Separation Saturday is right. With all those big matchups, someone was going to come out on top. Here’s where things stand right now.
In the ACC, Clemson has a clear road to the playoff: win. Their final three games look super easy, but the ACC championship could be tough. Not tougher than Florida State or Notre Dame though. At the rate they are playing, North Carolina will be their opponent. The ACC had better pray UNC does not win that championship, because that would be their only big win of the season and not nearly enough to vault into the playoff. If the ACC is going to get someone in the playoff, it is going to be Clemson.
Is there room for error? I suppose Clemson could lose one of their road games at Syracuse or at South Carolina but still win out and probably get in the playoff. It would really depend on what other conference champions did. But right now if Clemson wins out, they are in. If North Carolina wins out, they have a slim to nil chance of getting in, but it is there. That’s the ACC’s chances at the playoff.
The Big Ten picture didn’t really clear up with that Sparty loss. If they win out, they would finish with wins over Oregon, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa. Pretty decent. Air Force doesn’t look have bad either. But close games with Purdue and Rutgers won’t help their cause. Still, win out, they are probably in I think.
If Ohio State wins out, they are in. They would have wins over Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa. That’s really about it. But their name is Ohio State, so win out and that’s that. The more intriguing thing would be if Michigan wins out. Could they get in? My guess is no. I don’t think a 2-loss team will ever make the playoff unless something really crazy happens that year.
Iowa is an interesting consideration. If they win out, are they in? I think they should be. Wins over Northwestern, Pitt, Wisconsin and the Big Ten championship game would be big. And at the rate things are going they may be the only undefeated at season’s end. So the Big Ten still has options. Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan State, in that order, are their shots at the playoff.
The SEC picture is much clearer. Florida is in the conference championship. Alabama looks to be headed that way. Right now only three teams could make the playoff- Alabama, Florida or LSU. If Alabama loses another game and LSU wins out and beats Florida (again) then they are easily in. If Florida beats Florida State and the SEC West champion and wins out, they are easily in. And Alabama can lose the rest of their games and probably get in to be honest. The committee has a love affair with them.
But the path is simple: one of those three teams must win out. If each of them drops another game, watch for total mayhem as the SEC gets left out of the playoff. That would sure be something.
Notre Dame can still be a spoiler. Obviously they need to win out. They also need Stanford to win the Pac-12 championship so that no team from that conference has less than 2 losses. If the Pac-12 champ has 2 losses and the Big 12 champ is a 1-loss Baylor, Notre Dame would be in. It is a long shot, but it is there.
The Big 12 got a dose of reality. Obviously their teams are overrated. TCU got dominated by the first ranked team they played. Watch out Baylor, you’re next. I still think Oklahoma looks the best among this crowd and will come out on top at the end, but we’ll see. Between Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma, if one wins out, definitely in. TCU? I am not sure at this point. If they beat OU and Baylor and Oklahoma State loses to both of them, then they might have an outside chance. If Baylor or OU lose, they are definitely done. Oklahoma State probably has no room for error either.
It will be interesting to see how it plays out. If there isn’t an undefeated team from the Big 12, there is a good chance they get left out again.
Here is how I see things playing out:
SEC champion: Alabama 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) Clemson vs (4) Stanford and (2) Alabama vs (3) Ohio State
Championship: Clemson over Ohio State
I think unlike last year, both semifinal games are very close however. The Heisman race just opened itself right up this weekend too. Right now if the vote was held, you would have four players in attendance: Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry and Deshaun Watson. My money is still on Fournette winning it, but it is a close four man race at this point.
If I were on the playoff committee, this is how I would rank the teams:
2. Ohio State
4. Oklahoma State
7. Notre Dame
15. Michigan State
16. North Carolina
20. Florida State
23. Mississippi State
So as of right now, here is how things look to be playing out for those New Year’s Bowls.
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs Stanford
Cotton Bowl: Alabama vs Ohio State
Rose Bowl: UCLA vs Michigan State
Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame vs Baylor
Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma vs LSU
Peach Bowl: Memphis vs Iowa