Chaos Theory: Week 13 rooting guide to maximum playoff controversy
For lovers of chaos, in some ways we’ve already won. With only two remaining undefeated teams, one of whom is the subject of plenty of controversy due to its relatively weak schedule, the College Football Playoff selection committee has no choice but to make some tough choices. And with those tough choices comes animosity.
It’s already started with Notre Dame fans angered by their team’s drop from No. 4 to No. 6 in the playoff rankings this week even though the Fighting Irish have continued to win. Despite its only loss coming to No. 1 Clemson on the road, Notre Dame ranks behind three teams with the same record who all lost to worse teams and two of whom fell to teams far outside of the top 25. Sure, you can point out the Irish’s uninspiring play of late, including an ugly 19–16 win over Boston College. It wouldn’t be a controversy if there weren’t two valid sides.
That’s exactly why chaos has already prevailed. No matter whom the playoff committee ultimately picks, the teams left out will have legitimate reasons for why they should have gotten in instead.
But just because we already know some chaos will ensue is no reason to settle. There’s plenty more drama to pack into this year’s race and only two more weeks to do it. Here is your rooting guide to playoff chaos for Week 13:
Notre Dame crushes Stanford, Oklahoma gets an ugly win over Oklahoma State
Think the playoff committee has already made its choice in the Oklahoma-Notre Dame debate? Think again. The Sooners’ rise to No. 3 and Irish’s fall to No. 6 this week is no guarantee they’ll stay there. Just ask 2014 TCU.
Imagine if Notre Dame gets recharged by its sloppy performance against Boston College and subsequent rankings drop and takes out all of that energy on Stanford. DeShone Kizer and the offense pile up 40-plus points on the Cardinal while Jaylon Smith and Sheldon Day have a party in Stanford’s backfield. Meanwhile in Stillwater, Oklahoma pulls out the win over Oklahoma State but in unconvincing fashion. The Sooners overcome a barrage of turnovers thanks in part to some questionable officiating.
It’s important to note that based on the committee’s rankings, it considers two-loss Stanford (No. 9) better than one-loss Oklahoma State (No. 11). So theoretically even if Notre Dame and Oklahoma win in the same fashion, the Irish should close some ground on the Sooners.
Auburn beats Alabama, Ole Miss beats Mississippi State, Florida beats Florida State
The Crimson Tide may seem destined for the playoff, but as the old cliché advises, toss out the records in a rivalry game. Auburn has shown occasional glimpses in the second half of the season that it can compete, including a road win over Texas A&M on Nov. 7. If the Tigers can pull off the upset while Ole Miss takes down Mississippi State, the Rebels will complete a surprising, nonlinear run to the SEC title game.
That alone won’t do much other than eliminate Alabama from the playoff, but it sets the stage for a potentially interesting scenario. Based on the past three weeks—narrow wins over Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic—it’s hard to expect much from Florida. But with one loss and a shot at an SEC title, the Gators would seem to still be alive in the playoff race. Would closing out the season with wins over Florida State and Ole Miss be enough?
At No. 12 in this week’s rankings, Florida has a lot of ground to make up. But would the playoff committee really be prepared to leave out a one-loss SEC champion? If the answer to that question is yes, enjoy the incredible rage that will break out when the playoff field is revealed. If the answer is no, enjoy the incredible rage that will break out when Jeff Long is forced to explain why the committee decided the Gators were one of the four best teams.
South Carolina beats Clemson, Auburn beats Alabama, Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma, Nebraska beats Iowa, Penn State beats Michigan State, Stanford beats Notre Dame, TCU beats Baylor, Michigan beats Ohio State, Florida State beats Florida
Let’s end as always with the nuclear option, which this week leaves the college football landscape with just two one-loss Power 5 teams and no undefeated teams. Suddenly the committee is forced to re-evaluate which two-loss team is most deserving of a playoff spot.
Could Stanford ride its victory over Notre dame to a playoff berth? What about Michigan, which would earn a berth in the Big Ten title game in this scenario by beating Ohio State while Michigan State loses? (That would also have to be the greatest day in Michigan football history.) And if Clemson lost to the team that lost to the Citadel, would it even matter that the Tigers would still have a better record than most of the other playoff contenders?