If you are a fan of LSU, Ohio State and Clemson, all you want is predictability from now through Dec. 7. Favored teams win, underdogs lose and the horses never trade places on the merry-go-round. You are rooting for dullness that delivers your teams into the College Football Playoff with a minimum of stress.
Everyone else who watches college football is ready for some chaos.
It’s simply more fun if a few wild results spice up the stretch run—but the question is, how much spice can you handle? You want it banana-pepper mild, maybe an upset here or there? Or do you want the full ghost-pepper treatment, where the entire playoff status quo melts down?
Let’s head for the outer reaches of the college football Scoville Scale, and see how scalding the chaos scenarios can get (all rankings are from the latest CFP Top 25).
Scenario 1: Gig ‘Em
Jimbo Fisher starts really earning that 10-year, $75-million contract Saturday when his hot Texas A&M team upsets No. 4 Georgia between the hedges. That second loss all but dooms the Bulldogs’ playoff chances.
Jimbo strikes again on Nov. 30, this time upsetting No. 1 LSU in Baton Rouge. (Fisher’s nephew is not involved in postgame altercations this time around at least, as he was after last year’s utterly ridiculous 74–72 Aggies victory.) Also on Nov. 30, Georgia dispatches Georgia Tech and Mac Jones leads No. 5 Alabama past Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
On Dec. 7, the Bulldogs also take down LSU in the SEC championship game. Like that, the Tigers’ dream season dissolves in the final two weeks. And the SEC champ is a team that lost to South Carolina.
So the SEC champion has two losses. The SEC runner-up has two losses. And who is still sitting there with one loss, at 11–1, with a win at Auburn and a win at Texas A&M that just skyrocketed in value?
America, reintroduce yourself to Alabama.
Scenario 2: Buckeye Backdoor Play
Nov. 23: For the fourth straight season, Penn State and Ohio State play one down to the wire. This time, the one-loss Nittany Lions prevail. Finally forced into a pressure situation, the No. 2 Buckeyes make key mistakes and are shocked in the Horseshoe. In the West, one-loss Minnesota and two-loss Wisconsin hold serve against Northwestern and Purdue, respectively, to set up the biggest of all Bunyan Ax games.
Nov. 30: Penn State has a walkover to the East Division title at Rutgers. The Buckeyes regroup and defeat Michigan in Ann Arbor. The No. 12 Badgers defeat the No. 10 Gophers to win the West.
Dec. 7: Wisconsin scores two defensive touchdowns to defeat Penn State in the Big Ten championship game, 17–16. Which would almost certainly mean that for the fourth straight year, the champion of the Big Ten would not make the playoff.
The only one-loss team in the league is none other than Ohio State, which lost to Penn State, which lost to both Minnesota and Wisconsin, the latter of which lost to, um, Illinois.
Outgoing commissioner Jim Delany, a hidebound traditionalist who this summer implored the playoff selection committee to “pay more attention to the founders’ effort to value strength of schedule as well as winning conference championships,” decides that having a non-champion in the playoff isn’t so bad after all. Especially when the alternative is nobody in the playoff for the third straight year.
Scenario 3: Boomer Bust
Nov. 23: Texas finally does something of note this season by beating No. 14 Baylor in Waco. Oklahoma dispatches TCU in routine (Jalen Hurts runs or passes for six touchdowns) fashion to lock up one spot in the Big 12 championship game.
Nov. 30: Baylor clinches the other league championship spot by beating Kansas. The Sooners survive Bedlam against Oklahoma State.
Dec. 7: This time, the Bears don’t blow the halftime lead against Oklahoma. They hold on, reverse the outcome from Nov. 16 and win the league title.
Every Big 12 team has at least two losses. One of the schools the conference did not want, Cincinnati, finishes with one loss at 12–1.
Scenario 4: Desert Disaster
The two Pac-12 teams that matter, No. 6 Oregon and No. 7 Utah, both travel to the state of Arizona Saturday. Both sit on a metaphorical cactus. Arizona State upsets the Ducks and Arizona upsets the Utes, and the league office can’t gin up enough replay review decisions to do anything about it. Meanwhile, USC defeats UCLA to complete a circuitous comeback and win the South.
That sets up a Pac-12 title game between the four-loss Trojans and the two-loss Ducks, who thrashed USC Nov. 2. This time, Clay Helton’s team doesn’t serve up four turnovers and turns the tables.
The Pac-12 is completely out of playoff contention and the Trojans find themselves re-upping Helton, the least-respected coach to ever win the Pac-12 title twice in four seasons.
Scenario 5: Clemson Will Have None of Your Shenanigans
Absolutely nothing crazy happens in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the No. 3 Tigers finish 13–0 by beating South Carolina and Virginia by a combined 80 points. Because some scenarios are too silly to even dream up.
If all those developments collided to create one endless Gus Johnson scream reel, here’s what we would probably be left with: Clemson, a team from the SEC, a team from the Big Ten, and Who The Hell Knows.
In other words, pretty much what we have now. But it would be a wild ride getting there.