It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s right, it’s time for some bowl game mania. Now I have to pump the brakes on myself since we do have the conference championship games yet to play, but we can clearly see a picture of potential College Football Playoff teams being painted.
In my mind, there are eight teams that are in hunt for a playoff spot and there are a couple chaos scenarios that could really shake things up. Either way the decision for who makes the playoff is going to be incredibly challenging for the committee this year. Here are my picks in order for the top teams in the country.
College Football Playoff Rankings:
In the CFP:
First Four Out:
Now to explain why I picked the teams the way I did. First of all it was incredibly hard for me to pick the No. 2 team in my rankings. Clemson was my clear-cut No. 1 — the Tigers lost to Syracuse by a field goal early on, a game where their game-changing quarterback and leader Kelly Bryant was injured early in the game. Aside from that one blemish, the Tigers have been stellar against ranked opponents this season, and they have not lost to a team in the top-25.
Georgia takes that difficult to choose number two spot for me. Georgia was seventh after being hammered by Auburn a few weeks back. That being said, they have since showed that they still belong among the top “dawgs” in the country. They have to play the Tigers again in the SEC Championship game, so will the Bulldogs get the sweet taste of redemption against their solitary loss this year.
Oklahoma has navigated through a tough Big 12 this year. This has been a conference where any team can beat you any given Saturday. Baker Mayfield had guided this team to college football supremacy and proven that he can make a weapon out of anyone Lincon Riley puts alongside him. Oklahoma has the easiest championship game to play to solidify their spot, but TCU is not to be taken lightly Kenny Hill will have something to say about letting Mayfield by easily.
Wisconsin has managed to make it through their Big Ten schedule without a loss. That is saying something in any Power Five conference. To those out there who say they haven’t played anyone, I understand they haven’t played the highest strength of schedule. Here’s my counterpoint, the Badgers are one of only SEVEN Big Ten teams to make it through an entire season with twelve wins and no losses — not something to scoff at. Urban Meyer and Co. lurk in the shadows, hoping they can knock off the Badgers and make a case for their own playoff bid. If Wisconsin loses to the Buckeyes it will be easy for the committee to dismiss them with their strength of schedule being the way it is.
Nick Saban pleaded his case after their loss this week to Auburn as to why he thinks his team should be in the playoff. He has a good case. Alabama was the number one team in the country all year long and for good reason. If your only loss of the season is to this year’s Auburn squad, you’re doing alright. That being said we all know WHEN you lose matters as much as anything at this point. Bama won’t play in the SEC championship game, but that may benefit them. If any team ahead of them loses they are almost certainly the next man up, and given the match-ups most of the teams ahead of them face I would say they’ve got a pretty good shot.
Auburn passes a few one-loss teams in the rankings for me. Why? They have beaten two No. 1 teams in a three-week period. I think Auburn is playing the best football of anyone in the country right now, and if they can manage to beat Georgia again, it is going to be incredibly hard to keep them out. Its two losses came early in the season to likely new No. 1 Clemson and current No. 18 LSU. The Tigers likely need two teams to lose to get into the playoff but that is more than possible.
Miami looks to play spoiler while making their own push back into the CFP when they face Clemson in the ACC championship game. Miami was stunned by Pitt, who has a knack for beating playoff hopefuls late in the season. Don’t fret, the turnover chain isn’t dead, yet. If Miami can upset Clemson they will be firmly back into the college football playoff.
Ohio State has the longest shot of all of these teams to make the playoff but, like we see with Auburn, a two-loss team isn’t exactly dead in the water this season. For Ohio State to make the playoff you would need to see Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia lose, while they Buckeyes would need to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship, which is a tall task on its own. Even if all of that happens it would still take quite a bit of luck to see the Buckeyes make the playoff.
If Auburn were to beat Georgia in the SEC championship game, if Clemson loses to Miami, Wisconsin loses to OSU and Oklahoma loses to TCU, the waters become significantly more muddied. In that situation you would be able to make arguments that almost any team on this list should be in. How can you say Wisconsin gets in over OSU when they lost head-to-head and the Badgers schedule was much easier? How can you say that Georgia and Auburn are in after Auburn beat Georgia twice. That also puts two SEC teams in the playoff. Clemson would have to be out with two losses even though they are likely the best team in college football right now.
You can see how things get complicated and there are arguments for almost any team in that situation. Let’s hope for this writer’s sake that doesn’t happen.