The time has finally come…the first playoff rankings are coming this week. This should be interesting. At least they waited a good while to figure them out. Let’s see what to expect.
The top two teams are no-brainers. Mississippi State and Florida State are undefeated and will be one and two, no question. After that you have another undefeated and 18 one-loss teams. Things will get complicated to see the least. They will no doubt analyze each game and each team. They will look at good wins (Oregon over Michigan State for example) and bad wins (UCLA over Colorado for example) and will look at good losses (Auburn to Mississippi State) and bad losses (Utah to Washington State). All will be looked at closely.
My guess? Oregon and Notre Dame will come in as the other two teams in the top four. They each have a good loss. Neither was to a bad team. They each have good wins. Each has only one bad win (Washington State and North Carolina). And most importantly, they are from different places than the top two teams. Diversity will be key for the committee I think.
And here’s the thing. All these polls stacked with SEC teams at the top fail to realize that Auburn has to play both Alabama and Georgia. Ole Miss has to play both Auburn and Mississippi State. And Mississippi State has to play Alabama and Ole Miss still. They all have difficult games coming up. There won’t be more than one of them with one loss. I can guarantee you that. So for everyone worried about multiple SEC teams in the playoff, relax. It just won’t happen. The scenario that would have to play out to make it happen is next to impossible.
Right now the question isn’t about how many SEC teams will or won’t be ranked at the top. The question for me is which teams will emerge from each conference.
In the ACC, it’s just Florida State. If they finish the season with one loss or less, they are in the playoff, done deal. If they finish with more than one loss I think it is highly unlikely they are in the playoff, and even if every other team in the ACC wins out (Duke or Georgia Tech) and finishes with one loss, an ACC team still wouldn’t be in the playoff I don’t think.
In the Big Ten it will all come down to the Michigan State vs Ohio State game. The winner controls their own destiny. If either of them wins out, I think they are in the playoff. If the winner of that game loses another one, I don’t think the Big Ten will be in the playoff. But one of those teams are the conference’s only shot.
The Pac-12 is a bit more interesting. Oregon is still the clear favorite. The Pac-12 north isn’t looking too strong, so all Oregon has to do is get past the Stanford game and they should be in the clear to make the Pac-12 championship game. The Pac-12 south is all kinds of messy. Right now Utah, Arizona and Arizona State all control their own destinies. UCLA and USC aren’t necessarily “out” of the race for the conference championship, but pretty much are. Both are definitely out of the playoff hunt. For me the question is who will emerge from the south to challenge Oregon in the Pac-12 championship? Arizona gets UCLA and Utah gets Arizona State next week, so we’ll know soon enough.
The Big 12 is an even bigger mess than the Pac-12. Kansas State is in the driver’s seat right now which is terrible news for the conference. Why? They lost to Auburn. If Auburn doesn’t win the SEC west and Kansas State wins the Big 12, it’s hard to make the case that the Big 12 champion deserves a spot in the playoff over the team that beat them. The Big 12 needs TCU to take care of West Virginia, because the same goes for the Mountaineers. Alabama already beat them. The Big 12 needs TCU or Baylor to win the conference with just one loss to ensure a spot in the playoff. Each team could definitely do it as both have yet to play Kansas State. This will be a race worth watching though. The conference almost seems too deep for a team to escape with just one loss. At least there is no conference championship to possibly add another loss. Of course, can’t add another win either, which could hurt since the other conferences will have that game.
The SEC is still anyone’s guess. LSU, Texas A&M, Missouri and Arkansas have been relegated to spoiler roles. South Carolina, Kentucky and Florida are looking to just save the season and make a bowl game. Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia are all looking to compete for the conference championship. And most of them still have to play each other. For a conference this good the likelihood of Mississippi State remaining unbeaten is very low. In fact, having more than a single one-loss team is unlikely. But regardless of record, the SEC champion is in the playoff for sure.
So right now if I had to guess I would say the four playoff teams at the end of the year will be Alabama, Florida State, Oregon and TCU. If Alabama beats Mississippi State, they are in a great position, because Ole Miss looks like they will lose at least one more time. A 12-1 Alabama team that wins the SEC over Georgia would be a #1 seed and a one-loss Florida State would play them as the #4 seed in the Sugar Bowl. Oregon would come in at #2 and take on one-loss TCU in the Rose Bowl. But since I predicted it, chances are it won’t happen.
If I had to vote for a Heisman winner right now this would be my ballot:
1. Marcus Mariota
2. Dak Prescott
3. Melvin Gordon
Yup, same as last week if you are keeping track at home. If I were an AP voter this would be my ballot this week:
1. Mississippi State
2. Florida State
3. Notre Dame
4. Ole Miss
12. Michigan State
13. Kansas State
14. Ohio State
15. Arizona State
23. West Virginia
24. East Carolina
25. Colorado State
Next week features some great games and there are plenty of compelling matchups coming up. I don’t envy the playoff committee right about now.