College Football Playoff: Which 1-loss teams pose biggest threat to SEC?
Can we agree that the SEC champion is headed to the College Football Playoff?
Can we also agree that only the SEC champion is headed to the playoff?
For purposes of this discussion, any undefeated Power 5 team (Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma State or Iowa) would be a lock to join the SEC champ in the playoffs.
The odds are much, much greater that only one or two finish undefeated. Giving the SEC one spot and leaving three to fill, which one-loss (or potential one-loss) teams should Alabama (most likely) or Florida (so you’re saying there’s a chance?) worry most about as we race toward football’s version of selection Sunday?
RELATED: Week 12 College Football Playoff Poll
Here’s a 1-10 forecast, in reverse order of threat level, to make the final four:
10. Houston. An undefeated Cougars team is a long-shot to make the final four. Until they expand to eight — what did Spurrier say when he resigned? If it’s inevitable, don’t wait — mid-majors have virtually zero access to the playoff.
Playoff forecast: A cloud in the sky. One harmless, lonely, pretty cloud.
9. Iowa. The Hawkeyes are 10-0 and close with Purdue and Nebraska, both under .500. Their first loss, in theory, would come against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. A one-loss Iowa team is no threat to make the final four.
Playoff forecast: Was that a rain drop?
8. North Carolina. The Tar Heels have the most head-scratching loss of any contender, that season-opening debacle against South Carolina. Yes, getting to 12-1 means they have to take out Clemson — perhaps No. 1 and undefeated Clemson — in the ACC title game.
The reality is: That will be the only top 20 team they face all season.
Worst loss. Worst schedule (two FCS teams, really?). Not a winning equation.
Playoff forecast: Even Vegas gets an occasional rain storm, but nobody buys a raincoat. Nothing to worry about, SEC fan.
7. Ohio State: The Buckeyes close the regular season against two ranked opponents, but a loss in either game likely will keep them out of the Big Ten championship game. After all of the talk about rewarding conference champions, Ohio State’s resume would be a foolish time to look the other way.
Playoff forecast: Los Angeles, too, but everybody still drives expensive convertibles.
6. Oklahoma State: The only way the Cowboys finish 11-1 is to lose one of their final two games, both at home. They’re against ranked teams (Baylor and Oklahoma State), but they’re both at home.
Hard to envision them surviving a home loss, especially the way the committee regards conference champions.
You could easily argue — and many will — that OK State would deserve a spot because its one loss would be better than just about any other on this list not named Notre Dame. But you’d be spitting in a rain-storm.
Playoff forecast: Better day for bowling than golf.
5. Clemson: No way the committee could overlook a bad, late loss to woeful Wake Forest, but what if rival South Carolina, with all of its in inspired fury, pulls off a shocker in Columbia? Wouldn’t it be interesting that both ACC candidates would have lost to South Carolina?
Playoff forecast: Mostly sunny, 70, but a bit breezy. Not bad, but we’ve seen better. Can’t see a 1-loss ACC school getting in ahead of a one-loss Ohio State or Notre Dame.
4. Baylor/TCU: Both already have one loss and they play each other in the regular-season finale, so this is an either/or. TCU lost by 20 at Oklahoma State. Baylor lost at home against Oklahoma. Neither loss is a terrible loss.
Playoff forecast: It’s sunny in Waco, where Baylor would have to beat Oklahoma State and TCU, on the road, in consecutive weeks and then take out Texas (which beat Oklahoma) to get to 11-1. As finishing pushes go, nobody is set up better for a late charge than Baylor.
TCU’s forecast is cloudier because, while it would mean beating Oklahoma and Baylor in consecutive weeks, it still would need Oklahoma State to lose.
3. Michigan State: The Spartans close the regular season against undefeated Ohio State and struggling Penn State. They are, by far, the Big Ten’s best shot to overcome a regular season loss, so long as they win the Big Ten championship game.
Playoff forecast: Sparty in a speedo? Oh, goodness. They have to beat Ohio State and most likely an unbeaten Iowa team in the Big Ten title game, but don’t underestimate the Big Ten brand name — or the fact that two Big Ten powerbrokers — Tom Osborne and Barry Alvarez — run the selection committee.
2. Oklahoma: How did Oklahoma lose to Texas? How did North Carolina lose to South Carolina? Those clearly are the two most puzzling losses among playoff contenders.
Fortunately for the Sooners, they just won by 10 at Baylor and close with two more ranked teams — TCU and at potentially-unbeaten Oklahoma State. Win both, and their 5-0 mark against ranked teams gives them the second-best argument among one-loss teams.
Playoff forecast: Giddy-up, we’re going to Dallas (or Miami).
1. Notre Dame: An 11-1 Irish means it closed the regular season by winning at ranked Stanford (which could go on to win the Pac-12 championship). We saw last year that the CFP rankings are so fluid they’re almost meaningless until the final one, but it’s hard to envision the Irish winning out and falling out like TCU did last year.
Playoff forecast: Do they sell sun protection in South Bend in December? No worries. Buy some when you arrive in Miami (at least hope you get Miami instead of Dallas).
A one-loss Notre Dame, with its schedule, has an argument over an undefeated Iowa, much less any other one-loss team outside of Alabama or Florida.