Michigan, Clemson, and Washington, three of the nation’s top four teams, lost on Saturday. Since 2016 is the year of repetitive diction among other things, these losses “shook up” the playoff picture and created “chaos.” Well, that’s not exactly the case.
Those sullied teams cascaded down to No. 4, No. 5 and No. 7 respectively. Michigan, Clemson, and Washington should each reach the playoff winning the remainder of their games. No team cost itself a quality win. Washington beating USC would have given the Trojans an 8-4 ceiling.
Hypotheticals are extant. There is no doubt we will spend our week hashing them out. But, looking at the layout, this has not changed that much.
Playoff selection has the guise of a Top 4 ranking. We know, after what happened to TCU in 2014, it is about politics and filling four slots.
SEC Slot: Alabama is going to the playoff. They face Auburn at home. They play Florida/Tennessee in the SEC title game. They will be heavy favorites in both games. They can lose to Auburn and still lock themselves in winning the SEC. They would be a good bet for a bid losing the SEC title game.
ACC Slot: Clemson is still on track in the ACC. Beat Wake, South Carolina, and the Coastal champ puts them at 12-1. Clemson beat Louisville head-to-head. Clemson played a tougher non-conference schedule. The Cardinals’ best shot for a bid is for Clemson to lose again. If that happens, it’s still a one-loss ACC team taking that place.
B1G Slot: The B1G should finish with at least four Top 10-15 teams. The conference is getting a playoff spot. The question is whether it’s the conference champion. If Ohio State wins out and Penn State wins out (Rutgers, MSU left), the Nittany Lions go to the B1G title game. That would leave the committee with a tough decision between an 11-1 Ohio State and an 11-2 Penn State/Wisconsin.
Michigan still wins the B1G and earns a place by winning out. Losing to Iowa precluded them sneaking back into the playoff through the back door at 11-1 with a loss to only Ohio State.
Fourth Slot: Washington would be the choice finishing 12-1. There’s overwhelming inertia toward taking four Power 5 champions. The Huskies would add two more solid wins over Washington State and USC/Colorado/Utah again in the Pac 12 title game.
Washington losing is where the “chaos” sets in. A probable situation would set up Ohio State, 2-loss PSU/Wisconsin, and Louisville for two spots. The committee has little inherent gravitas. The best result for the B1G decision would be not to have to make it. Louisville this year could be the equivalent of 2014 TCU.
Louisville may be among the four best teams. The Cardinals would only have the close loss to Clemson. But, in that scenario, it would be far easier to leave Louisville the odd team out. The committee would have a pretty clear argument to do so based on SOS and quality wins (Louisville may not have any).
We’ve presumed the Big 12 is out. Though, that may not be the case. West Virginia is 8-1. Baylor looks diminished. Iowa State is Iowa State. If the Mountaineers win their next game against Oklahoma at home, they have a strong likelihood of finishing 11-1. They would be a Power 5 champion. They would have a stronger SOS, a stronger non-conference schedule, and Oklahoma may be a better win than any of Louisville’s.
Cardinal fans, your playoff hopes may rest in the hands of this guy…
…and this guy on the road in a big game.