The College Football Playoff has never included two teams from the same conference.
For reasons only the committee can understand, the Big Ten has come the closest.
Last year Penn State finished No. 5, one spot from joining No. 3-seed Ohio State in the Playoff. Both lost their bowl game (as did No. 6 Michigan).
In 2015, Iowa finished No. 5 (and then promptly lost the Rose Bowl by 29.) Alabama shut out Michigan State, the No. 3 seed, in the semifinal.
(If you’re keeping score, the B1G’s best teams have gone a combined 0-5 and been outscored 199-97 in the past two postseasons. I digress …)
This year, the SEC is primed to make history. It has three teams inside the Top 10, led by No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Georgia. No. 10 Auburn should be much higher.
Will the SEC become the first conference to send two teams to the Playoff? That’s something we’ve been discussing all week.
Connor O’Gara, senior national columnist: That question is nearly impossible to answer in the second week of October, but I’ll lay it out with some different scenarios. For starters, eliminate any notion of a 2-loss SEC team getting in. It’s not happening. So yes, Auburn can make the field, but only if it wins out. So what would that mean if one-loss Auburn won the Iron Bowl against an undefeated Alabama team and then beat an undefeated Georgia team?
Auburn is obviously in as a one-loss conference champion. Alabama could still make the field, too. We saw what happened to one-loss Ohio State last year. The Buckeyes didn’t need a conference title — or even a division title — to make the Playoff.
There’s also the very realistic possibility that Georgia and Alabama run the table and meet in the SEC Championship. Maybe it’s a good, hard-fought game that one team squeaks out. That scenario could warrant two teams, but only if there’s at least one 2-loss Power 5 conference championship winner.
Putting two SEC teams involves leaving two other Power 5 conferences out. In a year in which the SEC has as many Top-25 teams as the American Athletic Conference, that might be too tough for the committee to justify.
It’s a good thing we still have two more months to see how this thing will shake out.
Jon Cooper, director of operations: It’s way too early to answer this question. As of right now, you can make a strong case that Alabama (certainly), Georgia and Auburn all belong in the top five teams in the country. Is Auburn the best one-loss team in college football? It’s certainly the hottest right now.
If we had to choose today, yes, there would be two SEC teams in the College Football Playoff: Alabama and Georgia. But these three SEC teams will all have to play each other. The beautiful thing about college football is you live and die on every Saturday.
Adam Spencer, Georgia reporter: That question probably depends more on the other conferences than it does the SEC. The SEC will almost certainly, barring a complete collapse, get one team in.
But I don’t see any way the CFP committee takes a one-loss SEC non-champion over an undefeated conference winner.
Should the Big 12 and Pac-12 champions each have one loss, I could see a one-loss Georgia team sneaking into the CFP, especially if that loss is close against an undefeated Alabama team in the SEC Championship Game.
That said, I’ll predict that the SEC’s second-best team will be very disappointed when the CFP’s field of four is announced in December.
Chris Wright, executive editor: Obviously if there are four other unbeaten Power 5 champions, it’s not happening. But if there are five one-loss candidates vying for the final two spots behind an unbeaten SEC champ and ACC champ?
Absolutely the SEC is in the best position to grab one of them. Not only this year, but ever. The SEC did more work in non-conference than any other league. That’s not even debatable this year.
However, I don’t think Georgia can get in with an SEC Championship Game loss, regardless of how close the game might be. Barring upsets, Georgia likely would enter that title game no higher than No. 3.
The SEC’s best chance at getting two is: Georgia beats unbeaten, No. 1 Alabama on a late FG or TD in the SEC title game.
Would that 1-loss Tide team, which would have knocked off Auburn on The Plains the week before, slide all the way to No. 5?
I can’t see that happening.
Not when you start comparing resumes.
I don’t even want to hear Penn State and Ohio State are in the discussion as a possible two-some. Ohio State lost by 15 at home to the only good non-conference team it played. Penn State didn’t even play a ranked non-conference team. I could make a more compelling argument that, based on precedent, schedules and results, a 1-loss B1G champ deserves to be left out entirely.
Washington and Washington State will sort itself out. But their schedules are every bit as weak as Penn State’s. The Pac-12 needs an undefeated champion to feel safe.
The ACC is interesting, or was until Miami lost its star tailback Mark Walton. Much as I want to see Georgia-Miami, it’s difficult to envision the Canes running the table en route to the ACC title game. That’s Clemson’s spot to lose.
And we already know how the committee feels about the Big 12. One loss could doom TCU in 2017, just like it somehow did in 2014.
It’s a fun discussion, and there’s still seven weeks of football to be played.
There’s a huge difference between should the SEC get two and will the SEC get two. But there’s never been a better opportunity to make history.