Tramel: Could a mid-major crack the College Football Playoff?
Could a mid-major finally break through and make the College Football Playoff? If there’s any year it could happen, 2020 would be it.
The limited schedules of the Pac-12 and the Big Ten make them vulnerable. The Pac-12 played just four of its scheduled six games in its opening weekend and had a maximum of seven games scheduled anyway. The Big Ten’s Wisconsin already has had to cancel two games. If Ohio State loses a game and gets another game canceled, and posts a 6-1 record, is that enough games to be considered?
Plus, you’ve got the mediocrity of the Big 12, with no dominant team and a disastrous non-conference performance.
So while the SEC (with Alabama, Florida and Texas A&M) and ACC (Clemson, Notre Dame) could produce multiple teams per conference, there could be a crack for a mid-major.
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And there are decent candidates. Cincinnati and Brigham Young, in particular, are unbeaten and have posted some solid victories. Coastal Carolina and Liberty are unbeaten, with some solid wins, and play each other.
I see no path for Coastal or Liberty to make the football four. But BYU or Cincinnati? Sure. The committee has no desire to elevate a mid-major into the four-team bracket; the outcry from the Power 5 voices would be loud. But either could be a fallback position. If there are only three zero- or one-loss teams from the Power 5 leagues, a Brigham Young or Cincinnati could sneak in.
And why not? It’s not like anyone else has shown the propensity to beat Alabama in a national semifinal.
Let’s get to the rankings this week:
1. Alabama 6-0: The win over Texas A&M is looking better and better.
2. Notre Dame 7-0: Beating Clemson, even with the Tigers missing Trevor Lawrence, sets up the Fighting Irish to make the playoff even if they lose a rematch to Clemson. Notre Dame finishes at Boston College, at North Carolina, Syracuse, at Wake Forest.
3. Texas A&M 5-1: The Aggies’ victory over Florida is looking better. A&M plays at Tennessee and closes at Auburn. Otherwise, it’s smooth sailing for Jimbo Fisher.
4. Brigham Young 8-0: The Cougars are sort of like the presidential voting. Most of their votes have been counted, since the only games left on the schedule are North Alabama and San Diego State.
5. Cincinnati 6-0: The Bearcats have a solid resume’, but they get no marquee chances like Clemson-Notre Dame or Florida-Georgia. Biggest test left: at Central Florida on November 21.
6. Florida 4-1: The Gators’ case is simple. Win out, including beating Alabama in the SEC title game, and Florida is in.
7. Clemson 7-1: How do you gauge a team that loses without its superstar quarterback? Well, I tend to not cut teams much slack. Especially when said team scores 33 offensive points in regulation and totals 449 yards. That’s what Clemson did vs. Notre Dame.
8. Oklahoma State 5-1: The Cowboys jump back into the College Football Playoff picture with a Bedlam victory on November 21.
9. Coastal Carolina 7-0: On December 5, Coastal hosts Liberty. Mid-major game of the century.
10. Northwestern 3-0: Why the Wildcats over Ohio State and Indiana? Easy. The schedule. The Buckeyes have beaten Nebraska, Penn State and Rutgers. Combined record, 1-7. The Hoosiers have beaten Penn State, Rutgers and Michigan. Combined record, 2-7. The Wildcats have beaten Maryland (41-3, by the way), Iowa and Nebraska. Combined record, 3-5.