We are in the stretch run of the college football season with four weeks left before Conference Championship weekend. During those four weeks we will see 19 games between the CFP committee’s controversial Top 25 teams. While I did not totally agree with the rankings, with so many games between ranked teams during the rest of November I have little doubts the Top 4 teams will settle itself out without Jeff Long’s help. Here are conferences hopes at a playoff bid.:
ACC: Despite what North Carolina faithful may hope, the winner of this weekend’s Florida State-Clemson game is the conference’s only shot at a playoff bid. Clemson is #1 in the rankings, have a superstar quarterback in Deshaun Watson and will not drop out of the top 4 without a loss. However, if Florida State pulls the upset, they will control their destiny to win the ACC and a non-conference win over rival Florida in the season’s last weekend could push the Seminoles back in the playoff. Despite a strong 7-1 and 4-0 conference record, an unranked North Carolina has no shot at the playoff without MAJOR help.
American: With more undefeated teams than the SEC, Pac-12, and ACC the American conference has the nation’s full attention late in the season. Temple’s near miss with Notre Dame showed this conference can hang with the big boys. Tom Herman has immediately turned around the Houston program, but a cupcake schedule gives them almost no chance at the playoff even if they go 13-0. The Memphis Tigers and quarterback Paxton Lynch came into the rankings at #13 and have a realistic shot at playing on New Years Eve. With a non-conference over Ole Miss from the SEC West and two potential road wins over ranked teams Temple and Houston as well as a conference title game, a 13-0 finish could put this team in the playoff. Crazy to think this conference is being considered a playoff threat.
Big Ten: Three undefeated Top 10 teams and five teams in the first CFP Top 25, the Big Ten is looking like one of the strongest conferences again. Iowa controls their destiny to win the Big Ten West, the Big Ten, and for a playoff berth. Despite a weak schedule, if Iowa wins out and pulls off an upset they will be the playoff at 13-0. The East Division looks like it will come down to a massive matchup between Michigan State and Ohio State on November 21….unless the Buckeyes prevail and lose to Michigan in Ann Arbor. If Michigan wins the Big Ten (don’t put it past them), then the Big Ten could very well be left out of the playoff. I do not see that happening, as the Big Ten looks like they will put a team in the playoff once again.
Big 12: This conference is getting slighted by the committee. TCU is very low at #8 as the same can be said about Oklahoma State at #14. Those two teams play each other Saturday so I figure that the winner will get a lot more respect from the committee. In the case of Baylor who are at #6, with a strength of schedule of 110 of 128 total teams, they have nobody to blame but themselves. Art Briles refuses to schedule at least one tough non-conference game which I cannot seem to understand. Regardless, their next three games are against TCU, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma who are all top 15 teams, giving the Bears plenty of chances to prove themselves. If one of this conference’s four ranked teams wins out (even Oklahoma with a bad loss to Texas), they will make the playoff. If every team loses at least once, the conference could left out again with essentially no non-conference wins of notes. Maybe that will teach these teams to go play tough games out of conference.
Pac-12: Despite having EIGHT teams ranked at one point this season, this conference only has Utah, Stanford, and UCLA in the initial CFP rankings. The only teams with a shot at making the Top 4 are one-loss Stanford and one-loss Utah. Utah has tough matchups with Washington, Arizona, and UCLA left while Stanford finishes the season against Notre Dame. There is a good chance that this conference gets left out of the playoff one year after Oregon made the title game. With such a deep and competitive conference it has been challenging for a team to emerge, although I believe that Stanford has a good chance to run the table and make the playoff.
SEC: The conference everybody loves to hate has three potential shots at the playoff in Alabama, LSU, and Florida. The Gators have essentially wrapped up the SEC East, and barring an upset their playoff chances will come down to the SEC Title Game on December 5th in Atlanta. The West is where it gets interesting, as LSU heads to Alabama this weekend for yet another huge matchup with playoff implications. If LSU wins, they will still have to get through Ole Miss and Texas A&M to win the SEC West. If Bama wins, they could win out and not win the West, as Ole Miss holds the tiebreaker with the Tide and could keep them out of the SEC Title game if they win out. Let’s not forget about Mississippi State and an all-time great in Dak Prescott, who host Alabama next week. While this conference looks solid for the playoff, if Ole Miss wins the SEC, it would tough for them to get into the playoff, especially if Memphis is 13-0, since the Tigers beat the Rebels. However, I do not see Ole Miss getting through LSU and Mississippi State.
NOTAH DAME: Mike Knittle’s favorite team is currently ranked #5 and the committee has given a message to the Irish. Win out and you’re fine, lose a game and your done. If the Irish win out and their are not four undefeated conference champions, Notre Dame will be playing on New Year’s Eve. If they lose a game, even at Stanford to end the season, they will be left out, although will probably still play in a New Year’s Six bowl.