Starting 11: Playoff Chaos Finally Arrives, Maybe

The college football regular season is officially over and there are still six teams alive for the college football playoff as we head to the conference title games. Those six teams, in the order I believe they will be ranked by the playoff committee are: Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State.

Now I’ll explain why I have them ranked in that order and what I expect to see transpire next weekend.

1. Alabama is in the playoff even if the Tide loses to Georgia.

Alabama has beaten every team so far this season by 22 or more points.

We have never seen that level of dominance in modern college football history.

When the next to last playoff rankings of the year come out I believe Alabama will have four top 25 wins — LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and Missouri. (I think Mizzou will slide in at the bottom of the top 25).

That’s more than anyone else contending for a playoff spot will have so stop with your ridiculous, “They haven’t played anybody!,” argument.

Furthermore, this is Alabama we’re talking about, the only team to make the college football playoff all four years. It’s hard to argue the most dominant dynasty of our lives in college football, which just posted its most dominant regular season in school history, is overrated.

I actually think it’s likely Alabama would only drop to number two in the playoff rankings even if they lost to Georgia. (Assuming Clemson won.) That’s because when you look at resumes who would be more impressive, 12-1 Alabama or 12-0 Notre Dame? I think it’s Bama easily.

Hell, I can even make you an argument, a pretty strong one I think, that Alabama hasn’t just locked up a playoff spot already, that they’ve locked up the number one seed in the playoff regardless of what happens in the SEC title game.

Clemson, as good as they have been, will only have two top 25 wins — Texas A&M and Syracuse — and what can they do against Pittsburgh, who will fall out of the top 25 with their loss to Miami, that will be overly impressive to the committee?

Notre Dame has three top 25 wins as well — Michigan, Syracuse and Northwestern. (Although Northwestern would drop out with a loss to Ohio State).

Ohio State has two top 25 wins also — Michigan and Penn State. As well as one awful blowout loss to 6-6 Purdue by 29 points. Northwestern is still left in the Big Ten title game, but this isn’t a slingshot game which will change the Buckeye resume very much.

Oklahoma has two top 25 wins — West Virginia and Iowa State as well as one loss to top 15 Texas and one potential top 25 team to slide in the playoff rankings in Army.

Georgia has two top 25 wins — Florida and Kentucky, with a good chance that Missouri ends up ranked too and one top 15 loss in LSU.

So Alabama has three top 25 wins right now, as many as any playoff contender in college football, and there’s a good possibility Missouri ends up ranked too, meaning the Tide could finish the regular season with four top 25 wins and zero losses, more than anyone would have.

If you factor in margin of victory — Bama has won every game by 22 or more — I think Alabama is a no brainer for the playoff already, potentially as a number two seed at worst.

Finally, and I do think this matters when you consider the “best” team — Alabama would be nearly a double digit favorite over every team in football.

Again, I think Alabama will beat Georgia, but if the Tide loses there’s just no way to leave Alabama out of the playoff at 12-1.

Unless, and I even hate to mention this, Alabama loses to Georgia and Tua has a serious injury which ends his season.

That’s the only way I could possibly see the committee leaving Alabama out of the playoff.

2. Georgia is in the playoff if they beat Alabama.  

Georgia is 11-1, with two top 25 wins right now — Florida and Kentucky — and a road loss to LSU. (Mizzou looms as a potential top 25 win as well).

Other than the poor performance against LSU, Georgia has won every game this year by two touchdowns or more.

A win over Alabama would make Georgia 4-1 in the top 25 on the year and give Georgia the best resume of any playoff contender other than Alabama. (I still think Alabama would be seeded higher than Georgia if the Tide lose the SEC title game.)

That’s why I believe the Bulldogs will be in the playoff if they upset Alabama in the SEC title game to finish 12-1. The biggest question would be, what would their seed be?

My guess is they’d be the four seed and the playoff committee rankings would ensure that Alabama and Georgia don’t play in back to back games.

So I think Bama would be the two or three seed in the playoff and Georgia would be the four seed. (I could also see the playoff committee flip these rankings, but, honestly, when you look at the total resumes, I think 12-1 Alabama has a better resume than 12-1 Georgia would.)

3. Notre Dame is in the playoff unless the committee decides to send a message about the necessity of playing in a conference.

First, I believe Notre Dame is in the playoff, right now comfortably as the three seed.

And I believe that the Fighting Irish is in the playoff regardless of what happens with anyone else.

But is there a small chance that several committee members could decide to send a message to Notre Dame and, in the event Ohio State and Oklahoma both win, bump the Irish down to number five and put in all teams who won conference title games?

Yes, I think that could happen.

I don’t think it’s likely, but I think you have to mention the possibility given how few playoff committee members there are.

So I think there’s a very small chance that Oklahoma and Ohio State end up a compromise choice to favor conference champs.

4. Clemson is in the playoff so long as they beat Pittsburgh. 

Pittsburgh is now 7-5 and would need to pull off one of the biggest upsets in college football history in order to upset Clemson in the ACC title game.

But if Clemson did lose this game I don’t think the Tigers would make the playoff if both Ohio State and Oklahoma won their conferences. (Or if Georgia upset Alabama).

Clemson’s resume just isn’t that impressive because the ACC is awful this year. (Florida, Georgia and Kentucky destroyed Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Louisville and South Carolina hung 35 on Clemson this weekend).

Right now the Tigers have top 25 wins over Texas A&M and Syracuse. Both were very close wins and, frankly, not that impressive.

So what would make 12-1 Clemson a playoff team?

I just don’t see it.

I think 12-1 Oklahoma and 12-1 Ohio State would both be more deserving conference champs.

5. Oklahoma is in the playoff if they beat Texas and Alabama beats Georgia.

I believe the Sooners would be the fourth pick in the playoff if Alabama beats Georgia, Clemson beats Pittsburgh and Oklahoma beats Texas.

I understand this will be a controversial decision in the event Ohio State also wins over Northwestern, but if Oklahoma beats Texas they would erase their only loss, a three point defeat to the Longhorns back in October, and finish 12-1 with three top 25 wins — West Virginia, Iowa State, and Texas.

Yes, the Sooners have a very mediocre defense — at best — but I believe their resume would feature a better conference championship win — Texas is better than Northwestern — and the Sooner defeat is substantially better, a three point loss to Texas which is being erased by a Big 12 title, as compared to Ohio State’s 29 point loss to 6-6 Purdue.

Honestly, there isn’t much difference between Oklahoma and Ohio State, but I think Oklahoma’s wins would be a bit better and their loss would certainly be better. So too would their conference championship win.

So I don’t see how 12-1 Ohio State leaps 12-1 Oklahoma.

6. Ohio State will be behind Oklahoma in this week’s rankings. 

I just don’t see any way possible that Ohio State’s top 25 wins over Michigan and Penn State are going to be good enough to push Ohio State past Oklahoma considering what both teams have left.

That’s especially when you consider the Michigan resume in the wake of the beatdown by Ohio State.

Was Michigan actually a paper tiger? The Wolverines now have just two top 25 wins — Penn State and Northwestern. If Ohio State beats Northwestern then Michigan will finish with one top 25 win.

I think it’s fair to ask whether Michigan’s vaunted defense was vastly overrated based on relatively weak opponents.

I believe the playoff committee will have Oklahoma in fifth place and Ohio State in sixth place in Tuesday’s rankings. If that’s the case, what could possibly happen with a win over Northwestern to have the Buckeyes jump ahead of Oklahoma with a win over Texas?

I just don’t see it.

The only way I can see Ohio State making the playoff is if Oklahoma loses to Texas or Clemson, potentially, loses to Pittsburgh.

7. So what’s the toughest decision the committee could face now?

If Georgia beats Alabama, Clemson loses to Pittsburgh, Oklahoma beats Texas, and Ohio State beats Northwestern then you could have five teams with identical 12-1 records.

Let’s assume that 12-0 Notre Dame would be in the playoff.

Then who would the other three teams be?

I think 12-1 Alabama, 12-1 Georgia and 12-1 Oklahoma would probably be the three additional playoff teams.

This is definitely the toughest decision the playoff committee could face.

And, to be fair, it’s much more likely that Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame all finish undefeated and that either Oklahoma loses to Texas or Ohio State loses to Northwestern. If that happened then the playoff committee would have an incredibly easy decision to make.

8. UCF may have actually been alive for the playoff if McKenzie Milton wasn’t injured against South Florida. 

That was an awful injury and I miss Milton the best.

It was just absolutely brutal to see.

But how could UCF have ended up in the playoff mix with a healthy Milton?

Riddle me this — who is the fourth team in the college football playoff if Alabama beats Georgia, Clemson beats Pittsburgh, we assume Notre Dame is in the playoff too and then both Oklahoma loses to Texas and Ohio State loses to Northwestern?

There really isn’t a very deserving team for that fourth spot.

I could see the committee throwing UCF a spot in that scenario rather than take a two loss team that just lost its conference title game. But Milton’s injury makes that highly unlikely.

So who would get the fourth spot?

I think it would probably be Georgia, who would have the best resume of any two loss team.

Which would mean that seven overtime LSU loss to Texas A&M would have cost LSU a playoff berth.

9. I don’t even know what to say about LSU at Texas A&M. 

I’m still in awe over what we saw last night.

Put simply, it was the craziest college football team I have ever seen in my life.

I don’t think the end result will matter much in the long run, but for those of us who stayed up late to watch it, I don’t think we’ll ever forget what we saw.

God bless college football.

10. My Outkick national top ten:

1. Alabama

2. Clemson

3. Notre Dame

4. Georgia

5. Oklahoma

6. Ohio State

7. UCF

8. LSU

9. Washington State

10. Michigan

11. SEC power rankings

It’s impossible to rank teams entirely based on head-to-head results, but I’ve ranked everyone based on final SEC wins. I’ve then tried to rank the teams based on final SEC wins and then ranked those teams with the same number of conference wins based on who had the best win in those groups.

For instance, LSU, Florida, Kentucky and Texas A&M all finished with five SEC wins and three SEC losses, but I have LSU ranked above the other three teams because LSU beat Georgia, which is the best of these wins.

Missouri I have as the top four win team because they beat Florida, which was the best win of my four win teams.

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. LSU

4. Florida

5. Texas A&M

6. Kentucky

7. Missouri

8. Mississippi State

9. South Carolina

10. Auburn

11. Vanderbilt

12. Tennessee

13. Ole Miss

14. Arkansas

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