Tramel: Does the OU-Iowa State winner have a path to the playoff?
Could a crazy series of events propel the OU-Iowa State winner into the College Football Playoff? Sure.
Would a crazy series of events propel the OU-Iowa State winner into the College Football Playoff? Maybe not.
But this much we know. The playoff committee likes the Big 12. The Big 12’s outside-looking-in status was self-imposed.
The committee’s final for-fun rankings are revealed Tuesday night. The committee meets again over the weekend and by Sunday morning will produce the four-team playoff field.
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- Article: College Football Playoff ranking: Sooners rise to 10th, Cyclones check in at sixth
The committee is treating the Big 12 well. Last week, Iowa State jumped Cincinnati into No. 7 in the rankings.
The highest-ranked two-loss team in college football calls Ames, Iowa, home. Think about that. Not Norman. Not Athens. Ames.
Iowa State lost to Louisiana-Lafayette, the Ragin’ Cajuns have gone to post a 9-1 record, with the only loss to an unbeaten team (Coastal Carolina), and yet the committee has Iowa State 12 slots ahead of ULL.
The committee ranks OU 11th. The Sooners, annually treated like Gold Club members by the committee, lost to Kansas State and Iowa State early in the season. The former should be unforgivable and probably won’t be.
How will the Sooners and Cyclones shake out tonight?
Iowa State likely moves up to No. 6, after Florida’s loss to LSU, and No. 6 is a launchpad for the playoff, even in the final week.
OU likely moves up to No. 9, with losses by Florida and Miami, though Southern Cal looms as a potential jump-up team, too. USC is 5-0, and voters might start wondering how they can defend 5-0 Ohio State being so high (fourth) if 5-0 USC is so low (15th last week).
But if the Big 12 title game is a matchup of No. 6 vs. No. 9, what is the path to the playoff?
The final top four seems assured sans an upset Saturday in conference title games.
No. 1 Alabama plays Florida in the Southeastern Conference.
No. 4 Ohio State plays Northwestern in the Big Ten.
No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 3 Clemson play in the Atlantic Coast.
If Bama and Ohio State win (either losing would be a massive upset), hope is reduced to Notre Dame beating Clemson. A Clemson victory almost surely would keep both teams in the top four.
But what if Notre Dame wins? A two-loss Clemson should be eliminated.
The committee would have some decisions to make:
* The OU-Iowa State winner vs. Texas A&M. The Aggies are 7-1 and are scheduled to play at Tennessee on Saturday. A&M’s best win, Florida, was marred by Florida’s defeat last week, but it remains a quality victory. A&M’s only loss to Alabama.
But Iowa State would be 9-2 with a second victory over the Sooners, and the Big 12 championship tag. ISU-A&M would be an interesting vote.
OU-A&M might be a tougher sell, despite the playoff’s long affinity for the Sooners. OU always is treated well by the committee, and no reason to expect that to change. It’s just that a jump from ninth (or 10th) to No. 4 is a huge leap. The Sooners would have beaten the Cyclones, not the Packers.
My guess is A&M makes the playoff with a victory over Tennessee and a Clemson loss. The committee traditionally has rejected upstarts in favor of brand names (see Ohio State vs. Baylor and TCU in 2014). And lifting the Sooners from the bottom of the top 10 is too big a leap.
* Cincinnati, 8-0, would have a case if it beats Tulsa in the American Conference title game. But as much as I pull for the mid-majors, Cincinnati’s case is not strong. The Bearcats have played just two road games, and the American’s non-conference performance this season has not elevated the league. Tulsa played Oklahoma State tough in the season opener, but Central Florida over Georgia Tech, Cincinnati over Army. There’s just not much there.
* USC could be a stealth candidate. If the Trojans beat Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, and Ohio State beats Northwestern in the Big Ten, each would be 6-0. Here are the schedules of each:
Ohio State: Nebraska, at Penn State, Rutgers, Indiana, at Michigan State.
Southern Cal: Arizona State, at Arizona, at Utah, Washington State, at UCLA.
Ohio State has more name brands, but it’s not 1994. Nebraska and Penn State don’t mean that much. Indiana is the best win among Ohio State and USC, but can anyone reasonably say that the Buckeyes’ schedule advantage is worth 11 rankings difference?
So what does it all mean? The Big 12 winner needs some help on the field and then needs some help in the committee room. One or the other is possible. Both are a big longshot.
Here are my rankings for the week, and remember, I rank teams based not on what I think they will do or how good I think they are. I rank teams based on what they’ve done. Who you played, where you played and how you did:
1. Alabama 10-0: The Crimson Tide has beaten every SEC member except Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, and Bama can take care of the former on Saturday.
2. Notre Dame 10-0: Brian Kelly is an underrated coach, which is hard to be in South Bend.
3. Clemson 9-1: Is anyone else sort of had it up to here with Dabo Swinney? The guy is full of himself.
4. Texas A&M 7-1: The canceled Ole Miss game would have aided the Aggies. Every little bit helps.
5. Coastal Carolina 11-0: The committee’s reluctance to give the Chanticleers much credit is bewildering. Ohio State doesn’t have two wins as good as Brigham Young and Louisiana-Lafayette.
6. Ohio State 5-0: If the Buckeyes make the playoff with six wins, it’s the ultimate back door.
7. Cincinnati 8-0: Sure would have been fun if Tulsa and Cincinnati could have played the prequel last week.
8. Southern Cal 5-0: The lack of respect for USC shows that the blueblood nature of the sport stops somewhere between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains.
9. Louisiana-Lafayette 9-1: Underrated game of Saturday -- the Ragin’ Cajuns play at Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt title game.
10. Iowa State 8-2: If there are no upsets Saturday, the Cyclones would be barred from the playoff even if they had finished with just one loss. So there’s some solace.
11. Florida 8-2: Shoe fly, don’t bother me.
12. Oklahoma 7-2: If the Sooners beat Iowa State and feel angst over missing the playoff, they can blame only themselves.
13. Indiana 6-1: When will the Hoosiers produce a basketball team the football team can be proud of?
14. Georgia 7-2: The committee likes the Bulldogs. I do, too. I might have them too low. I haven’t said that about anyone else.
15. Northwestern 6-1: Can the Wildcats put up a fight against the Buckeyes? Probably not.