6 college football upsets that could send the Playoff into complete chaos
No doubt, 2020 has been a crazy year, but the College Football Playoff looks fairly stable. Alabama and Notre Dame are all but locked in, Ohio State should be good as long as it plays enough games, and then there’s one more spot that’s leaning Clemson or Florida but could be up for grabs. Or maybe not.
Don’t forget, with potentially 3 weeks of football left, there are some real possibilities out there that could wreck the whole thing. Don’t believe us? Just watch. Here are 6 upsets that could cause serious Playoff chaos.
1. Texas A&M at Auburn
A&M again is 5th in the Playoff ranking but clearly needs help. They probably need Ohio State to not play enough games to make the B1G title game, Clemson to take a 2nd loss to Notre Dame, Florida to take a 2nd loss to Bama, and Cincinnati to not gain too much momentum. But here’s the thing: Despite what a brutal season Auburn is having, the Tigers are a touchdown underdog on Saturday. And the one thing A&M absolutely can’t do is lose another game itself. Or Cincinnati starts crossing its fingers …
2. Clemson at Virginia Tech
Meanwhile, Clemson’s path is very clear. Take down Notre Dame in the rematch in the ACC title game and waltz into the Playoff. Losing again to Notre Dame would knock out the Tigers … but so would losing to Va. Tech on Saturday. Sure, the 4-5 Hokies are not exactly formidable. Vegas has the point spread at -22. But before losing 2 weeks ago at Pitt, Va. Tech lost consecutive games to ranked opponents (Liberty and Miami) by 3 and 1 point, respectively. If they can keep it close, Clemson might play tight and throw the ACC into chaos. Hello, Notre Dame/Miami ACC title game … and goodbye second ACC bid.
3. Syracuse at Notre Dame
This is by far the longest shot of the 6 possible upsets. Honestly, calling this possible might be a stretch. But the game’s on the schedule, and even 1-9 Syracuse on a given day. … Well, here’s the scenario. Remember Notre Dame’s 4th game? They won 12-7 at home against Louisville. Admittedly, that’s the same Louisville team that thumped Syracuse 2 weeks ago by a 30-0 count. But it’s also a 3-7 Louisville team. If the Fighting Irish sleepwalk through another week, it could get interesting. Honestly, even a stumble to Syracuse probably wouldn’t knock out Notre Dame. But it would make the ACC title game an elimination game. A Notre Dame team that lost to Syracuse and Clemson would be out. Florida, A&M and Cincinnati would start getting excited.
4. Florida at Tennessee
It’s a rivalry game, and when rivalry games happen, records go out the door. Admittedly, UT knocking off Florida would be one of the more surprising developments of the season. The point spread is -17.5 and ESPN’s FPI gives the Vols just under a 15% chance of springing the upset. But if Tennessee, say, gets a brilliant performance from Harrison Bailey at QB and the same Florida team that’s had sloppy halves against Vandy and Kentucky shows up, this could be interesting.
A loss to UT would probably knock Florida out. It would be interesting to see a 2-loss Florida team knock off Alabama in the SEC title game and still fall out of the CFP, but at that point, Alabama would still be in, A&M would have a better argument than Florida, and there’s no way 3 SEC teams make the CFP. So watch the Vols and Gators is what we’re saying.
5. Michigan at Ohio State (or COVID cancellation)
Yes, theoretically a miserable Michigan team could pull the upset of the season at Columbus. Much more likely is that the game is called as a COVID cancellation, leaving Ohio State with only 5 conference games played (assuming Saturday’s game with Michigan State does indeed happen), which would disqualify them from the B1G title game.
Now, several moving parts are in play.
The Big Ten can (and doubtlessly would) change that rule and allow Ohio State a berth in the title game. The B1G also could scramble and find Ohio State another opponent.
Also, the CFP might decide that a team that goes 6-0 doesn’t quite have the panache of a team that goes 10-0 or 11-0, or even a 1-loss team. So probably more likely than a traditional upset is a cancellation that complicates OSU’s situation.
6. Ohio State vs. Northwestern in Big Ten title game
You may be noticing that LSU/Alabama isn’t on here. Neither is the possible Alabama make-up game with Arkansas that probably won’t happen. It’s because the upset is a no-hoper. Alabama doesn’t lose to unranked teams, and if it did, it wouldn’t lose now to an unranked team.
On the other hand, it’s entirely plausible that Northwestern upsets the Buckeyes. Ohio State has played 1 game since Nov. 7, and it was their 1-score win over Indiana.
Looking back, OSU’s wins over Penn State (by 13) and Rutgers (by 22) aren’t especially impressive. That leaves the opener against 1-4 Nebraska as their entire body of work. Ohio State may be as good as they think they are. We don’t really know. And it might be them who gets surprised.