma State rival Oklahoma, Texas rival Texas Tech, TCU rival Baylor and Iowa State rival West Virginia. Winner plays in Jerry’s world for the league championship.
Imagine that set up this year. BYU, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU and Iowa State in one division. TCU would likely come out on top, with wins over BYU and Oklahoma State of high quality. In the other division you have Memphis, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Baylor and West Virginia. Suppose Oklahoma comes out on top. They have quality wins over Memphis and Baylor. Now consider their cross divisional games. Then to top it off, TCU could play Oklahoma for a championship.
Now how does that winner get left out of the playoff? Now your top teams don’t each have to waste games with the likes of Kansas and Iowa State. Some will play them, but those who don’t get teams like BYU or Memphis instead. Much higher quality right there.
So just wait. The Big 12 will get left out of the playoff again. It will be because of how they are structured and don’t have a title game, again. And this time they will be forced to do something about it. When those final rankings come out, BYU and Memphis had better be near a phone.