The final week of the college football regular season was a bit of a doozy, as two conference frontrunners went down to arch rivals that then claimed supremacy. This means that the charade known as the College Football Playoff has fewer candidates as of this writing, pending today’s release of the penultimate rankings for the Final Four.
The Washington Huskies eliminated the Washington State Cougars from CFP contention in the Apple Cup on Friday, and then the Ohio State Buckeyes did the inevitable (we told you so) by relegating the Michigan Wolverines to second-tier status on Saturday. That means we’re down to just seven teams with a legitimate shot at the mythical national title.
First thing first: Notre Dame is 12-0 and done with its regular season, so the Fighting Irish are in the CFP for the first time. The last time Notre Dame had such a good season was 2012, when it also posted a 12-0 mark as the No. 1 team in the country—and then got torched in the Bowl Championship Series “title game” by a professional squad from the University of Alabama.
Second reality is this: No matter whether or not Alabama and Clemson win their conference title games this weekend, respectively, the Tide and the Tigers will each qualify for the Final Four. You can count on it.
The final question comes down to the last team, and there are four candidates: Central Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, and Oklahoma.
The only scenario where we see UCF making the Final Four is if the Bulldogs lost to the Tide in the SEC title game, the Buckeyes lose to Northwestern in the B1G championship, and Oklahoma loses the Big XII title tilt. Then, the Knights would have to beat Memphis in their championship game to finish undefeated, while every other contender on this list had two losses. Keep this in mind.
If Georgia wins the SEC Championship Game, it is in, period. This is what the SEC wants (again): Two of its teams in the Final Four. Don’t be surprised if it happens, thanks to shoddy officiating or something.
However, if Alabama wins the SEC, then the Bulldogs are out. Next in line would be either Oklahoma or Ohio State, assuming both win their title games. If one does not, then it makes things easier on the CFP committee.
So, which team is better? Ohio State or Oklahoma? The two schools are evenly matched with similar “power ratings” and strength of schedule. The Buckeyes have the best win—their 62-39 thrashing of then-No. 4 Michigan was impressive—but Ohio State also has the worst loss, that inexplicable beatdown that Purdue laid on the Buckeyes last month.
The Sooners suffer from playing in a league that didn’t really have a “second-best team” like the Big Ten did. It will be interesting to see what the CFP committee does, although if it comes down to these two teams, look for Ohio State to make it since the committee snubbed then last year at the expense of an Alabama team that didn’t even win its SEC division (surprise).
Every other division of NCAA football does have a 16-team tournament, of course, so in reality, why not the Football Bowl Subdivision, too? This would add 12 more teams to the fray, including currently undefeated Central Florida, etc.
What is college football afraid of in going to a wide-open tournament? Ask yourself that question, every day, and then remember where the money comes from—and where it goes.