By: Will Burchfield
With five weeks to go in the regular season, uncertainty reigns supreme in college football. Aside from annual juggernaut Alabama, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will make the College Football Playoff.
No. 2 Penn State (7-0) has looked impressive, but probably can’t afford a loss.
No. 3 Georgia (7-0) will have to win out to close the regular season, considering No. 1 Alabama likely awaits the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game.
Does anyone fully believe in No. 4 TCU (7-0)?
No. 5 Wisconsin (7-0) hasn’t beaten a single ranked team, and may not get a chance until the Big 10 Championship Game.
No. 8 Miami (6-0) has been a good story, but the Hurricanes still have matchups looming with No. 13 Virginia Tech (6-1) and No. 9 Notre Dame (6-1).
Speaking of Notre Dame, the Irish are in position to stir up some serious controversy in the College Football Playoff field. NBC’s Mike Tirico broke it down on the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket.
“Here’s a quick, strange scenario,” Tirico said. “Alabama and Georgia both get to the SEC Championship Game undefeated, and it’s a close game. If it’s a close game and they’re both undefeated, they both might be worthy of being in the top 4. Notre Dame runs the table; their only loss would be by one point to Georgia, one of those teams already in. That would be good enough.”
At that point, three of the four spots in the College Football Playoff would be taken, with just one of the five power conferences represented.
“That would mean there’s only one spot for the Big 12, the Pac 12 the ACC and the Big 10, which means three of the conference champions could be left out. Very, very unlikely but all plausible, which just highlights the stupidity of this setup for college football for the playoff,” he said. “You have five major stakeholders in the conferences and they set up a system where there’s only four places to go.
“It makes no sense, it’s stupid, and they continue to go down this road. It’s just crazy for people who love the sport.”
Here’s another interesting scenario. If No. 6 Ohio State (6-1) and No. 10 Oklahoma (6-1) both win out, the logic probably suggests the Buckeyes are the worthier team to make the playoff. And yet Oklahoma beat Ohio State — on the road, no less — back in September. Then what?
“Look, the fun is the conversation. It was always there. Is this system better than the last one? Yes, but we are five weeks away from the regular season and still have a lot to decide,” said Tirico. “It’s really an odd football season.”
The College Football Playoff was introduced in 2014. In each of its first three years of operation, four of the five power conferences were represented. Things were neat and convenient.
But seasons such as this one, when the rankings are a mutable mess, bring the flaws of the system to the fore. There aren’t enough seats at the table, even if one only one team truly deserves a setting.
Said Tirico, “The Big 10 will sort itself out, with Wisconsin probably facing its biggest test in the championship, you would think, depending if Penn State or Ohio State can keep rolling (after) this week. The SEC is pointed toward Alabama and Georgia. The ACC might not have a championship-worthy team; is (No. 7) Clemson’s loss at Syracuse a good enough loss to keep them alive in the picture?
“The Big 12 is a little hard to figure because I don’t know if anyone in that league is really good enough to be at that level. And the Pac 12 kind of played itself out of the championship picture except for the survivor of (No. 12) Washington and (No. 15) Washington State, but both of those teams have looked bad enough at different points that it might be no one this year from the Pac 12.”