Ohio State’s dramatic home loss to Michigan State Saturday night opened the door for any top team not named the Buckeyes so far as a possible playoff berth is concerned (and really, OSU isn’t out of it either). The Buckeyes had established a stranglehold on a Top 4 spot in the actual CFB Playoff rankings and a similarly firm grip on a first tier ranking in the Achievement Index. A putrid offensive performance, fully taken advantage of by Sparty, resulted in a loss that makes these last couple of weeks so much more interesting.
In this space, Sparty’s upset combined with Oklahoma State’s home loss to Baylor actually opened up two slots in the Top 4. The primary beneficiaries, at least for this week, were Iowa and Alabama.
The Hawkeyes are now the de facto Big 10 representative by virtue of their undefeated record, but they will of course have to win two more games to make that stick. Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan are all lurking about, ready to pounce if Iowa slips, and certainly that is a plausible scenario with the playoff committee, should they decide that the Big 10 winner is a worthy participant in the playoff. Here it’s not so clear as that, as each team needs help from the teams they’ve already faced. Can Nebraska boost its own F/+ rating enough to give Sparty a boost as well? Will Michigan’s Utah loss continue to look acceptable? These are the sorts of questions that won’t be answered until the regular season is complete.
The situation in the SEC, by comparison, is crystal clear. Alabama is the best team there, but Florida, with one loss, can force its way into the playoff by defeating the Crimson Tide. That’s a problem, however, as the Gators currently look barely capable of defeating FAU, let alone ‘Bama. Still, it’s cut and dried: Alabama has by now done enough to overcome its home loss, and Florida’s resume is nearly as impressive and its own path is obvious.
The Big 12 is as insane as one might expect. Oklahoma State has emerged as the best of the bunch, because the Cowboys have the “best” loss of the group, to Baylor (who is well liked by the efficiency rankings). Common wisdom tells us the Sooners have the best team and the best resume, and well, common wisdom is often pretty useless. So naturally the playoff committee will take it and run with it.
(This is where I roll my eyes.)
Still, the Sooners are under-ranked here … what they need is Texas to transform itself into a middling team, rather than an atrocious one. Otherwise, I am perfectly fine with them being penalized for that loss.
But anyway, right now I’ve got it Notre Dame (1) vs. Alabama (4), and Clemson (2) vs. Iowa (3). The Big 12 is left out, the Pac 12 is left out, and Notre Dame is left laughing all the way to the bank,
It’s a happy ending for everyone!