Assessing the CFB Playoff threat level: Alabama avoids chaos, stays near top
Each week, we’ll take a look at the credible and not-so-credible threats to freeze-out the SEC from the College Football Playoff.
There is only one week left in the regular season for most conferences, and the playoff picture is about as clear as whiteout conditions.
When the College Football Playoff selection committee releases its top 4 teams Tuesday, everyone will have a better idea of where the current contenders stand. But right now, there are 13 teams that have a chance to earn one of those four coveted spots.
Scanning the good guys: Let’s not kid ourselves. Alabama is the best team in the country, and the Crimson Tide did what it was supposed to do Saturday: it dominated an inferior Charleston Southern team in a 56-6 victory.
On the other hand, Florida was a 31-point favorite against Florida Atlantic, but had to scratch and claw for an overtime win. Florida’s offense is awful — the Gators were outgained, 299 yards to 252. If Florida defeats Florida State next week and goes on to win the SEC title game, it would have a case for inclusion in the Playoff. But at this point, that seems unlikely.
Now for the bad guys.
THREAT LEVEL: FROSTBITE WARNING
Below zero-degrees. Could lose a finger if you’re stuck outside too long.
Clemson: The Tigers continued their undefeated season with a 33-13 rout of Wake Forest. If they defeat South Carolina and North Carolina in the ACC title game, they’re in the playoff.
THREAT LEVEL: FREEZING RAIN
It’s not a blizzard, but its still likely to force public schools in the South to close.
Oklahoma: The Sooners held off gritty TCU and now have two wins against teams ranked in the top 20 of the committee’s rankings. Oklahoma’s resume also includes wins over Tennessee, West Virginia and Texas Tech. If the Sooners beat Oklahoma State in dominating fashion, the committee might not put as much emphasis on Oklahoma’s lone loss to Texas, and give them a spot in the playoff.
Michigan State: With its win at No. 3 Ohio State, Michigan State now has three wins against teams ranked in the committee’s top 25 (the others are Michigan and Oregon). If the Spartans beats Penn State and knock off Iowa in the Big Ten title game, they would earn a spot in the playoffs.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes keep winning. They’ve been sitting at No. 5 in the committee’s rankings for the past two weeks and likely will take Ohio State’s spot in the top four this week. If Iowa beats Nebraska and wins the Big Ten title game, it’s in.
THREAT LEVEL: COLD RAIN
It’s miserable but manageable.
Baylor: The Bears knocked off No. 6 Oklahoma State — the last undefeated team in the Big 12. But Baylor needs a lot to go its way to make the playoff. It needs to beat TCU and Texas, and it needs Oklahoma State to beat Oklahoma. Even if all of that happens, it might not finish in the top four because of its weak non-conference schedule.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish picked a bad time to play one of their worst games of the season. Notre Dame turned the ball over five times in its 19-16 win over Boston College. If the Fighting Irish win at Stanford, they would improve their chances. Notre Dame’s wins against Temple and Navy are impressive. And their only loss came at No. 1 Clemson when they failed to convert a two-point play in the waning moments.
Oklahoma State: Baylor’s convincing victory at Stillwater on Saturday has nearly thrown the Cowboys out of the playoff conversation. Now they have to beat Oklahoma this weekend at home and hope Baylor loses to either TCU or Texas. That’s the only way Oklahoma State can finish its season as a one-loss Big 12 champ. Even then, it still might not be enough to launch the Cowboys into the Playoff with only two wins over ranked teams.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels won their 10th straight game this weekend with their overtime win over Virginia Tech. UNC also won the ACC’s Coastal Division and will play Clemson for the ACC title. If North Carolina defeats Clemson, it still might not make the playoff because of its weak strength of schedule and its loss to 3-8 South Carolina, which lost on Saturday to The Citadel.
THREAT LEVEL: RAIN
You’ll be OK. Just wear a rain jacket.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes finally played a quality opponent this season, and they lost. Ohio State needs to beat Michigan and hope that Penn State upsets Michigan State in order to have a chance at the playoffs. It’s unlikely both of those things happen.
Stanford and Michigan: OK, I guess they both kept their hopes alive with wins this week. But they both need a ton of factors to go their way.
THREAT LEVEL: SUNNY
There’s nothing like sunshine to brighten your day.
TCU: With its loss to Oklahoma, TCU has no chance of earning a spot in the College Football Playoff.