This week's chase for the College Football Playoff started with a bang Thursday when Houston hammered Louisville and knocked the Cardinals out of playoff contention. Things pretty much fizzled out Saturday, though, with no upsets near the top and only a couple of good games.
Despite that, I have made a slight tweak to the end-of-season CFP projections. I now think 11-1 Ohio State, even without a Big Ten championship, will be seeded ahead of a Pac-12 champion with a 12-1 record, Washington. The Buckeyes would clearly have the better season in that scenario, even if they don't end with a league title. Ohio State would have played a much stronger schedule and have quality wins (Michigan, at Oklahoma, at Wisconsin) that the Huskies can't match.
|College Football Playoff projections|
|Peach Bowl||Dec. 31||Atlanta||(1) Alabama vs. (4) Washington|
|Fiesta Bowl||Dec. 31||Glendale, Ariz.||(2) Clemson vs. (3) Ohio State|
The only change to the New Year's Six matchups is that Western Michigan replaces San Diego State. The Aztecs lost at Wyoming when their two-point conversion attempt with no time left failed. San Diego State can still win the league, and I am projecting it will, but Wyoming still controls its own destiny in the Mountain Division. A Cowboys win at New Mexico next week eliminates Boise State from New Year's Six consideration.
|New Year's Six bowl projections|
|Sugar Bowl||Jan. 2||New Orleans||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, Texas||Western Michigan (At-large) vs. Penn State (At-large)|
|Orange Bowl||Dec. 30||Miami||Louisville (ACC) vs. Michigan (SEC/Big Ten/ND)|
There is a lot of talk about Oklahoma making the playoff if it can finish 10-2. The Sooners are going to need a lot of help. There is a long list of teams that would have better résumés, including (in no particular order):
- Ohio State
- Big Ten champion (if not OSU)
- 12-1 Clemson
- 12-1 Washington
- 10-2 Florida
- 11-2 Colorado
And maybe even ...
- 11-2 Clemson with a loss in the ACC title game
- 11-2 Michigan with a loss in the Big Ten title game
- 10-3 Pac-12 champion Southern California
Note that I am not predicting all of those teams will meet those goals, and that should be obvious since some are conflicting (Colorado and Washington can't both win out to get to those records, for example). The point is that if any four of those come about, there will be no room for Oklahoma in the playoff.
Oklahoma's schedule and quality of wins just won't measure up, even with a win over Oklahoma State on Dec. 3. You could still reasonably argue that the Sooners lost to the two best teams they played this season. This might be the year where not having a championship game hurts the Big 12, although Oklahoma still would not get a high quality opponent in such a game this season if it existed.
Speaking of Florida, I put the Gators on that list, even though 10-2 seems very unlikely. They would have to win at Florida State next week and then beat Alabama for the SEC title to get to 10-2. However, if they do manage to do that, find me a team with three better wins away from home than the Gators, who would end the season with those two wins to go along with Saturday's at LSU. Florida would have to get strong playoff consideration if it can pull that off. The Gators would not be as damaged by missing out on a 13th game since the game they missed was scheduled to be Presbyterian.
Florida still has a shot at the Sugar Bowl, too. I have Texas A&M projected there, but the Aggies have to beat LSU and the Gators to lose twice to make that happen.
Utah is still projected to be in the Rose Bowl. That is based on the Utes winning at Colorado next week and USC losing to Washington in the Pac-12 championship game. I believe Utah would be the highest rated team in the Pac-12 behind the Huskies in that scenario. USC will pick up a fourth loss, but Utah will also have head-to-head wins over both the Buffs and Trojans. It is possible that the committee could view it differently, but if so, conference standings will not be the reason they do. Teams are judged on their entire seasons, not just conference play.
This week's bowl projections have us at only 73 teams, down a couple from last week. However, Army picked up its sixth win this week, ensuring it will be first in line if there are not enough bowl-eligible teams. The Black Knights are not bowl eligible yet because two of their wins have come against FCS teams. They would be eligible if they beat Navy, but that game will not be played until after the bowl matchups are set.
There is a possibility that South Alabama could fit in this category too, but I am projecting that the Jaguars will win their final two games and make this irrelevant.
Hawaii is currently 5-7 with a game left against Massachusetts. If the Warriors win that to finish 6-7, they will also jump in line ahead of the 5-7 teams to fill a bowl spot if there are not enough eligible teams. Army would be ahead of Hawaii in the pecking order, however.
The teams projected to be 5-7 in this week's bowl projections are Boston College, Miami (Ohio), NC State, Northern Illinois and Vanderbilt. Texas is also projected to be 5-7 and would make that list, but I expect the Longhorns to decline a bowl invitation in that circumstance.