In the College Football Playoff committee's most recent rankings, Alabama holds at No. 1, with Ohio State, Clemson and Washington following suit. Behind them are a trio of Big Ten teams, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State.
But there's still one more weekend of games before the final rankings, and the outcomes of those games could provide some nightmare scenarios to the playoff committee, specifically in the Big ten.
Here are five worst-case scenarios that would give the committee the absolute most grief and headaches.
Alabama, Clemson and Washington all winning, plus Wisconsin taking home the Big Ten title
This would cause a minor uproar in certain factions, because in this scenario, you’d have Ohio State getting into the playoff ahead of its own conference champion Wisconsin. It would lead some asking “what’s the point of winning the conference title if it doesn’t help you get into the playoff?”
That same contingent wouldn’t have much to latch onto, since Ohio State would have less one less loss than Wisconsin and a head-to-head win over them. Like everything in life though, that wouldn’t keep some from complaining.
Jeff HanischJeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama losing the SEC Championship Game
For weeks we’ve heard committee chair Kirby Hocutt say that there is a major gap between No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Ohio State and everyone else in college football. If that’s really the case, is there a possibility that Alabama losing the SEC title game would cost the Tide the No. 1 seed?
If Hocutt’s words are true, then tell me whose resume would honestly be better in this scenario. Both would have one loss, both would be a non-champion of their respective conferences, and Ohio State would be sporting three wins over Top 10 teams, while Alabama would have one (USC), with four wins against the Top 25 (Tennessee, Auburn and LSU). Ohio State would also have the unquestionably “better” loss.
Looking at those resumes, it’s pretty close, and could go either way. If the committee is true to its word – that there is a gap between Alabama and Ohio State – then the Crimson Tide losing could cost them the No. 1 seed. Whether it will is another story altogether.
Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
Washington and Clemson both losing this weekend
At that point it’d be irrelevant who won the Big Ten title game, and it’d almost certain that there would be three – yes, three – Big Ten teams. Clemson’s loss would eliminate it from playoff contention, and it’s hard to imagine Colorado jumping Michigan, which it lost to head-to-head.
Therefore, you’d be living in a world where Ohio State and Michigan would most likely get in as at-large teams along with the Big Ten champion. And while it’d be great for the folks in the heartland, what would it say about the REST of college football, that one conference produced three of its four best teams?
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Washington losing and Wisconsin winning the Big Ten
Once again, this pulls in the “What is the value of winning your conference” effect. Because in essence, with Washington out of the playoff picture, it means that the final spot would come down to two teams: A two-loss Wisconsin, which is a Big Ten champ. Or a two-loss Michigan, which didn’t win the conference (or its division, for that matter) but did beat the Badgers.
The obvious choice would be to select Michigan since the Wolverines have the head-to-head win. But again, doesn’t that kind of defeat the whole purpose of playing a conference championship game? Also, are we really sure Michigan is the better team? My hunch is yes, but let’s not forget that when the two played at the Big House, the final score was 14-7 (even if Michigan dominated the game statistically). Or that Wisconsin has won six in a row, while the Wolverines have lost two of their last three?
This one would cause more controversy than I think most believe.
Things going how most of us expect
Which (at least in my eyes) would mean Alabama, Washington and Clemson winning this weekend, plus Penn State taking home the Big Ten title game. In my eyes, it makes things more complicated.
The committee seems to be doubling-down on the whole “Ohio State is head and shoulders above Penn State” theory, but are the Buckeyes? With a win, Penn State would clinch a Big Ten title, add a Top 10 win to its resume and have a head-to-head win over Ohio State. And by the way, what if Penn State blows out Wisconsin? Could you really argue that the Buckeyes are “better” after they needed overtime to take down the Badgers?
Point being, I don’t think this decision is nearly as easy as anyone thinks. Nor do I think Ohio State is a “lock” to make the playoff at this point. It’s also why, for simplicity sake, I have to assume that the committee would love to see Wisconsin lose this weekend. It’d certainly make things much easier on its end.