We are headed down the home stretch of the college football season. Most teams have only two regular season games left. In three short weeks, the infamous “playoff committee” will pick the four teams in the NCAA Football Playoff. The way I see it is that there are ten teams with at least some realistic hope of making it into that list of four playoff teams.
They are Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Florida, Notre Dame, Iowa, Michigan State, Oklahoma and North Carolina. There are others who could sneak back into the conversation if everything fell just the right way but with all due respect to the TCUs and Baylors of the world, the above ten are the teams that get in IF they win out and at most a few minor things go their way.
For Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma State it’s pretty simple, win out and you are in. For Florida, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Michigan State it is almost a certainty that winning out gets you in. Florida, Oklahoma and Michigan State would all knock of teams currently in the top four if they won out which should catapult them into the top four. North Carolina would as well since winning out would mean beating Clemson and while that COULD get them into the playoff a loss to a miserable South Carolina, the fact that they played two FCS teams and the fact that Clemson would be the Tar Heel’s ONLY quality win might well keep them out. Carolina played a very weak non-conference schedule and did not face FSU (the only other quality team in the conference).
Notre Dame gets a lot of mileage out of just being Notre Dame. To win out, the Irish would have to beat Stanford and they would get a certain amount of credit for that even though Stanford’s loss to a mediocre Oregon team tarnished that a little. Also, while Michigan State and Florida would be winning conference title games to win out, Notre Dame’s chances at a quality win end after Stanford. Michigan State would have to defeat two top ten teams in Ohio State and Iowa. Florida would have to beat Florida State and Alabama to win out. Oklahoma would have late season wins over TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State. While it is never possible to predict just how far the infatuation with Notre Dame and the money they bring to the table will go, it should be unlikely the Irish can get ahead of a one-loss Florida, Michigan State or Oklahoma. Notice I said “should”, all of those teams would have a better resume than Notre Dame but that is no guarantee that the committee will do the right thing. Oklahoma would probably have the most to worry about simply because some of these late season wins are against teams that have been heavily weakened by injuries.
There is still a lot of football to be played. A lot of rearranging will be done with the committee’s poll over the next three weeks. Fans need to remember this, the committee poll IS NOT like the old AP, Coach’s or BCS polls. Teams don’t get to “hold onto” their spot in the poll as long as they win. Each week the criteria the committee bases their poll upon gets altered as teams play lesser or greater opposition. The committee doesn’t give a team credit for games it is going to play. All that matters are games that HAVE been played. Because of this, each week is a brand new decision based on the new facts available that week. I say this because somebody will be screaming that “My team was ranked 5th and a team in front of them lost. We didn’t move up, we were cheated”. That is not how this thing works now.
As it stands right now, Notre Dame sits at number 4 in the Playoff Committee’s poll. However, if Oklahoma State wins out, they would jump Notre Dame. Florida sits at number 8 in the latest poll but if the Gators were to somehow find a way to beat both FSU and Alabama that would most likely trump Notre Dame’s one remaining quality win possibility in Stanford. But now it starts to get strange in who fans start pulling for. Florida needs FSU and Alabama to keep winning. If Alabama were to lose to Auburn in one of those freaky rival games, beating the Tide might not be enough to catapult the Gators over the Irish. North Carolina still sitting way back at 17 desperately needs Clemson to keep winning. If the Tigers were to lose their rivalry game against South Carolina, North Carolina would have zero chance to make the playoff. Three weeks away and it’s as clear as mud.