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Future Playoff Watch: What a 12-Team Bracket Would Look Like After Week 9

The list of potential playoff teams is getting smaller and smaller after Week 9 as debates over who’s No. 2 and who’s the last team in continue.

This is a weekly SI series using the current college football standings to create an imaginary 12-team playoff bracket based on the model proposed this summer by CFP executives. In case you’ve forgotten, the 12-team model features (1) the six highest-ranked conference champions and (2) the next six highest-ranked teams. The four highest-ranked conference champions get byes to the second round (independents are not eligible to receive a bye—sorry, Notre Dame).

Things are getting dicey. While each new week whittles down the Fake Selection Committee’s list of potential candidates—goodbye Kentucky, Iowa, Penn State and SMU—it also makes our job that much more difficult.

There are landmines everywhere. The Committee haggled over various issues while sipping on a stiff cocktail in the most appropriate place—a postgame soirée following the GrandPappy of Them All, the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville (speaking of, The Committee recommends a hole-in-the-wall fresh fish joint in Atlantic Beach called Two Dudes Seafood Restaurant—get the crab cakes).

Crab cakes and cocktails aside, a range of discussion points popped up during deliberations. For example, who the heck is the No. 2 seed? There are as many as five worthy contenders. And good luck trying to determine a pecking order for seed Nos. 7–11—a bevvy of one-loss squads ... and Wake Forest. Finally, there is the toughest call of them all: Who is the last at-large team in the field?

To the bracket we go!


What a 12-team playoff would look like after Week 9

1. Georgia (SEC champion)
2. Michigan State (Big Ten champion)
3. Oklahoma (Big 12 champion)
4. Cincinnati (AAC champion)

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5. Oregon (Pac-12 champion)
12. Texas A&M (SEC at-large)

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6. Alabama (SEC at-large)
11. Wake Forest (ACC champion)

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7. Michigan (Big Ten at-large)
10. Oklahoma State (Big 12 at-large)

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8. Ohio State (Big Ten at-large)
9. Notre Dame (Independent at-large)


Kenneth Walker III's monster game led Michigan State over Michigan.

The Deuce: In our second version of the Fake 12-team Playoff on Sept. 27, Sparty landed in our No. 3 spot (as we recall, the Committee got publicly whipped for that decision). Well, here they are a month later, back as a top-four seed. While the win over Michigan is, by far, their best quality victory of the season, they have zero losses and that counts for something. But this was no easy decision. There’s Oklahoma, which hasn’t looked great at times (see tight wins over teams like Tulane, Kansas and Nebraska). And of course Cincinnati, which has a great win, yes (Notre Dame), but whose only other top-60 Sagarin victory came against No. 54 UCF. Don’t forget about Oregon, which has the country’s best victory (at Ohio State) and one of the worst losses (against Sagarin No. 64 Stanford). Oh, and how about Alabama, the default No. 2 when all else fails. Honestly, it will be fascinating to see what the real selection committee does at No. 2. Good luck with the Deuce, guys!

Gig ’em is dancing: Remember last season when the committee left out 9–1 Texas A&M? The Fake Selection Committee would never do such a thing (except last week when we very much did)! With another week of results, A&M moves up the rankings, surpassing a host of teams that took their first, second or third L, including Ole Miss (our eighth seed last week) and Kentucky (the 11th seed last week), and Iowa, Penn State and SMU. However, this was no easy decision. The Rebels, like the Aggies, have two losses and a similar résumé. The same can be said for Auburn, which recently beat said Rebels. And then there’s Baylor, who doesn’t have the grandest of wins but does have only one loss, and it came against our No. 11 seed.

Quarterfinal rivalry rematches: Something that is becoming more and more apparent with each passing week? A 12-team playoff will have a strong possibility of producing rematches in the quarterfinals. And sometimes—like this week—it is not avoidable. If Michigan, for instance, wins its first-round game, it will play Michigan State, again. In order to avoid such instances, the Fake Committee, as it should, usually adjusts its 1–12 rankings. For instance, this week, the Fake Committee had Oklahoma State as the 11th seed. We moved the Pokes to No. 10 to avoid a potential Oklahoma State–OU rematch. We had Alabama as our No. 5 seed, but that would mean a rematch with No. 12 Texas A&M, so down the Crimson Tide went to the sixth seed and up came Oregon to five (we don’t move a team more than one spot in these situations). But there’s no avoiding the Michigan–Michigan State issue. If you move the Wolverines down to the No. 8 seed, then Ohio State moves to seven and you could have an MSU-OSU rematch. We can’t move Michigan up to the No. 6 because we’ve already dropped Alabama by one. It’s tricky. And it’s the worst part of a 12-team playoff—the potential for rematches in the first round and quarterfinals.

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