At least from my vantage point, it’s borderline staggering that we’ve reached the final full Saturday of the 2016 season. It seems like just days ago when, among other things, Texas was back and the epitaph for USC’s season had already been chiseled into its headstone.
Three months later, circumstances couldn’t be more different for not only those two programs but for a handful of others. Penn State representing the B1G East instead of conference bluebloods Ohio State or Michigan? Check. Washington (???) and Colorado (??????) fighting it out for Pac-12 supremacy last night? Yep. Western Michigan, 1-11 on this date three years ago, undefeated this year and looking every bit like the favorite to land the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six slot? Certainly. Alabama looking like a playoff lock even if… yeah, most everyone saw that coming even with their annual attrition.
Speaking of ‘Bama, the top-ranked Tide has already sewn up one of the four playoff slots, regardless of what happens in Atlanta against Florida. Idle Ohio State, sitting at No. 2 after the penultimate CFP rankings, has a key in the deadbolt of a second spot and is just waiting for the committee to turn it Sunday afternoon. No. 4 Washington’s methodical emasculation of Colorado guaranteed the Pac-12 will be back in the playoffs after a one-year absence.
While math is not my strong suit, that would appear to leave just one playoff spot to be decided in the coming hours. No. 3 Clemson, should it take care of business against 9-3 Virginia Tech tonight in the ACC championship game, would render any further discussion moot and solidify the four-team playoff field. Should the Hokies upset the Tigers? Meh, maybe there’s some movement.
Such a development, a Clemson loss, could conceivably bring two teams back into the equation: Michigan and the winner of the Penn State-Wisconsin Big Ten championship game. And, yes, that means I’m completely discounting the Bedlam winner as a playoff possibility because of Washington’s win.
So, Clemson, Penn State/Wisconsin, Michigan. How do their résumés compare entering Week 14?
- CLEMSON: One FCS win; nine Power Five wins; five Power Five road wins; three wins over current Top 25 CFP teams; two road wins over current Top 25 CFP teams.
- MICHIGAN: Zero FCS games; eight Power Five wins; two Power Five road wins; three wins over current Top 25 CFP teams; zero road wins over current Top 25 CFP teams.
- PENN STATE: Zero FCS games; eight Power Five wins; three Power Five road wins; one win over current Top 25 CFP teams; one road win over current Top 25 CFP teams.
- WISCONSIN: Zero FCS games; eight Power Five wins; four Power Five road wins; one win over current Top 25 CFP teams; zero road wins over current Top 25 CFP teams.
For comparison’s sake, here’s Ohio State’s résumé using the same criteria that will weigh heavily in the committee’s decision:
- OSU: Zero FCS games; nine Power Five wins; four Power Five road wins; three wins over current Top 25 CFP teams; two road wins over current Top 25 CFP teams.
Also part of the equation? Michigan beat both Penn State and Wisconsin at home but lost to Ohio State on the road. Penn State beat Ohio State at home but lost by 39 to Michigan on the road. Ohio State beat Michigan at home and Wisconsin on the road but lost to Penn State on the road. Wisconsin lost to Michigan and Ohio State by a combined 14 points.
Got that, committee?
I’ve given Ohio State a near-mortal lock on a playoff spot, and its résumé more than speaks for itself. Given Clemson’s 2016 pedigree, you could (should?) put them in that very same category even with a loss tonight. With a win, they’d likely leapfrog OSU into the No. 2 seed. And Washington, with a conference championship, could push OSU to No. 4.
In the end, seeding may be the only thing determined this weekend.
The stark reality is, there’s very little if any drama as it pertains to the playoff participants even before Championship Saturday kicks off. The true reality will come when, at some point Sunday afternoon, a team that didn’t win its division let alone its conference becomes the first team to make the College Football Playoff.
The collective media/fan hyperventilating, at that point, will be off the charts and absolutely hilarious. And the howls for an eight-team playoff will commence in earnest, which in and of itself will be a glorious and righteous and much-needed development.