College Football: What If This Weekend Were The Last One Before a 4 Team Playoff?
It's conference championship weekend, which means that we have a handful of teams still vying for spots in the BCS Title Game and BCS bowl games. As best I can tell, we are down to five teams who still have a reasonable to remote chance to get into the title game:
Florida State and Ohio State control their own destiny, the winner of the SEC Title Game (Auburn/Missouri) is waiting for one of those two to screw up, and Alabama is lurking in case Duke shocks the world and knocks off Florida State or voters are unimpressed with Missouri in a win over Auburn.
There's very little debate expected, it seems pretty cut and dried. And usually that doesn't happen. Usually, there is heated debate. Usually, somebody is pissed off.
Next season there will be a four team playoff, which means the debate shifts from "Who is number two?" to "Who is number four?" So let's play make believe and pretend that there's a four team playoff this season. How compelling and important would several of these games truly be tomorrow? (And by "compelling" and "important" I mean championship implications. I know you Pac-12 and Big Ten people will try and sell me that the Rose Bowl is important. Save it.)
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Right now, there are only three games that matter tomorrow: the ACC Title Game, the Big Ten Title Game, and the SEC Title Game.
So let's take a look. Pretend now we are in a world with a four team playoff.
While this season's two team championship game has five contenders, by my count I'd cut off the list of teams that have a pulse (faint as it may be) for a four team playoff at number eleven in the BCS rankings, and that's really reaching. But we'd rather include too many for debate than not enough.
Also, for purposes of our scenarios below, I'm assuming a Florida State win over Duke, what with that 29 point spread and all. Obviously, a Duke win throws everything into upheaval. The remaining games that matter all have reasonable spreads where you could see either side winning.
So let's do this! 1. FLORIDA STATE (12-0) Remaining schedule: 12/7 vs #20 Duke (ACC Championship) Strength of schedule (Sagarin): 66 Noteworthy wins: 10/19 at Clemson 51-14, 11/2 vs Miami (FL) 41-14 Losses: None What They Need To Root For: They already got what they were rooting for on Thursday when Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs announced that quarterback Jameis Winston would not be charged with sexual assault against a now former FSU student. Now all that's left is for the Seminoles to do to Duke what they've done to every other opponent this year (closest game, 14 point margin; next closest, 25 points). Likely 4 Team Playoff Inclusion: Virtual lock. The interesting thing would be to see what a loss to a 29 point underdog in the ACC Title game would do to them in a four team playoff scenario. Could one bad day undo three months of utter dominance? We may never know.
2. OHIO STATE (12-0) Remaining schedule: 12/7 vs #10 Michigan State (Big Ten Championship) Strength of schedule (Sagarin): 61 Noteworthy wins: 9/28 vs Wisconsin 31-24 Losses: None What They Need To Root For: Win and they'd be in, an undefeated Big Ten champion (especially one named "Ohio State") will be a virtual automatic in the new four team playoff. Likely 4 Team Playoff Inclusion: Highly likely. A lock if they win on Saturday, but if they were to lose, all of a sudden they're thrown into a "one loss team" team beauty contest and likely fall behind the SEC Title Game winner, Alabama, and Michigan State (with a Big Ten title game loss head to head), at least, and possibly Oklahoma State and/or Baylor.
3. AUBURN (11-1) Remaining schedule: 12/7 vs #5 Missouri (SEC Championship) Strength of schedule (Sagarin): 26 Noteworthy wins: 10/19 at Texas A&M 45-41, 11/16 vs Georgia 43-38, 11/30 vs Alabama 34-28 Losses: 9/21 at LSU 35-21 What They Need To Root For: Win and they're in. In the event of a loss, the fewer 1-loss teams there are, the better, so Oklahoma State and Baylor losing wouldn't be a bad thing either. Michigan State dragging down Ohio State by beating them helps, too. Likely 4 Team Playoff Inclusion: If they win, they're a lock. If they lose, they'd need to hope for a shmozz of 2-loss teams, a couple 1-loss Big Ten teams, and Alabama for the final spot and hope that the a) strength of the SEC is enough and b) their head to head win over Alabama would be enough for the committee to put them in.
4. ALABAMA (11-1) Remaining schedule: Regular season complete Strength of schedule (Sagarin): 44 Notewrothy wins: 9/14 at Texas A&M 49-42, 11/9 vs LSU 38-17 Losses: 11/30 at Auburn 34-28 What They Need To Root For: The more craziness, the better for the Tide who can just sit back and watch and feel daily comfortable in where they sit at season's end that they would get an at-large bid. Even if the favorites all win, I think the Tide would be in. Likely 4 Team Playoff Inclusion: Highly likely. This would be fascinating to watch play out with Auburn possibly in position of being penalized for playing in the SEC Title Game if they were to lose to Missouri. Think about it -- Auburn and Alabama are both 11-1, if Auburn lost this weekend, and got left out for Alabama, it would only be because they played in one more game, a game that is supposed to be a "reward."
5. MISSOURI (11-1) Remaining schedule: vs #3 Auburn (SEC Championship) Strength of schedule (Sagarin): 41 Noteworthy wins: 10//5 at Vanderbilt 51-28, 10/12 at Georgia 41-26, 11/30 vs Texas A&M 28-21 Losses: 10/26 vs South Carolina 27-24 (2 OT) What They Need To Root For: Same as Auburn, win and they're in. In the event of a loss, the fewer 1-loss teams there are, the better, so Oklahoma State and Baylor losing wouldn't be a bad thing either. Michigan State dragging down Ohio State by beating them helps, too. Likely 4 Team Playoff Inclusion: If they win, they're a lock. If they lose, they'd need to hope for a shmozz of 2-loss teams, a couple 1-loss Big Ten teams, and Alabama for the final spot and hope that the strength of the SEC is enough would be enough for the committee to put them in. The SEC Title Game loss would probably need to be a nail biter, too, as a blowout would probably put Alabama in ahead of Missouri.
6. OKLAHOMA STATE (10-1) Remaining schedule: 12/7 vs #17 Oklahoma Strength of schedule (Sagarin): 43 Noteworthy wins: 8/31 vs MIssissippi State 21-3, 11/16 at Texas 38-13, 11/23 vs Baylor 49-17 Losses: 9/28 at West Virginia 30-21 What They Need To Root For: A blowout win over Oklahoma, an ugly Michigan State win over Ohio State (hoping their 1-loss resume is better than both Big Ten teams' 1-loss resume). Baylor winning and going 11-1 wouldn't be a bad thing either as it would make their biggest win look better. Likely 4 Team Playoff Inclusion: Slim. They are fixed behind Florida State (lock winner vs Duke), the SEC Title Game winner, and probably Alabama. Ohio State winning would essentially freeze out the Cowboys.
7. STANFORD (10-2) Remaining schedule: 12/7 vs #11 Arizona State (PAC-12 Championship) Strength of schedule (Sagarin): 5 Noteworthy wins: 9/21 vs Arizona State 42-28, 10/5 vs Washington 31-28, 10/19 vs UCLA 24-10, 11/7 vs Oregon 26-20, 11/30 vs Notre Dame 27-20 Losses: 10/12 at Utah 27-21, 11/16 at USC 20-17 What They Need To Root For: Blow out Arizona State again. Prior to that, though, Stanford needs Oklahoma and Texas to both beat Oklahoma State and Baylor, respectively, Michigan State to beat Ohio State, and hope that the committee sees more in Stanford's quality wins than they do in their two lackluster losses to unranked teams. Likely 4 Team Playoff Inclusion: Virtually frozen out. They will be kicking themselves in future years over a loss like the one to Utah, if it happens again.
8. SOUTH CAROLINA (10-2) Remaining schedule: Regular season complete Strength of schedule (Sagarin): 28 Noteworthy wins: 9/14 vs Vanderbilt 35-25, 9/28 at UCF 28-25, 10/26 at Missouri 27-24 (2 OT), 11/30 vs Clemson 31-17 Losses: 9/7 at Georgia 41-30 What They Need To Root For: Four of the schools in front of them to disband their football programs during the month of December. Likely 4 Team Playoff Inclusion: Cock blocked.
9. BAYLOR (10-1) Remaining schedule: 12/7 vs #25 Texas Strength of schedule (Sagarin): 62 Noteworthy wins: 11/7 vs Oklahoma 41-12 Losses: 11/23 at Oklahoma State 49-17 What They Need To Root For: A 70 point win over Texas, Oklahoma defeating OKlahoma State, Michigan State defeating Ohio State, and then hope the committee is a big fan of prolific offense. Likely 4 Team Playoff Inclusion: Really slim, although it'd be intriguing to see Baylor play a game against a big time team outside of the Big 12.
10. MICHIGAN STATE (11-1) Remaining schedule: 12/7 vs #2 Ohio State (Big Ten Championship) Strength of schedule (Sagarin): 60 Noteworthy wins: 10/5 at Iowa 26-14, 11/16 at Nebraska 41-28 Losses: 9/21 at Notre Dame 17-13 What They Need To Root For: They would need to thrash Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, hope the SEC Title game is a blowout (to make their runner up look weaker), and hope Texas and Oklahoma both knock off Baylor and Oklahoma State. Likely 4 Team Playoff Inclusion: Really slim, but a blowout win over Ohio State would at least get them in the bar, unfortunately probably not into the VIP section.
11. ARIZONA STATE (10-2) Remaining schedule: 12/7 vs #7 Stanford (PAC-12 Championship) Strength of schedule (Sagarin): 4 Noteworthy wins: 9/14 vs Wisconsin 32-30, 9/28 vs USC 62-41, 10/19 vs Washington 53-24, 11/23 at UCLA 38-33 Losses: 9/21 at Stanford 42-28, 10/5 vs Notre Dame 37-34 (at Dallas) What They Need To Root For: Hanging 60 on Stanford, and then outside of that pretty much the same stuff Stanford is rooting for. Likely 4 Team Playoff Inclusion: Barely above zero, but Todd Graham may have finally found a spot he plans on staying for a while.
MOST LIKELY CFP FOUR: 1. Florida State, 2. Ohio State, 3. Missouri, 4. Alabama
ARMAGEDDON CFP FOUR: (if underdogs all win games this weekend, even including a Duke win over Florida State) 1. Missouri, 2. Alabama, 3. Michigan State, 4. Arizona State
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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