Creating a College Football Playoff scenario with zero SEC teams
After releasing their first rankings, selection committee chair Jeff Long said there was going to be change ahead. Could there be enough shuffling to exclude all the SEC teams from the College Football Playoff?
The BCS was the domain of the Southeastern Conference. In its 16 years of existence, SEC teams won nine BCS titles — including seven of the last eight — and participated in 11 title games.
But the BCS is dead, replaced by a selection committee that will pick the best teams in the country for a four-team playoff. On Tuesday, the committee released its first rankings.
The SEC is still king, it seems everyone believes this to be true.
Just as the AP and Coaches Polls, the College Football Playoff committee placed three SEC teams in the top four spots. If the season ended today, the first college playoff would look like this:
1. Mississippi State vs. 4. Ole Miss
2. Florida State vs. 3. Auburn
That’s a lot of SEC love. And even though no one truly agrees which three SEC teams are the best (the AP and Coaches Polls have Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn among its top four, while the committee replaced Alabama with Ole Miss), all the pollsters are drinking the SEC Kool-Aid.
There’s no guarantee, however, things will stay as they are currently. Jeff Long, selection committee chairman, said as much when his rankings were released.
"We debated, we reviewed facts and statistics, and we used our judgment," said Long. "There are 18 one-loss teams in the FBS and the differences between many of these teams are slight. The bottom line is it’s early, it’s close and it’s going to change."
How much will the rankings change?
With only one official release, the tendencies from the playoff committee aren’t known; yet to be determined. But if history tells us anything, the college football landscape will automatically correct itself, as cannibalization among the one-loss teams will run rampant during the final five weeks of the regular season.
Will the SEC West cannibalize itself?
With rivalry games and tough roads ahead, it’s a distinct possibility. Still to go is the Egg Bowl, Iron Bowl and several ranked matchups. There’s a chance the SEC could be its own worst enemy in regard to the College Football Playoff.
There are even scenarios where the SEC could fall from its current perch of potentially three teams in the four-team playoff … to none.
Even though the SEC has never been stronger, here is the most feasible way the SEC could be left out of the College Football Playoff:
Mississippi State currently sits atop the SEC West with a perfect 4-0 record (7-0 overall). Ole Miss, Alabama and Auburn are directly behind with one loss each.
As these four teams maneuver through the final weeks of the season, three must finish the season with two losses, sending the fourth to the SEC Championship Game as a one-loss club.
** Mississippi State must lose to Alabama on Nov. 16, and then fall to Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl on Nov. 29. That would give the Bulldogs two losses.
** If Ole Miss loses to Auburn on Saturday, that would give the Rebels back-to-back losses.
** Then, if the Iron Bowl finishes with Alabama on top of Auburn, the Tigers would join Mississippi State and Ole Miss as two-loss SEC West teams. In this scenario, Alabama would go to the SEC title game in Atlanta with only one loss on its resume.
At 6-1, Georgia currently holds the SEC East lead, and ranks 11th in the College Football Playoff rankings. But there’s a way the Dawgs could fall from grace and miss the SEC title game.
If Georgia loses to Auburn on Nov. 15, that would hand the Dawgs their second conference loss of the season. And if Missouri wins its remaining regular-season games, even though Georgia dismantled Missouri earlier in the season, the Tigers would play in Atlanta for the SEC title.
Missouri has four SEC games left: Kentucky, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas. That four-game stretch is no breeze, of course, but it’s not the most treacherous way to finish a conference slate, either.
If Missouri does win out, and Georgia loses to Auburn (or any other conference game for that matter), Missouri would represent the East in the SEC Championship Game with a 7-1 conference record (10-2 overall).
If Missouri were to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship game, it would leave the Crimson Tide with two losses. At that point (more on this later), the CFP selection committee might overlook Alabama for other one-loss teams (nationally).
Even though Missouri would be the SEC champion, the Tigers would have two losses. One of those defeats was a woodshed beating at the hands of Georgia (34-0), but the other loss remains the big issue for Missouri.
On Sept. 20, Indiana came to Missouri and left town with a 31-27 win over the Tigers. That’s a miserable loss for Missouri. For that reason, the selection committee wouldn’t allow the SEC champion into the four-team playoff.
The SEC has three teams in the top four spots of the College Football Playoff rankings, and one more team in the top 10 (No. 6 Alabama). All four teams must have two losses in this scenario, and the current non-SEC teams in the top eight must win out.
** Florida State (No. 2 in CFP) has just one real test remaining — a Thursday clash with Louisville on the road. If the Seminoles remain perfect, they’re a shoo-in for the playoff.
** Oregon (No. 5 in CFP) would move up to No. 2, most likely, if the Ducks win their next four games and the Pac-12 title championship.
** TCU (No. 7 in CFP) would move up to No. 3 if it stayed clean from another loss, and all the SEC teams above it had two defeats. The Horned Frogs still have two ranked opponents (West Virginia and Kansas State), so winning out would likely be very attractive for the committee.
** Michigan State has four games left, but only one of real significance — a Nov. 8 home showdown with Ohio State. If the Spartans get through that game unscathed, a one-loss resume could ink them into the playoff, provided they also win the conference championship in December.
In this scenario, Florida State, Oregon, TCU and Michigan State would all get playoff invites as one-loss teams:
1. Florida State vs. 4. Michigan State
2. Oregon vs. 3. TCU
And the SEC’s reign of power would end — at least for one season.