Rick Lytle, Online Editor-in-Chief
Is there anything better for sports fans than coming up with a bunch of scenarios with limited possibilities of occurring? Whether it’s finding a way for the 7-6 Bears to win the NFC North or finding a way for a 10-2 team to sneak into the College Football Playoff, the possibilities are endless. In this article, we have all the scenarios covered for conference championship Saturday in college football.
The College Football Playoff (CFP) debuted in 2014, so it is a relatively new system. With the CFP, four teams are selected by the 13-member committee to face off in a two-round bracket with a semi-final round and the championship after. Compared to the NFL, where teams qualify for the playoffs purely based on record, the four teams are selected in a subjective manner. This makes the CFP that much more controversial and that much more entertaining.
Friday night, #13 Oregon upset #5 Utah in the Pac-12 championship. This virtually eliminated Utah and opened the door for more teams to compete for the four spots in the CFP. This article will look at all eight teams still in contention and what would need to happen for each of them to reach the CFP.
LSU: #2 LSU, in my opinion, is the only team that has locked up a spot in the CFP. Even if LSU played the most humiliating game of their season against #4 Georgia, their resume up to this point in the season is too strong with four top ten wins to even consider bumping them outside the top four. Additionally, that loss would come to Georgia, the number four team in the country, and would be hard to count against them.
Georgia: #4 Georgia has a simple path. Win against #2 LSU and they’re in, lose and they’re most likely out. The only way Georgia could be even considered with a loss is if all the favorites win, except Clemson is upset by Virginia (which has a 9% chance of happening). Even then, they would have just a 19% chance of making the CFP according to fivethirtyeight.com. So my advice to them: beat LSU.
Clemson: #3 Clemson has the easiest path out of the teams that aren’t virtually locks (Ohio State and LSU). They are playing #23 Virginia, a team that really shouldn’t be anywhere near a power five conference championship. Win and they’re in, lose and they’re in the same boat as Georgia, praying for upsets and losing control of their own destiny.
Baylor/Oklahoma: These two are grouped together because they’re playing against each other and are in the exact same situation. After #5 Utah lost, the Big 12 championship game between #6 Oklahoma and #7 Baylor becomes that much more important. If LSU beats Georgia in the SEC Championship, knocking off the #4 team in the country, the Baylor/Oklahoma game winner would become a lock. Additionally, if Georgia upsets LSU but Virginia upsets Clemson, the Baylor/Oklahoma winner would then go to the CFP as well. Before, it would have been between the Big 12 winner and Utah for the last spot in the top four, but Utah losing removes them from that conversation.
Ohio State: Win and they’re in. Lose and they’re probably still in. Personally, I don’t understand how the #1 team in the country (Ohio State) can lose to the #8 team in the country (Wisconsin) in the conference championship game and still find themselves ahead of them in the final rankings. Almost everyone at ESPN disagrees with me, and claim that win or lose Ohio State is in. You choose who you want to listen to.
Wisconsin: Allow me to start this by saying that Wisconsin currently has an 11% chance of making the CFP according to fivethirtyeight.com. Let me also add that in any scenario they have to beat the best team in the country, Ohio State, who rolled them 38-7 when the two teams faced off in the regular season. If Wisconsin can somehow find a way to beat Ohio State, other pieces would still have to fall in the right place. LSU would have to beat Georgia, then Clemson would have to be upset by Virginia. Then, Wisconsin would still be far from a lock. The committee would have to decide between Wisconsin, Oregon, Clemson and Georgia, and Wisconsin would have to hope that they are picked from that group.
Oregon: Oregon is a similar situation as Wisconsin. They need Ohio State to win, LSU to win, and Clemson to get upset. Then, they need to hope that the committee overlooks the fact that they have one top-25 win and that they lost to Arizona State. Fivethirtyeight.com gives them a 4% chance to make the CFP.
Wait did someone say Alabama? If Ohio State, LSU, and Oklahoma win, and Clemson loses, then what. Would it be a one-loss Clemson whose loss came to a fairly poor Virginia team, or Oregon who lost to ASU, or Georgia who in this hypothetical scenario was blown out by LSU in the conference championship? What about a team that lost to the #2 team in the country by five points, lost to their rivals by three in a dogfight, who also happen to be a top 15 team in the country, and looked absolutely dominant the rest of the season. In case you’re wondering, that team is the University of Alabama. Remotely likely? No. Absolutely impossible? Also no.