Starting 11: SEC and Big Ten Poised For Two Playoff Teams?

As we come down the stretch of the final four weeks of the college football regular season the playoff race looks like it could be particularly exciting.

That’s because there are a ton of teams in the mix and upsets are lurking around every corner.

We’ll dive into all those playoff scenarios here momentarily, but first let me give you my four playoff teams.

First comes my best four teams as we enter November:

1. Georgia

2. Alabama

3. Notre Dame

4. Ohio State

Now here are my four most deserving teams:

1. Georgia

2. Alabama

3. Notre Dame

4. Oklahoma

You’ll notice the difference, Ohio State lost to Oklahoma, but I believe the Buckeyes are playing better right now than Oklahoma is.

We’ll discuss the playoff scenarios below, but first:

All season long, the Starting 11 and the SEC power rankings are sponsored by Krystal. Krystal burgers are only 79 cents each all day, every day. And all wings – BBQ, Buffalo, Boneless or traditional – are only 49 cents each on Saturdays and Sundays during football season.
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Okay, here we go with the Starting 11.
1. The SEC has a pretty good chance of getting two teams into the playoff. 
Georgia’s final four games of the season are South Carolina, at Auburn, Kentucky and at Georgia Tech.
Alabama’s final four games of the season are LSU, at Mississippi State, Mercer and at Auburn.
If both teams win all eight of these games then they would probably be numbers one and two in the country and I don’t see how both wouldn’t get into the playoff no matter what happened in their game in Atlanta. Especially if Notre Dame keeps winning. How could you put the 11-1 Fighting Irish in over the 12-1 Bulldogs who beat them head-to-head on the road? You couldn’t.
Auburn is obviously the most difficult team remaining on both schedules and the Tigers get to host both teams at Jordan-Hare, but does anyone feel that confident in Jarrett Stidham right now? I don’t. Which is why I think both Georgia and Alabama will finish the season 12-0.
And why I think both teams will be in the playoff, potentially as the overall number one and two seeds in the playoff standings as well.
2. The Big Ten also has a decent chance of getting two teams into the playoff.
Ohio State’s come from behind win likely locked in the Big Ten East title for the Buckeyes and left Penn State in a painful situation very similar to what happened to Ohio State last year — try and finish strong to post an 11-1 record and hope the committee finds your performance good enough to warrant playoff inclusion.
The Buckeyes finish with at Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois and at Michigan. In order for Penn State to win the Big Ten East Ohio State would have to lose two of these games, which seems highly unlikely.
Here’s the most interesting question for you — what happens if Ohio State loses one of these four games, but still wins the Big Ten East via tiebreak over 11-1 Penn State and beats Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game? Would you take 11-2 Ohio State as the Big Ten playoff representative or would you take 11-1 Penn State with a one point loss on the road at Ohio State?
It’s fascinating because this is almost the identical scenario that existed last year. Only last year the committee took Ohio State over Penn State. Can you imagine the reaction if the committee spurns Penn State again using the exact opposite argument that it used in 2016 to put Ohio State into the playoff?
Yikes.
Best case scenario for the conference: Ohio State runs the table, finishes 12-1 and then 11-1 Penn State is also in the mix. In fact, there’s a possibility we could end up with two SEC and two Big Ten teams if the Pac 12, the Big 12, the ACC champs and Notre Dame all end up with two losses.
Can you imagine if we had 1 Alabama vs. 4 Penn State and 2 Ohio State vs. 3 Georgia?
Hello ratings!
3. The Pac 12 playoff hopes are down to 12-1 Washington or bust. 
Every other team in the conference already has two losses and we haven’t even started November yet.
Washington has this left on its schedule: Oregon, at Stanford, Utah, and Washington State.
Then the Pac 12 playoff game, probably against USC.
As much as I love Chris Petersen, I just don’t think it’s very likely that Washington wins all five of these games. I think the Pac 12 will be left out of the playoff.
4. The Big 12 playoff hopes are also in trouble. 
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and TCU all have one loss now and there’s no way for two one loss teams to advance to the Big 12 title game now, meaning whichever team finishes the season with one loss, if it happens, will be playing a Big 12 title game risking a second loss.
In fact, either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State will be eliminated from playoff contention this weekend and that will leave TCU and the winner of Bedlam as the only teams remaining with playoff chances in the Big 12.
The best case scenario for the conference’s playoff chances would be Oklahoma running the table and getting a rematch with Iowa State in the Big 12 title game. Then the Sooners could beat Iowa State, avenging their regular season loss in the process, and guarantee themselves a playoff spot at 12-1.
But you know what seems more likely? Every team in the conference ends up with at least two losses. Which would leave the Big 12 out of the playoff.
By the way, the worst case scenario for the first season of the Big 12 title game? The conference has a clear 11-1 champ, let’s say Oklahoma, that would otherwise be in the playoff. And then that team gets upset in a conference title game that’s completely unnecessary.
After all the talk of the Big 12 needing a title game to get teams into the playoff, how incredible would the irony be if the Big 12 lost a playoff team because of the conference title game?
5. The ACC has three teams left with playoff hopes — Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech.
Clemson and N.C. State play this coming weekend and the winner will likely win the ACC Atlantic. So Clemson can still advance to the playoff and defend its title with a 12-1 finish. But there is no longer any margin for error and it’s altogether possible that Clemson doesn’t even win the ACC Atlantic this year.
Meanwhile Miami is 7-0 but finishes with Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Virginia and at Pittsburgh. Personally, I think this Miami team has a lot in common with the 2012 Notre Dame team that finished 12-0, but wasn’t actually that good. I think there’s a good shot the Hurricanes fall out of playoff contention before the season is complete or they get to the playoff and get embarrassed.
Finally, don’t forget about Virginia Tech, the Hokies are rolling along in Justin Fuente’s second year and sit at 7-1 right now. Win at Miami this coming weekend and they probably win the ACC Coastal and advance to the ACC title game. Guess what — a 12-1 Hokie team would be in the playoff too.
So while the ACC’s playoff chances are better than the Pac 12 and the Big 12’s, the conference isn’t in great shape either as we enter the month of November.
6. What about Notre Dame’s playoff chances?
The Fighting Irish have a really good shot at finishing 11-1. Notre Dame has Wake Forest, at Miami, Navy and at Stanford to finish their schedule.
Presently I have the Irish at number three in my playoff rankings and if they finish 11-1 it’s hard to see how the Irish aren’t in the playoff.
But if the Irish finish 11-1 it’s also impossible to see how 12-1 Georgia wouldn’t be in the playoff too.
7. Butch Jones lost to Kentucky, finally ensuring he’s finished at Tennessee.
Now the question is this — are the Grumors real?
The odds of Jon Gruden being named the next coach of the Vols have plummeted from 20-1 to 2.5 to 1 over the past several weeks.
44501 Chip Kelly +400
44502 Jeff Brohm +550
44503 Bobby Petrino +550
44504 Mike Norvell +900
44505 PJ Fleck +1000
44506 Bob Stoops +1200
44507 Tee Martin +1200
44508 Les Miles +1400
44509 Jim Bob Cooter +2200
44510 Dan Mullen +2200
44511 Brian Kelly +3300
44512 Peyton Manning +10000
44513 Lane Kiffin +10000
44514 Jon Gruden +250

So is this smart money driving down the odds or have the Grumors just consumed the offshore odds market and led to dumb money rolling in?

We should find out soon.

If it’s not Jon Gruden then who will the Vols hire?

I think the hot board would feature a bunch of the same names as Florida’s: Chip Kelly, Bob Stoops, Scott Frost, Dan Mullen, Matt Campbell, and, maybe, Bobby Petrino.

8. Will Florida fire Jim McElwain for cause?
And if so, who will the Gators hire?
I think the most likely outcome here is that Jim McElwain bounces for another job, maybe Oregon State, and the Gators and McElwain don’t get into a pronounced legal dispute about whether or not McElwain, his staff or his players received death threats.
I do, however, find it interesting that with all the lies going on in sports these days — from Michael Bennett to Bruce Maxwell — the only guy getting called on his lies is Jim McElwain. Would the Gators have accused a black head coach of lying about this? Or would they have been afraid of being called racist for doing so?
And I honestly feel like if Jimmy Sexton put the CAA team to work scouring Jim McElwain’s Twitter mentions they could definitely find death threats — or at least arguable death threats — sent to McElwain at some point in the past several months. Especially if you expanded that review to include assistant coaches and all players.
In other words, I think proving McElwain lied here would be very difficult. Which is why I think McElwain will attempt to find another job and leave of his own volition. Now if he can’t find another job, this $12.9 million buyout dispute would get incredibly interesting, because I think the Gators would have a hard time not paying it.
The funniest potential outcome here would be if the Gators reversed course and announced that they now believed it was actually Jim McElwain naked on top of the shark.
As for who the Gators would hire, the easy guess here is Dan Mullen because the Gator athletic director is former Mississippi State AD Scott Stricklin and Mullen has worked as Florida’s offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer.
But is that too easy of a fit?
And, honestly, if Mullen bolts for Florida do you know who I’d hire if I were State? I’d grab Lane Kiffin from FAU before Arkansas could hire him.
9. What happens with Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M and Bret Bielema at Arkansas?
I like Kevin Sumlin, but the loss to Mississippi State probably means A&M needs to pull off the home upset over Auburn now.
Otherwise the Aggies will need to run the table to get to 8-4. And it’s hard to see this Aggie team winning at Ole Miss and LSU to finish off the season.
As for Bret Bielema, I think the Razorbacks will beat Coastal Carolina this weekend and then lose out. Yes, that includes a loss to Missouri.
Look out, Barry Odom’s team is now 3-5 and it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if Missouri wins their final four games. Or at least three of them to get bowl eligible.
Really.
10. My Heisman top three:
1. Saquon Barkley
2. J.T. Barrett
3. Baker Mayfield
11. SEC power rankings. 
Here we go.
All season long, the Starting 11 and the SEC power rankings are sponsored by Krystal. Krystal burgers are only 79 cents each all day, every day. And all wings – BBQ, Buffalo, Boneless or traditional – are only 49 cents each on Saturdays and Sundays during football season.
Krystal is hooking up the Outkick family again this season – text OUTKICK to ‘37793’ right now for two free Krystals and a Coke. Enjoy!
1. Georgia
2. Alabama
3. Auburn
4. Mississippi State
5. LSU
6. Texas A&M
7. Kentucky
8. South Carolina
9. Florida
10. Arkansas
11. Ole Miss
12. Missouri
13. Vanderbilt
14. Tennessee
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