We are so close to knowing what the second college football playoff and New Year’s Six matchups will look like, and this year, unlike last year, we don’t even really need a committee. I’ll do my typical exercise where I tell you how I would have these games set up, but first let me tell you what will happen in the playoffs and why you don’t need a committee. Oklahoma is in and they will likely be the three seed if I had to guess, unless Clemson and/or Alabama lose. Speaking of that if those two win, then they are in. The Big Ten championship game winner is in. Now, the interesting scenarios involve the ACC and SEC championship games. If Alabama loses, then Ohio State is in no questions asked. If Clemson loses and Alabama wins, then the debate would be ACC champion North Carolina or 11-1 Ohio State. The Vegas odds suggest that the Buckeyes would get the nod over the Tar Heels. If both Clemson and Alabama lose, then Ohio State and North Carolina both go. Any questions? Ok good now once again let’s get back to what I would do, as of now at least.
Cotton Bowl (#1 vs. #4)- Oklahoma vs. Alabama
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. If anything the surprise is that these are my one and four seeds, respectively, instead of the two and three. The Sooners have really come on in the last month and have more than made up for that boner against Texas earlier in the season. Alabama has cruised through most of their games, although Auburn things made things more snug than most Tide fans, myself included, would have liked. However, Alabama finds themselves in almost the exact same position they were in last season: the favorite.
From a matchup perspective, I like the Sooners in this one. They gave Alabama’s defense a ton of problems two years ago. This year’s outfit is better than that 2013 defense, but it still has to be in the back of one’s mind. Baker Mayfield is also emerging as, perhaps, the best quarterback in college football. Dancin’ BM has been killing it lately and it’s a huge reason why Oklahoma is as hot as anyone in the country. If I were picking today (which I’m not), I’d take Oklahoma to win the whole thing.
Orange Bowl (#2 vs. #3)- Clemson vs. Ohio State
Yeah yeah, Ohio State isn’t even in the Big Ten championship game, but that still doesn’t mean they can’t be one of the four best teams, for now at least. My guess is that I will have one of the Big Ten game winners ahead of the Buckeyes next week. It’s also ultimately inconsequential because I’ve already told you what’s going to happen. As of now though, Ohio State still has a better resume than Michigan State (yes even though they lost to them) and does anybody actually think Iowa is better than the Buckeyes? Come on.
Clemson survived a little bit of a scare against the Gamecocks this weekend and many people feel like they may have peaked too soon. They are still undefeated though, and in reality if they win Saturday it will likely lock up the one seed for them.
As far as this matchup goes, it would be really tight but I would take Clemson by a nose. The Tigers have been better than Ohio State on both sides of the ball by the slimmest of margins this season. They have also done it against a tougher schedule, shocking considering the ACC’s perception, than Ohio State. If you need another reason, then I’ll take the fact that the distractions that Urban Meyer’s team has had to deal with all season haven’t been present for Clemson, and still won’t be if they meet in the playoff. The talent edge still goes to OSU though, which makes them a threat in any game they play, as you saw in last year’s playoff.
Sugar Bowl- Baylor vs. Florida
Many feel that a Florida loss in the SEC championship game, especially if it’s ugly, will give Ole Miss an opportunity to leap frog them in the standings and into the Sugar Bowl, and they may be right. However, for now this is still the Gators’ spot and if they can keep it close against Alabama then they could still earn the Sugar Bowl bid in a loss. Despite beating Ole Miss by four touchdowns, it is clear that Florida’s best football is behind them and the Will Grier suspension was a huge loss.
Baylor is no stranger to quarterback casualties either, as they have already lost not one, but two quarterbacks for the season. It may have ended up costing them a playoff spot too as the slightest downgrade at the game’s most important position may have been just what Oklahoma and TCU needed to get it done against the Bears. Also in TCU’s case, that monsoon that hit Texas during the game can’t have hurt the Horned Frogs’ defensive efforts.
For this matchup, Baylor should be the clear favorite for all but the biggest Florida homers and SEC loyalists. Here are the facts though. Florida hasn’t scored thirty points in a game since the October 3rd game against the Rebels. Baylor has only scored less than thirty points in one game in the loss to TCU in a heavy downpour. The Sugar Bowl is played in a dome, so it would cost hundreds of people their job if there was a torrential downpour on the players during the Sugar Bowl.
Rose Bowl- Iowa vs. Stanford
This game has been set like this in my rankings for about five weeks now, and there’s also no chance this happens. Iowa will not go to the Rose Bowl, period. Here’s why. If Iowa wins the Big Ten championship game then they’re in the playoff. If they lose, then Ohio State goes to the Rose Bowl and they probably end up in the Citrus or Outback Bowl, or maybe an at-large Peach or Fiesta Bowl bid if the committee is feeling generous.
Stanford will end up in the Rose Bowl if they can take care of business against USC on Saturday. Obviously if the Trojans win, then they get an auto bid to “The Grandaddy of ’em All”. However, regardless of what happens Stanford should end up here and have been the most consistent Pac-12 team this season. Since we know for sure this won’t happen I won’t even bore you with the hypothetical matchup.
Peach Bowl- Western Kentucky vs. North Carolina
Western Kentucky won’t get a New Year’s Six bid (the AAC winner will get the Group of Five bid) but they do deserve some consideration. Granted, the continually diminishing status of LSU makes their loss to the Tigers look bad considering that it was a four touchdown loss, and the loss to Indiana isn’t a good one either. The Hilltoppers have won eight of their last nine games by double digits though and have the kind of high-powered offense that would be fun to watch in “The Dome”.
North Carolina probably will end up here if I had to wager a guess, unless a third SEC team leaps them or they beat Clemson and get into the playoff. The Tar Heels lost to South Carolina in the opener, which looks inconceivable now, but they have reeled off eleven straight since then and Marquise Williams has been lighting up scoreboards. Once again, I won’t trouble you with a projected matchup that we already know won’t happen, although it would be a fun one.
Fiesta Bowl- Houston vs. Florida State
If Houston wins the AAC championship game then they will end up either here or in the Peach Bowl, and my best guess is they will be here. The Cougars are undefeated in games where Greg Ward plays quarterback the entire game for them and they could scare whichever power five team they play here.
For now, I have the Seminoles slated to end up here and I honestly have no earthly idea who will actually end up here, although I think Notre Dame is actually the most likely candidate. The Seminoles are coming off a big win against rival Florida and the only real black spot is the bizarre loss to Georgia Tech (who might be the best 3-9 team of all-time but they are still 3-9). As far as a hypothetical matchup is concerned, you have to thing Greg Ward and Houston’s offense can have success. However, the Coogs’ defense would probably have a real tough time stopping Dalvin Cook and ultimately the Noles ability to control the line of scrimmage would probably be the difference.
1. Oklahoma Sooners
2. Clemson Tigers
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
4. Alabama Crimson Tide
5. Houston Cougars
6. Iowa Hawkeyes
7. North Carolina Tar Heels
8. Florida State Seminoles
9. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
10. Michigan State Spartans
11. Baylor Bears
12. Florida Gators
13. Appalachian State Mountaineers
14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
15. Temple Owls
16. Navy Midshipmen
17. Stanford Cardinal
18. TCU Horned Frogs
19. Toledo Rockets
20. Michigan Wolverines
21. Wisconsin Badgers
22. Southern Miss Golden Eagles
23. Ole Miss Rebels
24. Oklahoma State Cowboys
25. San Diego State Aztecs
First Five Out: Bowling Green, Marshall, Memphis, Georgia Southern, BYU