After one of the craziest weeks in the past three decades of college football, three of the top four teams from a week ago enter the final two regular season weeks with a loss no one was expecting. Washington (then no. 4, currently no. 7) lost to USC and hurt Jake Browning’s Heisman bid by letting the Trojan defense sack him three times and pressure him all night. Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan squad (then no. 3, currently no. 4) dropped a nailbiter to the Iowa Hawkeyes somehow and probably lost their QB1 Wilton Speight for the season. And the Deshaun Watson-led Clemson Tigers (then no. 2, currently no. 5) went shot for shot with Pitt and came out one-point losers.
Three shockers, along with three expected outcomes, as Alabama (then no. 1, still no. 1) continued their dominant season by crushing Mississippi State, Louisville (then no. 6, currently no. 3) demolished Wake Forest, and Ohio State (then no. 5, currently no. 2) put up 62 on the Maryland Terps.
And let’s not forget about those sneaky Wisconsin Badgers, who jumped to number 6 thanks to all of these top 10 upsets.
Oh! And the Penn State Nitany Lions, who are certainly not out of the CFP hunt after Michigan’s loss.
After all was said and done, only number 1 ranked Alabama (and no. 14 ranked Western Michigan, for accuracy’s sake) remains undefeated. This sets the BCS up for a doozy of a final two weeks, and some tough calls for the College Football Playoff committee going forward. Let’s break what each team needs to do going forward to have a shot at the CFP.
Barring some unforeseen meltdown, Alabama will win and get in for the third straight year. Surprise, surprise.
#2 Ohio State
First off, the Urban Meyer-led squad still has to win out against Michigan State and Michigan. State should be an easy victory but you can’t count out the Wolverines, even with a transfer starting under center.
And Ohio State is possibly in the weirdest scenario for a team in the CFP hunt. Because of their division loss to Penn State, the Buckeyes are likely to miss the Big 10 championship game in Indianapolis. But because of strength of schedule, only one loss to the division champ, and an 11-1 overall record, Ohio State looks poised to get an At-Large bid to the CFP if, and this is a big IF, Penn State eventually loses the Big 10 title game. If Penn State wins the Big 10, and only one team from the conference is selected for the CFP, it would surely be the Nitany Lions and not the Buckeyes because of that conference title.
Because of the loss to the Tigers, Louisville has to hold their breath and hope that Clemson loses to Wake, as another conference loss would catapult Louisville into first place in the Atlantic. That being said, the Cardinals still need to win out against Houston and Kentucky to ensure that the only black mark on their record is a loss to a Top 10 team. With all of this, Louisville would head to the ACC Championship against Va. Tech or UNC, and the probable outcome would be a Cardinal victory. Same as Clemson, a 12-1 record and an ACC title would be enough to send them to the CFP.
Technically, the loss to Iowa doesn’t put Michigan out of the hunt. However, the loss of starting QB Wilton Speight to a broken collarbone, probably does. With a fourth-year transfer taking the reins under center, Michigan will have to take care of Indiana and then figure out a way to beat the stellar Ohio State Buckeyes. And that’s all just for a shot at the Big Ten Title. If Michigan loses to Ohio State, however, this knocks them out of Big Ten contention period and sends Penn State to the title game against Wisconsin.
After their yearly “Clemsoning” from last Saturday, the Tigers will look to bounce back against two should-be gimme games against Wake Forest and South Carolina. If Clemson wins out, they’ll head to the ACC championship thanks to their barn-burner win against Louisville, aka the tie-breaker for the ACC Atlantic. Thankfully for them, the ACC Coastal is a much weaker division, which should see either Virginia Tech or North Carolina come out of that side. Clemson would likely win that game, giving it a 12-1 record and an ACC title in hand. This should, mind you, should be enough to send them to the CFP.
WHEW. Let’s take a short recess shall we?
*Drinks a beer*
Alright, let’s dive back in.
The Badgers will have to win out against Purdue and Minnesota, which looks very likely, and then take care of Penn State or Michigan in the Big Ten title game. Being a two loss Big Ten champion, however, would mean that utter chaos would have to happen around the rest of the BCS. The Pac-12 would need to finish with a two-loss champion and, based on current standings, this is quite plausible, as Washington State holds the top spot in the Pac-12 North thanks to their undefeated conference standing and Washington’s aforementioned loss.
And to clarify, a two-loss conference champ would only give Wisconsin a fighting chance of getting a CFP bid. It does not solidify their bid, only gives the Badgers a chance of a committee selection.
The Pac-12 is currently set up for a stunner of a final regular season game, as Washington will surely bounce back against a bad Arizona State team, and then meet Washington State, the current top spot in the North, in said final game. Assuming Washington State wins against Colorado next week, this will be the tiebreaker that will decide the North division. A win for Washington means a shot at the title against either Colorado or, oh boy, USC. A 12-1 record and a Pac-12 title, along with just one-loss against a Top 25 team and division champ, should be enough of a case to slide the Huskies into the CFP and also keep QB1 Jake Browning’s Heisman hopes alive.
#8 Penn State
Because their scenario so heavily affects Ohio State’s, we’ve pretty much covered what the Nitany Lions need to do. Obviously, they must win out against Rutgers and Michigan State, head to the Big 10 championship and knock off Wisconsin. With a 11-2 record and a Big 10 title in hand, this should be a good enough case to send Penn State to the CFP.
How do they miss the playoff? Lose any game here on out, including the title game. Three losses and there’s no way they leapfrog Ohio State as the Big 10’s bid.
So there are your possible scenarios. There are some more crazy outcomes that could technically happen but I think I covered the most plausible ones. Now, let me give you my prediction for how this all turns out.
There you have it. We’ll see what happens going forward. Also, bear in mind that the CFP’s rankings will be released later this evening and we’ll get an indication of what the committee is thinking after that wild weekend…
Boy, I love this time of year.