Worst-case scenarios for Year 1 of the College Football Playoff
Now that the College Football Playoff is actually a real thing, we have to deal with the consequences of the College Football Playoff being an actual, real thing. The BCS seemed like a pretty good idea at the time, and everyone remembers how angry and upset people got over that.
The thing about incremental change is sometimes it’s easy to pull one of those Men In Black pens out, wave it around, and brainwash everyone into forgetting how bad it was before. Just as soon as there’s one controversy, some critics will blame the playoff, declare it a failure, grab their slappin’ gloves and demand satisfaction.
There’s an old practice where you expect the worst so you can prepare for any and all results. So in anticipation of the College Football Playoff, here are three apocalyptic scenarios fans and the playoff committee might have to deal with that would make for an especially unsmooth first year.
The Non-Power Five Gambit
No non-Power Five team is going to make the College Football Playoff, especially not in the first year. Right? Right? Northern Illinois wasn’t supposed to make the 2013 Orange Bowl either (and Florida State fans won’t hesitate to tell you the Huskies didn’t deserve to be there, but that’s another story). Boise State wasn’t supposed to beat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Utah wasn’t supposed to be as good as Utah was in the 2004 season.
You can’t predict how these things will play out, but three teams (and probably more) have the potential to make things messy in year one if they can make it through the regular season unscathed.
The most likely is Marshall. With a thin non-conference schedule, an explosive offense, a bunch of returning starters and a senior quarterback in Rakeem Cato who can do just about everything, the Thundering Herd have the formula on paper to be in the conversation.
Bowling Green has an offensive guru in new head coach Dino Babers and brings back a bunch of key contributors from a team that won the MAC a year ago. If the Falcons were to topple Indiana heading into a Sept. 20 game at Wisconsin, the buzz would grow significantly.
Utah State has the toughest road, but a dream season out of the Aggies would be hard to ignore. Star quarterback Chuckie Keeton is cleared to play and has been doing Chuckie Keeton things in camp so far, and Utah State has a beatable, big-name foe in Tennessee the first week of the season. The Aggies also play Wake Forest, Arkansas State and BYU in the non-con. Utah State’s defense is better than anyone believes and its offense should be even better with Keeton back. If they can string it all together, the committee might be sweating a little bit.
The SEC Demolition
It’s been a joke since the playoff was announced: The SEC is going to find a way to get two, if not three teams in, isn’t it? As absurd as that sounds, that’s probably the worst thing that could happen for the playoff in its debut season. We already have an SEC Network. We don’t really need an SEC Playoff, do we?
As implausible as this situation is, it’s more about what the other Power Five conferences do than what the SEC does. The reason Auburn got into the BCS championship a year ago with no controversy was because Ohio State came up short in the Big Ten title game. Now extrapolate across multiple conferences.
The Big 12 is one big Rock-paper-scissors game without a conference championship to determine a clear winner. When you start getting into tiebreakers and the potential for two-loss teams, that conference could be unfairly judged. The Pac-12 could turn into a bunch of teams beating up on each other too. The ACC is Florida State and a whole bunch of question marks. And who knows what to expect out of the Big Ten if Michigan State takes a dip or Braxton Miller isn’t fully healthy for Ohio State?
If LSU comes out of nowhere and beats Alabama but ‘Bama wins out the rest of the way, if Georgia (which avoids LSU and Alabama) takes care of business against everyone except Auburn and if South Carolina only loses to the Dawgs, things could get weird fast.
Oh No ‘Noles
I’m not crazy enough to invite the hellstorm that comes by predicting Florida State to lose a game during the regular season. I should know better than even to mention the Seminoles faltering in their Attitude of Domination (Jimbo’s words, not a Pixies track). So I’ll look forward a bit further.
Let’s assume the ‘Noles do what they’re supposed to do and run through their schedule like they grabbed a never-ending star in Mario Kart. Oklahoma State falls, Clemson loses again, Notre Dame drops a tight one, Louisville keeps it within 10 maybe and Miami and Florida stand no chance. FSU enters the ACC championship on a high with a lengthy and impressive winning streak.
Now what if Florida State, arguably the ACC’s most ACC team (between peanuts in Coke, Jameis smiling with pregnant ladies during media day and Jimbo killing bats in practice) goes full ACC on us?
The Coastal winner – let’s say Virginia Tech because in years like this when we have no idea what to make of the Coastal, Virginia Tech is always the Coastal winner – strolls in as a big underdog. Well everyone knows the Hokies lose by three scores to the ‘Noles. What this book presupposes is, maybe they didn’t?
Does Florida State get into the playoff as a one-loss team? What if the committee found a way to keep them out? Can you even imagine the tweets?