Predicting the Playoff field: Will we get any surprises on Selection Sunday?
Honestly, it’s gonna be a little awkward.
There should be a whole lot of time to fill for the selection committee between Saturday night and Sunday when the Playoff field is announced. The selection show will go down on Sunday at noon ET on ESPN. At some point, they’ll reveal the 4 Playoff teams and we’ll all collectively realize that the Tuesday selection shows were just meant to fill the time. Mission accomplished.
But yeah, I bet the 13 members of the selection committee are going to have awkward silences galore.
After all, there’s not a ton that’s left to decide. The 4 teams should be obvious. The seeds should be relatively obvious, too. At least I think so based on what we’ve been told.
Let’s dig into that:
Contrary to what the FOX broadcast crew tried to convince us during the Big Ten Championship, no, there won’t be a debate about who deserves the No. 1 spot. It’s Alabama, which routed Georgia en route to an SEC Championship. It was the loudest statement of any team all year, it gave Alabama 9 wins against bowl-eligible Power 5 teams and it gave the Tide its second blowout win against a current top-10 team.
Bryce Young just set an SEC Championship record for yards against the best scoring defense since 1986 (through 12 games). The selection committee told us that Alabama didn’t have the best 1-loss résumé, but that was before it totally shredded a previously untested Georgia defense. Nick Saban’s team should be heading to its 7th Playoff matchup, but of course, it’ll be its first against Cincinnati (more on the Bearcats in a bit).
The only debate with the Wolverines isn’t really one worth having. That is, is the résumé as good as Georgia’s? Just for fun, let’s break it down:
We’ve seen the selection committee value the Power 5 conference champ, which Michigan is. Ultimately, though, that doesn’t really matter if we’re talking about the same 2-3 matchup, with the No. 1 seed getting first pick of semifinal location.
Michigan will be in the semifinal, and it’ll do so without having to face Alabama. After the way things played out on Saturday, that’s a major win. Still, something tells me that Playoff matchup will be a touch more challenging than going 60 minutes against that woeful Iowa offense.
The beauty of Georgia beating its entire SEC regular-season slate like a drum was that it went into Saturday with a Playoff berth locked in. I told you to not let the Danny Kanells of the world convince you that UGA could be left out with a loss (obviously he tried to ask that question). But the Dawgs are in, despite the loss.
They’re in because they trailed for a total of 20 minutes and 1 second in the first 12 games. They came into Saturday with an average margin of victory against Power 5 competition of nearly 30 points per game. On top of that, they beat 8 Power 5 teams who are bowl eligible and they have 3 wins against current Top 25 teams (Notre Dame has 0).
The selection committee won’t overthink this. The Dawgs clearly have things to work out, but they should be able to do so with a Playoff berth in hand. Long-term questions aside, that’s all Georgia could’ve hoped for when 2021 began.
Look. I get a ton of things wrong. I predicted in the preseason that Clemson would win a national championship and that this would be Lincoln Riley’s best team at Oklahoma. We saw how both of those played out. But I’m gonna pat myself on the back for saying back in May that the Bearcats would make the Playoff. Yes, it’s going to happen. The first Group of 5 team to ever make the field. You wanted new blood? You got new blood.
(You also got the Jerome Ford-Alabama reunion if this plays out. I’m here for that.)
And to be clear, no, UCF fans shouldn’t be upset. Did they go on the road and beat a team that finished in the top 6? Nope. Cincinnati did that, and it did so by double digits. Darn impressive, the Bearcats were. They did the impossible. That is, they gave the selection committee no choice but to put them in there based on the 2-year résumé. You’re darn right that close Peach Bowl matchup against Georgia mattered. Does that mean Cincinnati is going to beat Alabama? Of course not. But we didn’t let that stop Oklahoma and Notre Dame from getting to the semifinal, only to get smashed upon arrival.
FBS’ last unbeaten team is moving on to the Playoff, as it should.