Quickly

  • If every favorite wins on Saturday, Sunday will have just as much debate as it has drama. But any one of these upsets could change everyone's plans.
By Andy Staples
November 27, 2018

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer didn’t want to hear any questions about style points or the College Football Playoff on Monday. In fact, when a question arose, Meyer lapsed into a very specific discussion of Northwestern’s punt return team tendencies.

“Their punt—they’ve rushed 12 times on punt rush,” Meyer said, barely suppressing a smile. “So we’ve got to be prepared. They skinny the short edge, too. So we have to be really sound on that.”

Meyer has been through this before. He tried politicking this week in 2006 while coaching at Florida, but the most effective argument his Gators made was a 38–28 win against an Arkansas team that had come in 10–1. That, plus USC’s loss to UCLA, got Florida into the BCS title game against Ohio State. In 2014, he had to break in a new starting quarterback (Cardale Jones) in the Big Ten title game, and Ohio State’s 59–0 win vaulted the Buckeyes over Baylor and TCU and into the playoff. Meyer knows the best thing he can do to help his team get into the College Football Playoff is to prepare it as best he can for Saturday’s Big Ten title game against Northwestern. He can’t control anything else. Neither, for that matter, can Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley. The Sooners already lost to Big 12 title game opponent Texas. Any second spent worrying about the playoff is a second not spent trying to beat the Longhorns.

Three games Saturday (the Big 12 championship, the SEC championship, the Big Ten championship) should decide who makes the playoff. So let’s examine the potential scenarios and the potential results…

The Status Quo Scenario

Big 12 championship: Oklahoma wins close in a game that features tons of points and yards by both teams.
SEC championship: Alabama beats Georgia by two touchdowns.
Big Ten championship: Ohio State beats Northwestern by 10.

What the committee might do: The committee likely will have Oklahoma above Ohio State when it releases its ranking Tuesday night, and this set of results isn’t likely to change anyone’s mind. With Oklahoma, the committee knows what it’s getting: Great offense and sometimes-terrible defense. With Ohio State, the committee still won’t know which team will show up. The Buckeyes need to replicate their performance against Michigan to prove how high their ceiling is, and they haven’t done that in the scenario described above. (But keep reading for one in which they do.)

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. Oklahoma

The Texas Is Back Scenario

Big 12 championship: Texas beats Oklahoma again.
SEC championship: Alabama beats Georgia by two touchdowns.
Big Ten championship: Ohio State beats Northwestern by 10.

What the committee might do: All this arguing about Oklahoma and Ohio State may ultimately come to nothing because it’s entirely possible Texas just beats Oklahoma again. If we’re talking about the likelihood of a Vegas-line upset, the most likely one is the Longhorns beating the Sooners. And if that happens and the Buckeyes beat the Wildcats, none of this discussion matters. (But please keep reading anyway.)

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. Ohio State

The Fitz-Magic Scenario

Big 12 championship: Oklahoma beats Texas.
SEC championship: Alabama beats Georgia.
Big Ten championship: Northwestern beats Ohio State.

As good as Ohio State looked Saturday against Michigan, this is still the same team that lost by 29 to Purdue. So it’s not far-fetched to think that Pat Fitzgerald might find a way to help Northwestern to a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl as a player and as the head coach. In this scenario, Big 12 champ Oklahoma would get the last spot.

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. Oklahoma

The Party-Like-It’s-2014 Scenario

Big 12 championship: Oklahoma beats Texas by five in yet another high-scoring affair.
SEC championship: Alabama beats Georgia by 13.
Big Ten championship: Ohio State blows the doors off Northwestern just as it did to Wisconsin in 2014. A second dominant performance in two weeks suggests the Buckeyes have corrected the issues that plagued them for most of the season and convinces committee members to consider their ceiling.

What the committee might do: This is where Ohio State could benefit from the “best” versus “most deserving” argument. If committee members think the Buckeyes are now playing commensurate with the level of talent on the roster, who would they rather have facing Alabama? Ohio State and Oklahoma each have great players—and the Sooners probably have the best individual player in Kyler Murray—but the Buckeyes’ roster is better top-to-bottom and more likely to match up better with Alabama’s roster. The question nagging Ohio State all season was whether the Buckeyes could get all that talent to play as a cohesive unit. If the committee thinks they have, then you might see exactly what happened in 2014. The Buckeyes would then hope to duplicate their result against the Tide in the Sugar Bowl after that season. (Though Blake Sims isn’t walking through that door. Tua Tagovailoa is.) Meanwhile, the Big 12 would face a crisis similar to the one it faced when the Buckeyes jumped TCU and Baylor in the final rankings in 2014. This one wouldn’t result in any expansion exploration, though. Big 12 leaders would just have to decide if they wanted to push for an expanded playoff.

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. Ohio State

The Doomsday Dawgs Scenario

SEC championship: Georgia beats Alabama.
Big 12 championship: Doesn’t matter.
Big Ten championship: Doesn’t matter.

What the committee might do: It’ll make Alabama No. 4, and none of this debate will mean anything. This would force the leaders of the Big 12 and Big Ten to seriously consider their access to the playoff. The Pac-12 already should be, but it also has other issues.

1. Clemson
2. Georgia
3. Notre Dame
4. Alabama

The 2012 Scenario, or The Eight-Team Playoff In 2020 Scenario

Big 12 championship: Oklahoma beats Texas 54–52. Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger throws for a career-high 450 yards, but Kyler Murray drives the Sooners down the field for an Austin Seibert game-winning field goal.
SEC championship: Alabama beats Georgia 32–28 thanks to a goal line stand in the final seconds.
Big Ten championship: Ohio State beats Northwestern 42–36. The Buckeyes’ defense that gave up only one play of 30 yards or more against Michigan regresses to the mean and allows three along with several more plays of 20 yards or more.

What the committee might do: USA Today’s George Schroeder made an interesting point on Sunday that the old coaches on the selection committee are the types who place far more value on having a great defense than on having a great offense. Matchups like the Big 12 and Big Ten title games described above make them scoff. In this scenario, questions about the defenses of Oklahoma and Ohio State and a nail-biter between Georgia and Alabama just might make them decide they want to see the Bulldogs—who allow 17.2 points a game and haven’t allowed more than 36—play the Crimson Tide again. This would enrage the leaders of the Big Ten and Big 12, and it might push them to change the playoff to ensure their champions are in the bracket every year.

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. Georgia

The Holy Forking Shirt Scenario

Big 12 championship: Texas wins.
American Athletic Conference championship: UCF wins (even without McKenzie Milton).
SEC championship: Georgia wins.
Big Ten championship: Northwestern wins.
ACC championship: Pittsburgh wins.

What the committee might do: Sneak out of the Gaylord Texan and board the first flights leaving DFW. This ultimate chaos scenario is a no-win for the committee. But if ever there was a chance to give an undefeated Group of Five team a chance to prove itself, this would be it. So the committee would make UCF No. 4 and then sneak out quietly.

1. Georgia
2. Notre Dame
3. Alabama
4. UCF

You May Like

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)