The Playoff What If Game

Sadly this last week doesn’t seem to offer up a lot of drama. We know who is supposed to be in the playoff. The only big game is really Iowa vs Michigan State. The other three spots are going to Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma. That much seems certain as they are all favorites in their final games or have already played their final games. But what if something changes?

To be clear, the final playoff picture if all things play out how most expect would be Clemson at #1, Alabama at #2, Oklahoma at #3 and the Big Ten champ at #4. But that’s too easy, too simple. We want something more complicated than that.

So now, what happens if the winners of the conference championship games are Florida, Stanford, North Carolina and Iowa? Here’s what we know for sure.

First, Oklahoma would most certainly be the #1 seed for the playoff. Iowa would most certainly be the #2. I don’t think there are any question marks there. But who gets the last two spots? You would have 1-loss Clemson who lost their conference championship, 1-loss North Carolina who gave Clemson that loss, 2-loss Stanford as a conference champ and 2-loss Florida as a conference champ, not to mention 1-loss Ohio State who didn’t compete for a conference championship.

How does the committee sort out that mess? If I am the committee, here’s what I do. The #3 seed would go to Stanford. They would have won the most competitive conference in the country. Their losses were both “good” losses and close games. They have some good wins over USC, UCLA, Notre Dame, Washington State and the rest of the Pac-12. Plus Christian McCaffrey has a legit chance of winning the Heisman. I think you have to put them in there.

So who gets the last spot? Do you give it to Clemson, North Carolina, Florida or Ohio State? I think the first team you eliminate is Florida. They got smashed by Florida State who Clemson beat. And at home no less. They barely got bast Vanderbilt and Florida Atlantic. Same with Tennessee. They just haven’t looked that good, and their two losses just happened to be against the two best teams they have played. A win over Alabama would be huge, no doubt, but the SEC was pretty weak this year compared to years past, and I don’t think Florida would deserve a spot.

That leaves Clemson, North Carolina or Ohio State. I really don’t see how you could put Clemson in over North Carolina if UNC wins that game. They have the championship and they have the head to head result. Clemson has had several close calls this year, most recently against South Carolina. They haven’t been consistently dominant, so they haven’t looked impressive enough to make up for a loss to UNC.

So do you put in ACC champ North Carolina or 1-loss Ohio State? To me this is a no brainer. You do North Carolina all the way. Ohio State had their big game and lost it. North Carolina would have won theirs. Yes Ohio State looked impressive against Michigan in their finale. When else did they look impressive? Answer: never. They struggled. A lot. And with horrible teams along the way. Of their 11 wins, only 3 will be against bowl teams and only one will be against a ranked team. They don’t have the resume or consistency and don’t pass the eye test. In order to put them in over a conference champion with 1-loss they have to be much better, and very obviously better. They aren’t. UNC and Ohio State would stack up pretty comparably, with one big difference: UNC won their conference. That should push them over the top. If this happens, here would be my final rankings:

1. Oklahoma
2. Iowa
3. Stanford
4. North Carolina
5. Clemson
6. Michigan State
7. Ohio State
8. Florida
9. Alabama
10. Notre Dame
11. Northwestern
12. Florida State
13. Houston
14. TCU
15. Baylor
16. Oklahoma State
17. Ole Miss
18. Utah
19. Michigan
20. Oregon
21. Navy
22. LSU
23. Wisconsin
24. Georgia
25. Temple

And if that happens, here would be your bowls:

Orange Bowl: (1) Oklahoma vs (4) North Carolina
Cotton Bowl: (2) Iowa vs (3) Stanford
Championship: Oklahoma over Stanford

Rose Bowl: UCLA vs Ohio State
Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame vs Florida State
Sugar Bowl: Baylor vs Florida
Peach Bowl: Houston vs Clemson