So much for the crowded field of undefeated teams, huh? Now only two remain. Just goes to show how hard it is to go undefeated. That’s also got to be good news if you are North Carolina or Nebraska, two teams that have a chance to end the undefeated seasons of the two remaining unbeatens. But how do things look at this point?
Let’s break it down by conference. First, the Pac-12. Stanford has a very, very small chance of getting in the playoff, and the stars would have to align for it to happen. But that’s it. No one else is getting in, that’s just all there is to it. They need UCLA to win the South and to beat them again in the championship. They need to beat Notre Dame. They need several other teams to all lose, including Oklahoma, Baylor and everyone in the Big Ten. Chances are slim, but they are the last chance the Pac-12 has got. I don’t see it happening though. No Pac-12 in the playoff this year.
Notre Dame isn’t in a conference but deserves a mention here. They have some quality wins and about the most quality loss of any team with a loss. If they beat Stanford, they have a great chance of making the playoff. But without a conference championship game to play in, they will miss an opportunity and ultimately get left out I think.
Clemson is in with two more wins. If they lose either game they may still get in, but will need some help. First they actually need Notre Dame to beat Stanford, not lose. Crazy? No, if both teams finish the season with one loss, Clemson would get in because of the head to head tie breaker, just like Baylor finished ahead of TCU last season. So there is room for error, but it depends on how that loss happens. If they fail to win their conference I would doubt they could still get in. If they lose to South Carolina they might still have a chance seeing as they could beat North Carolina and South Carolina would have a win against UNC as well, so even considering the loss to Citadel, they aren’t THAT bad I guess. Still, Clemson is the only shot the ACC has got. UNC played two FCS teams. They simply won’t get in no matter what. Consider that season opening loss to South Carolina that just keeps getting worse and there is no way UNC makes the playoff. Not a chance.
The SEC may get left out of this playoff at the end of the day. Think if Florida drops to Florida State then beats Alabama. Or if Alabama loses to Auburn and Ole Miss wins the Egg Bowl then beats Florida in the rematch. There is no way a 2-loss champ or 3-loss champ from the SEC gets in. No way at all. And let’s be honest, Florida losing to Florida State looks pretty likely given their lackluster play lately. The SEC isn’t as it once was. They don’t have an automatic spot. My guess is Alabama steam rolls Auburn and Florida to stamp their ticket though. Still, only Alabama or Florida can get in at this point, and both need to run the table to do it.
The Big Ten is still a mystery. If Michigan beats Ohio State and Michigan State loses to Penn State, then the Wolverines will play Iowa in the Big Ten championship. If Iowa loses to Nebraska, a real possibility (ask MSU), then plays Michigan for the Big Ten title, does the winner have a chance at the playoff? I’m not so sure. But what if Ohio State wins, Michigan State and Iowa lose, and Ohio State beats a 1-loss Iowa for the Big Ten title? Are they in? They would only have 2 quality wins, Michigan and Iowa, and several underwhelming performances. I don’t know that they get in to be honest. Here’s what I do know. Michigan State has the best chance at the playoff, followed by Iowa. Ohio State has a distant chance and Michigan right behind them, but a lot of teams would need to lose for that to happen. But the Big Ten should be pleased that they have four teams in the running this late in the season.
The Big 12 is a little less of a mystery now. TCU is out. Barely though. Hey coaches: stop going for two! What is wrong with you? TCU had no reason to go for 2 early in the game but did, failed, and if they hadn’t, they would have won on that last touchdown by kicking an extra point. Simple. Don’t go for two unless you have to. At any rate, you now have three 1-loss teams at the top of the conference with good shots to make the playoff. Oklahoma seems to have the best chance. Baylor can still make a case, but it’s going to be hard with their soft schedule. Oklahoma State can beat OU and perhaps get in if Baylor drops another one. If they have co-champs again, a real possibility, who know what happens. We do know that OU or OSU will finish with 1-loss. Baylor may also finish with a loss. Would the Big 12 name co champs again or what? No one knows. But only those three have a chance at the playoff at this point. If enough teams lose, I could even see Oklahoma and Baylor both getting in, but that is a long shot.
The American champ is going to be in a New Year’s six bowl for sure. Right now there is a semi final coming up between Houston and Navy. The winner will get Temple for the conference championship. Whoever wins that championship is undoubtedly in a New Year’s bowl. And good for them. I think it will be Navy at this point only because of the QB health problems for Houston.
So here is my prediction on how things break down at the end of this season:
SEC champion: Alabama over Florida
Pac-12 champion: Stanford over UCLA
Big Ten champion: Michigan State over Iowa
Big 12 champion: Oklahoma
ACC champion: Clemson over North Carolina
AAC champion: Navy over Temple
Orange Bowl: (1) Clemson vs (4) Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl: (2) Alabama vs (3) Michigan State
Championship: Alabama over Oklahoma
Rose Bowl: Stanford vs Michigan
Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame vs Baylor
Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma State vs Florida State
Peach Bowl: Navy vs Iowa
For the Heisman, this thing keeps changing it is crazy. However I think it is coming down to three finalists now: Derrick Henry, Deshaun Watson and Christian McCaffrey, with Henry winning it. However I think this will be the closest race we’ve seen in a long time. There will be little separation between these three. But we’ll see.
If I was on the committee, this is how I would rank the teams for the playoff right now:
5. Notre Dame
6. Michigan State
8. Oklahoma State
9. Ohio State
11. North Carolina
15. Florida State
19. Ole Miss
20. Washington State