Here we are, rivalry week. The end of the regular season. Almost as quickly as it began, it has started to wind down. It is always a little sad to see something that you waited on so long, end so quickly, but that’s where we’re at and that means it’s getting close to playoff time.
LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson are firmly entrenched in the top three spots and their paths are clear. LSU wins out and they’re in. The only real question would be whether it’s as the one or two seed. They can probably survive an SECCG loss to Georgia, assuming it doesn’t come by way of blowout. Unless Texas A&M can pull off the massive upset next weekend, LSU is getting in, defensive warts and all.
Ohio State is in a similar position to LSU. Win and they are in. Like LSU, they could possibly survive a loss. After their less than dominant performance against an above average Penn State team, it isn’t inconceivable to think Michigan is capable of pulling off the upset. They certainly have the defense to contain the Buckeye offense, the question is can they score enough points.
Justin Fields lack of experience against competent defenses was on full display against the Nittany Lions. There were multiple occasions in which Penn State was able to fool Fields by disguising their coverages, particularly in third and long situations. He was impatient at times, and quick to take off running. As a Clemson fan, that has to make you feel good about a potential matchup with Ohio State. Brent Venables is the master.
The Buckeyes likely could survive a loss to the Wolverines assuming they win the B1G title game. It is highly unlikely that either Minnesota or Wisconsin are capable of pulling off the upset. In fact, we have already seen what the Badgers are capable of against Ohio State, and it wasn’t pretty.
With Clemson, it’s simple. They must win. A loss absolutely does them in, thanks to a terrible ACC. Please, don’t tell me how many bowl eligible teams there are. The fact that a bunch of bad teams are knocking one another off doesn’t prove a thing. Outside of Clemson, there isn’t one program even close to approaching the elite level. It is a bunch of bad to mediocre teams. Louisville looks to be on the upswing and Va Tech has played much better over the last month as well. UNC may be on the rise as well, but with Mack Brown’s age, they have a very short shelf life. Outside of that, it is a mess.
The Tigers hit the road for their annual rivalry game with UofSC this weekend then get the winner of UVA and Va Tech in the ACCCG. The Hokies would be the better matchup from a perception standpoint seeing as a win over UVA likely puts them into the Top 20. Having said that, neither team is moving the needle that much and the Tigers would be huge favorites over either.
Once you get past those three teams, that is where things start to get a little murkier. Georgia is currently at number four and it is hard to envision them being jumped without a loss. That is despite the fact that of all the one loss teams, their loss was by far the worst. Beat Georgia Tech and beat LSU, and they are in. Drop one, and they’re toast.
Sitting at number five is Alabama. Oregon losing was one of the things they badly needed to get back into the playoff. They are still going to need more help though. When the new rankings are released on Tuesday, Utah is going to be sitting right behind them at six. If Utah wins out, they will no question jump over the Tide when the final rankings are released.
There is no chance the committee could justify leaving Bama ranked ahead of the Utes after beating a ranked Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship Game, while Bama sat home watching (no, that isn’t what happened in 2017). On top of them needing Utah to lose, they will need Georgia to lose too.
Speaking of Utah, it is simple. They have to win out to have a shot. Drop one and they are out. They host Colorado this weekend, a game they should win. After that is is presumably Oregon in the conference title game. Win that one, and they jump Bama and their fate would then lie with the result of the SECCG. They would need Georgia to lose to LSU.
Baylor, Minnesota, and Oklahoma are the only other one loss teams with even a remote shot at getting in. Each would have to win out, and even then all three need serious help. In other words, chaos.