Championship Weekend Preview: Playoff what ifs?
The College Football Playoff is the only thing that really matters this weekend.
Championship weekend is all about putting the playoff puzzle together. What if this team loses? What if this team wins? Two Big Ten teams? Three? Who is in?
The selection committee makes its big reveal Sunday.
Assuming Alabama and Ohio State are safely in the field, five scenarios to know going into the final weekend of college football's regular season:
WHAT IF WASHINGTON AND CLEMSON WIN?
The selection committee uncorks a few bottles of wine and gets to sleep an extra hour Sunday.
Clemson was No. 3 in the last committee rankings and Washington was No. 4. The committee said Michigan was a really close fifth, but the Wolverines do not play while the Huskies can add a victory against Colorado and a Pac-12 title. The Huskies should be just fine.
The only intrigue on Sunday would be if the lack of a conference title drops Ohio State from No. 2 to three or four.
WHAT IF WASHINGTON LOSES?
Colorado, which is ninth going into the Pac-12 title game, will make a claim to be No. 4 but it is doubtful the Buffaloes can climb over all those Big Ten teams.
So which Big Ten team gets in? Michigan or the winner of the Big Ten championship game between No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 7 Penn State? The Wolverines beat both the Badgers and Nittany Lions. They also beat Colorado.
So Michigan is in? Not so fast. You can argue Penn State beat Ohio State and its loss to Michigan came early in the season when most of its linebackers were injured. Toss a conference championship on the Nittany Lions' resume and it becomes a closer call. Wisconsin played Michigan tighter and did it at the Big House. Michigan has no quality road victories and it could be argued, the worst loss (at Iowa).
This is no slam dunk for the committee.
WHAT IF WASHINGTON AND CLEMSON LOSE?
Big Ten party. Michigan gets in along with the winner of the Big Ten championship game.
Wild card: If Oklahoma, currently eighth, is especially impressive against Oklahoma State in a de facto Big 12 title game Saturday in Norman and the Big Ten title game is a slog maybe - just maybe - the committee goes a different direction. A 2014 Ohio State-style championship game romp by Colorado over Washington gets the Buffaloes back into the conversation in this scenario, too.
WHAT DOES HAPPEN IF ALABAMA LOSES?
Maybe the Crimson Tide loses the top seed if it is upset by Florida. If the committee wants to put a value on conference championships it could dock the Crimson Tide and Ohio State a spot or two and jump Clemson to No. 1.
If that happens, it costs the Tide a short trip to Atlanta for the semifinal and instead sends Alabama to Arizona.
ARE WE SURE OHIO STATE IS SAFE?
Nothing is certain. Two years ago TCU went into championship weekend No. 3 and left it No. 6 as Ohio State jumped past both the Horned Frogs and Baylor into fourth.
So maybe the committee decides those conference championships are game-changers and the Buckeyes get bumped for the Big Ten winner. The Buckeyes won't feel totally safe until Sunday, when the final four is revealed.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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