By: Ross Weber, KCOU Sports
Everyone is looking forward to the new college football playoff as a way to give more teams an opportunity at a title and to truly find out who is the best team in college football. As the season gets closer to its conclusion, now’s the time to examine who is in the driver’s seat and who has an outside shot.
Control their own destiny
Mississippi State (9-0, 6-0 SEC)
Of course, the team that is #1 in the country and has a Heisman favorite in Dak Prescott controls their own destiny. With three games remaining before the SEC championship game, if Mississippi State wins out there is no way they don’t make it in, especially considering two of those last three games are against Alabama and Ole Miss on the road. They could even get in if they lose the SEC Championship game, but more on that later.
Florida State (9-0, 6-0 ACC)
The only other undefeated team left in the country, with a relatively easy final three games before their conference championship matchup, they should find their way in. Beating Miami, Boston College and Florida shouldn’t be a problem for Jameis Winston and company. Although, if they get to the ACC title game and lost to Duke or Georgia Tech, they’re out. That would be too bad of a loss to put them in.
Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC)
Surprised to see two teams from the same division in the same conference controlling their own destiny? Only in the SEC West, which is good enough to almost be it’s own playoff at this point. With the Auburn loss, Alabama is the next best team to have a shot at the playoff from the Division of Death. It’s also important to note, that game against Mississippi State is as close to a play-in game that a regular season matchup gets. Winner take all in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.
Juuuust a bit outside
Oregon (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12)
The ONLY reason the Ducks are outside is because of the relative weakness of their schedule. When in reality, anybody that isn’t in the SEC West doesn’t have a tough schedule, but that’s besides the point. Oregon is one of the best teams in the country, and if they win out, they will also likely find themselves in the playoff, but in the conference championship they won’t have a relative cupcake like the SEC West or Florida State might.
TCU (8-1, 5-1 Big 12)
At the beginning of the season, if you asked me how TCU, or any team from the Big 12 that isn’t Oklahoma for that matter, is here right now, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. But looking at TCU’s schedule, it’s easy to see why. They’re 4-1 against ranked teams this season, and that one loss was by 3 points on the road to a good Baylor team. TCU might have a better resume than Oregon at this point, but not having the opportunity to add a big win via a conference championship game could hurt them. This team is iron-hardened, if they get in they won’t go down easy. Don’t sleep on the Horned Frogs
Wait, what? When did you get here?!
Baylor (8-1, 5-1 Big 12)
Which team in college football has the number one scoring offense? Nope, not Oregon, it’s Baylor. They put up a monstrous 50.1 per game, and have just one loss due to a trip to Morgantown. Personally, it thought they were out of it coming into this past weekend, but now they have a shot due to some losses by higher ranked teams. They’ll need some help, but they’re still in this race.
Arizona State (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12)
More trivia: Who are the only two teams ranked in the latest AP top 10 with 4 wins against ranked teams? To everyone’s surprise, it’s no one from the SEC West, it’s TCU and Arizona State! If Arizona State wins out, including beating Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, they probably should get in. It’s also not just their Oregon 3.0 (Baylor is 2.0) offense getting the job done, in their last three conference games, they haven’t given up more than 19 points, and two of those were against ranked teams.
Ohio State (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten)
They were ranked in the top five at the beginning of the year, suffered an injury to star quarterback Braxton Miller, took a terrible home loss to Virginia Tech in week two, and everyone let Ohio State slip from mind. But some good wins in Happy Valley and against a top ten team in East Lansing have the Buckeyes in the race again. Win out with some SEC shakeouts and all of a sudden there is a freshman-led team in the playoff.
Need a little help. Okay fine, they need the SEC West to explode
Nebraksa (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten)
One loss in East Lansing, and a close win against McNeese State (who? exactly) away from being in contention for sure, but the rest of the Big Ten is so bad that their record doesn’t look as good as Ole Miss’ 8-2 or even LSU’s 7-3. If they win out, including the Big Ten title game, with the implied SEC West explosion, Huskers sneak in.
Duke (8-1, 4-1 ACC)
Here’s how bad the rest of the ACC is outside of Florida State, the second best team needs to have an entire half a conference beat up on each other for them to get in, even if they beat the Seminoles. Duke is a great story and a good team. The program’s turnaround is great news for college football, the only true Cinderella with a shot at the playoff in my opinion. Tip of a hat to the Blue Devils for even getting here in the first place at a basketball school.
Insert SEC East Champion here
The Mizzou Tigers have that spot in control at the moment, although the only ranked team is Georgia. If everyone in the SEC West has two losses after the SEC title game with the astonishing upset from the Eastern team, it could happen that they get in. Every team mentioned in one of these tiers has at least one big game left that could bump them out, with the exception of TCU (but they could still lose to an unranked team, which would bump them out anyway). It’s not impossible, but the entire country would need to explode, not just the SEC West. We knew crazy things would happen with the college football playoff upon us, but this would be the craziest thing I can think of. Anything is possible, that’s why you play the game.