So all the results are in, and here’s my take:
RoadTripSports.com’s College Football Playoff Pool
All year, we’ve been tracking teams in four different groups in our College Football Playoff Pool. Group 1 was for undefeated teams from Power 5 conferences; Group 2 was for one-loss teams from Power 5 groups; Group 3 was for Power 5 teams with two or more losses that might receive playoff consideration; and Group 4 was for undefeated teams from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt Conference.
Those groups represent the priority I believed those teams would receive from the committee based on previous playoff committee selection results. That is, in the first three playoffs fields, there’s never been a team from below Group 2 selected for the playoff. I think that will change this year, and more on that in a moment.
There are no Group 1 teams left after Wisconsin’s loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. There are five Group 2 teams including non-champions Alabama and Wisconsin. There are numerous Group 3 teams but only one on our list that we think will receive consideration (Ohio State). And there is still one Group 4 team, but I believe the undefeated UCF Knights will not be considered for the playoff.
So who’s in? Read on to see my thoughts on the playoff.
No. 1 Clemson Tigers
The Tigers are the defending national champions, and they’ve played in the past two title games. More importantly specifically to this season, they are 12-1, and they were ranked No. 1 in the most recent College Football Playoff Rankings. Coming off a dominating 38-3 win over No. 7 Miami (FL), they only strengthened their resume, and I believe they will be the No. 1 seed.
No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia entered the SEC Championship Game ranked No. 6 while their opponent, the Auburn Tigers, were ranked No. 2. Georgia’s 28-7 win was the best win of the day, and clearly vaults them into the Top 4. The question is how high do they rise? It’s possible No. 3 Oklahoma could move up a spot, but TCU was only ranked No. 11 coming into Saturday. I think when the final rankings come out Sunday, Georgia will have more big wins – Auburn and Notre Dame – than Oklahoma which will really have only the Ohio State win early in the season to hang its hat on.
No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners
I covered it above, and again, Oklahoma could be flipped with Georgia here. It doesn’t hurt their case that my No. 4 team is …
No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes
Yep, this is the spot that’s in question – it’s either the Buckeyes or the Alabama Crimson Tide here. Here’s how I break it down:
First of all, let’s look at records. Ohio State is 11-2 and Alabama is 11-1. But Ohio State’s 11 wins have all come against FBS opponents while Alabama is only 10-1 against the FBS having won an 11th game against FCS Mercer. Ohio State has more FBS wins and more FBS losses so what does that mean?
Well, first of all, Ohio State’s three best wins have come against teams ranked No. 4 (Wisconsin), No. 9 (Penn State) and No. 16 (Michigan State) in last week’s playoff rankings. All three of those are better than Alabama’s best wins – No. 17 LSU and No. 23 Mississippi State.
As for the losses, Ohio State’s 55-24 loss a month ago at Iowa is an admitted eyesore. The other loss, of course, is to Oklahoma, which is one of the other playoff teams. Alabama’s loss, of course, came just one week ago to Auburn which was ranked No. 2 headed into the SEC title game Saturday. Auburn’s going to drop, thought, so ultimately, Ohio State will have the best loss (Oklahoma). Previous committees have placed more weight on quality wins, however, and there’s no doubt that Ohio State’s wins are better than Alabama’s by a considerable margin. And they’ve got more of them when you toss out Alabama’s result over Mercer.
It all feels pretty even if ever-so-slightly tipped in Ohio State’s favor. When two teams are deemed to be comparable, the committee is supposed to consider things like conference championships. And that’s where the argument swings further in Ohio State’s favor.
I don’t think it helped Alabama that Georgia won either. I think if Auburn had won, it would have given Alabama a better chance. While the Crimson Tide is clearly back ahead of Auburn, it’s just bad optics to take the Tide one week after losing to a team that just went out and got beaten handily itself. I also think the committee has proven it is hesitant to take two teams from one conference. After all, with five top conferences competing for four slots, there’s already one league being left out. Can they really stage a playoff without a representative from two major conferences?
That’s my take. I think Ohio State gets in, and for the first time, Alabama is left out. In the process, the Buckeyes will become the first Group 3 team from our pool to make the playoff. If Alabama gets in, on the other hand, it’s a victory for our playoff pool and the theory that the teams with the fewest losses ultimately make it in regardless of what the other facts may say.
But it’s Alabama, right? Alabama?! You can’t leave an 11-1 Alabama out of the playoff, can you?
I think maybe you can, but we’ll find out if the committee agrees on Sunday.
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