ACC

College Football Playoff picture nearly set

The college football season is nearing its end of the 2017 season and there’s still one question that remains to linger until bowl season.

Who’s in?

On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff committee announced its rankings for Week 13, giving us just a glimpse of what could be the potential programs in with just one ranking left to solidify or weaken those predictions. While now teams found a home inside the Top 25, the vast majority of attention is solely focused on the Top 10. As Championship Saturday continues to inch closer, there is still much to be decided.

The committee’s ranking

After seeing No.1 Alabama fall to then No. 6 Auburn, the Tigers impressed the committee enough with a pair of win over No.1-ranked programs to be slotted as the No. 2 team in the country. Can you blame them? Not one bit.

In the history of the College Football Playoff, two teams that donned a No.1 ranking haven’t lost in the same season until the Tigers knocked off both Georgia and the Crimson Tide this season.  Despite two losses, the Tigers may have the strongest losses of teams inside the Top 10. Auburn fell to then No.3 Clemson and an unranked LSU squad. Since the loss to LSU, the Tigers in the Bayou have managed to creep into the committee’s ranking, earning a nod at No.17 Tuesday night, only strengthening Auburn’s case for legitimacy.

As for the other Tigers that are in the final four teams, Clemson’s close win over Auburn hasn’t just helped the fate of the newly-named No. 2 ranked program in the rankings, but their own fate as well. Clemson was named the top-ranked team just days before they take on seventh-ranked Miami in the Dr. Pepper ACC Championship game Saturday.

If Auburn isn’t considered the hottest team in the country, the No.3 ranked Oklahoma Sooners might just be. Since suffering its lone loss to Iowa State early in the season, the Sooners have been on a tear, posting an average of 45.7 points a game while cruising to seven-straight wins. Saturday, the Sooners will battle with No.11 TCU for the Big 12 title. Oklahoma won the first matchup of the season 38-20 at home.

It only took posting the first undefeated record in school history for the Wisconsin Badgers to make the Top 4. The Badgers have a pair of wins over Top 25 opponents this season. Granted, the West-Division of the Big Ten certainly didn’t help bolster their status as Iowa was the lone ranked team in the division, but the Badgers have been seemingly dominant in every phase of the game. Saturday’s matchup against No. 8 Ohio State could show the country whether they are legitimate contenders or merely pretenders.

Win to be in

After a wild week of action, the committee made it a bit wilder with a pair of SEC schools being the first two teams out in No.5 Alabama and No. 6 Georgia. With Auburn playing the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship game, the winner of that matchup will surely make the playoffs. If No.1 Auburn wins, it will mark four wins over Top 25 opponents and three wins over opponents ranked inside the Top 10. However, if Georgia will win, that will not only mark three Top 25 wins but will also name the Bulldogs the conference champions. Given the circumstances, avenging a loss with a win over the top-ranked team in the country for conference glory is too hard to pass on.

A similar result could ensue for both the Big Ten and ACC Championship games. If No. 5 Wisconsin rolls over No.8 Ohio State, there is no way the Badgers will be left out of the playoff. Where things could get interesting is if a pair of Top 4 teams fall and Ohio State ends the Badgers’ perfect season. With a Buckeyes’ win, there could be shades of 2015 when Ohio State leapfrogged into the playoffs — a postseason they ultimately dominated.

Ohio State does have an atrocious loss to unranked Iowa 55-24 and a loss that would appear to be good — a 31-16 loss to No.3 Oklahoma — but, may actually be bad due to it being more than a one-score contest, despite being against a potential postseason team.

As for the ACC, the winner will go into the playoff. It’s clear-cut. No.7 Miami is coming off its first loss of the season, which some analysts note is a tough loss to suffer late in the season. However, while the Hurricanes fell to Pitt, Clemson fell to sub-.500 Syracuse earlier in the year and played the Citadel late. Like where the Hurricanes had to play an continually improving Virginia program before Pitt. If they are going to measure losses, it practically cancels out.

Alabama is the lone team on the outside looking in that will need a load of help in order to reach yet another postseason. At No.5, the Crimson Tide can’t hope for the situation of other teams like the Ohio State’s and Georgia’s of the world.

They simply need teams to lose.

A loss by a team from outside the SEC could be just the trick to get Alabama into the playoff. A team the Crimson Tide could be counting on to falter is none other than Oklahoma, who’s is heading into the Big 12 title game to face a familiar opponent in TCU. If TCU wins, that might not be enough to jump into the playoff picture, especially if an unbeaten team like No.14 UCF is outside of the Top 10. However, it would be all the Crimson Tide needs.

It would be slim, but we could see two SEC teams in the 2017 College Football Playoff after all.

Is the committee worth it?

We groaned, moaned and if you’re a passionate enough fan, even cried when the BCS ranking was around. But, in all honesty, is the college football season better for having a committee decide?

It’s a toss-up.

The committee has been fairly unpredictable, which is what some people enjoy about it. it creates a bevy of scenarios on how things could play out and creates often unrealistic conversations. Yet, it’s conversations that may carry a lighter tone than the BCS rankings.

However, the one thing we have seen is a slighted misconception of Non-Power 5 schools, or in my opinion, room for human error. No.14 UCF has rolled to an undefeated record but has failed to even be considered for a Top 10 nod.

If the BCS were still in charge of selecting the rankings for the National Championship and premier bowl games, the Knights would still be on the outside looking in but would be at least rewarded for having an undefeated record in the regular season – a rare feat. Below is the current BCS rankings from Colleyrankings.com:

However, these also posses the question to those teams such as UCF. Is it time to start risking Non-Conference games for elite competition? It’s an easy yes.

The days of scheduling a lower-tier opponent (at least in the FBS) have appeared seen its last days. One key point of this is Ohio State. Would they even be in the conversation had they played a school like Akron or an FCS team instead of Oklahoma? Not with the thumping they received from Iowa. No way. However, with a premier matchup such as that, the loss from Iowa – while still tough to swallow – is somewhat lost when looking that they lost to the No. 3-ranked team in the country. Outside of Memphis and USF, the Knights really don’t have a signature opponent.

The arguments can be made for much of the Top 10, but as for whether or not the committee is the answer to solve the issue, only time – and more playoff slots – can tell. One thing is for sure, an undefeated record – no matter what level or conference – is something to reward. The Knights now have to prove they belong and a second win over Memphis in the AAC title game could be the start.

The committee’s final rankings will be released Dec.2 on ESPN.

 

 

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Joshua Zimmer
Josh Zimmer is the Lead NFL Draft analyst for NGSC Sports as well as serving as a contributor for NHL coverage.
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  1. Pingback: College Football Playoff: Alabama jumps Ohio State for final slot - NGSC Sports

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