It was a rough Saturday for undefeated teams. Well, except for No. 1 Alabama, which beat Mississippi State 51-3. There aren't many rough days for Alabama. Through all the chaos, the College Football Playoff projection changed three times, and yet, remained unchanged from where it started.
First, No. 2 Clemson lost 43-42 at home to Pittsburgh when Chris Blewitt kicked a 48-yard field goal with six seconds to go. That dropped the Tigers down in the CFP projection to fourth -- behind Alabama, Ohio State and Washington. Clemson still controls its own destiny for the ACC championship and could have clinched the division title with a win. That will have to wait another week.
Next, No. 4 Washington took its first loss of the season -- also at home -- 26-13 to Southern California. Like the Tigers, the Huskies still control their own destiny for their conference title and are still projected to win that title. That loss dropped Washington down to the last seed in my playoff projection, pushing Ohio State up to second and Clemson to third.
But that's not all. Twenty minutes later, Iowa freshman Keith Duncan drilled a 33-yard field goal as time expired to hand No. 3 Michigan its first loss of the season, 14-13 in Iowa City. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "You don't have Michigan in the playoff projection anyway, so why does this matter?"
It matters because now, if Ohio State -- which I do have projected in the playoff -- and Penn State both win out as expected, it will be the Nittany Lions playing for the Big Ten championship instead of the Buckeyes because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. That means that Michigan's loss changes the projection for Ohio State from a record of 12-1 and a conference championship to 11-1 and no conference championship. That's how a second straight 62-3 win ends up being part of a bad day for Ohio State.
With all that in mind, Wisconsin is now projected to win the Big Ten title over Penn State.
Keep in mind that winning a conference championship is not a requirement to be a part of the College Football Playoff. I believe the committee would still put Ohio State in the playoff in this scenario, but instead of seeding the Buckeyes second, Ohio State would get the fourth seed. The Buckeyes would have a better record, as good of a schedule, and a win over Wisconsin. That should be enough to keep the conference title from being a factor. I think it's a much more interesting discussion for the committee if Penn State ends up as the Big Ten champion.
At the end of the day, my projected playoff is exactly where it started the day: Alabama as the top seed, followed by Clemson, Washington and Ohio State in that order.
|College Football Playoff projections|
|Peach Bowl||Dec. 31||Atlanta, Ga.||(1) Alabama vs. (4) Ohio State|
|Fiesta Bowl||Dec. 31||Glendale, Ariz.||(2) Clemson vs. (3) Washington|
Also, while I have not had Michigan projected into the playoff at any point this season, Saturday's loss did nothing to damage the Wolverines' chances of proving me wrong. They have controlled their own destiny for the Big Ten title all season and that is still true. If Michigan wins out to finish 12-1 and earns the Big Ten championship, the Wolverines will be in the College Football Playoff.
|New Year's Six bowl projections|
|Sugar Bowl||Jan. 2||New Orleans, La.||Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. Texas A&M (SEC)|
|Rose Bowl||Jan. 2||Pasadena, Calif.||Wisconsin (Big Ten) vs. Utah (Pac-12)|
|Cotton Bowl||Jan. 2||Arlington, Tex.||San Diego State (At-large) vs. Penn State (At-large)|
|Orange Bowl||Dec. 30||Miami, Fla.||Louisville (ACC) vs. Michigan (SEC/Big Ten/ND)|
Congratulations to Alabama and Louisiana Tech, which clinched their divisions this week and will play for their respective conference titles.
There are only 74 teams projected to be bowl eligible this week. That number has been holding pretty steady for a few weeks. One of those 74 is locked in now as BYU accepted a bid to the Poinsettia Bowl after the Cougars' win over Southern Utah on Saturday.
Army West Point is currently one win away from bowl eligibility, but the Black Knights have a problem. They already have a win over an FCS opponent (Lafayette), and they are playing Morgan State this week. Army can only count one win over an FCS opponent for bowl eligibility. Fortunately for them, one of the provisions for filling the bowls allows for a team with six wins and two of those over FCS opponents to fill a spot before the bowls have to resort to 5-7 teams.
With Army taking a spot, there is only a need for five 5-7 teams this week. Those teams are Boston College, Miami (Ohio), NC State, Northern Illinois and UTEP.