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Seven teams control their own destiny for the college football playoffs

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Seven teams control their own destiny for the college football playoffs

By the middle of November, the field of potential playoff teams in college football is expected to still be wide. 2017 is turning out to be very tight with clear scenarios already looking solid. There are seven teams who absolutely control their own destiny with a handful of teams hoping for some upsets to move their way in.

Let’s look at the scenarios that will determine the field of four, but first let’s look at a projection of the top seven ahead of the release of the official rankings tonight.

  1. Alabama – No question here.
  2. Miami – Their impressive victory over Notre Dame should propel them way up, though the committee might put them at 3 and Oklahoma at 2.
  3. Oklahoma – TCU was their biggest win since Ohio State and Clemson looked mediocre. Iowa State losing again may be enough of a mark on the Sooners to let Miami leapfrog them.
  4. Clemson – They just keep winning, but the shine is wearing off a bit as they haven’t seemed as dominant lately as they were before their loss.
  5. Wisconsin – Perfect record. Then again, most teams in the top 10 would have a perfect record playing their schedule.
  6. Auburn – The committee may take their two early losses and push them down to 7 despite beating the #1 team last week.
  7. Georgia – They didn’t just get beat. They were embarrassed and exposed the challenges of being a one-dimensional offense in the modern era.

Now, let’s look at the scenarios of why these seven teams control their own destinies:

One offs: Oklahoma and Wisconsin

With a win over TCU and Iowa State’s loss to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma would have to lose both of their final games (including this week’s home game against 1-9 Kansas) to be out of the Big 12 Championship Game. They’ll move into the top four with today’s release of rankings after Georgia and Notre Dame lost, but to stay there they’ll need to win out. For a two-loss Big 12 team to get in, other two-loss teams would have to quickly become three-loss teams soon.

Wisconsin will not have beaten a team that ends the season in the top 25 unless they beat the Big 10 East champion. Fortunately for them, they’re #5 looking in and two of the four teams ahead of them play each other, so all they have to do is win out. Despite being undefeated, they’re also the most vulnerable. They haven’t been tested enough, so Michigan at home and Minnesota on the road aren’t slam dunks. Then, there’s the Big 10 Championship game. If the right Ohio State and J.T. Barrett show up, they’re probably a better team than Wisconsin.

Unlike the ACC and SEC, the champion in the Big 12 and Big 10 may not get in if it’s not Oklahoma and Wisconsin. TCU and Ohio State are their likely opponents and both teams would probably end up at #5 or #6 even if they win their championships.

ACC: Clemson and Miami

Assuming they both win out before playing each other, the ACC Championship will be an elimination game for the playoffs. For both to make it in would require a strange set of circumstances, but it’s not out of the question. This is, after all, college football. Anything can happen.

SEC: Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia

Whoever wins the SEC Championship will be in unless there are crazy losses leading up to it. Georgia has the East locked down. Alabama will be undefeated going into the Iron Bowl against the best 2-loss team in the nation with Auburn. The winner of that game plays Georgia. It’s possible for two SEC teams to be in the playoffs if either Georgia or Auburn beat Alabama, but that would require an upset or two, just like with the ACC.

Conclusion

Before anyone starts throwing out Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC, or any other teams with a chance, I’m not suggesting there’s no way anyone other than these seven can make it. Based upon the schedules and how the playoff picture currently sits, these seven teams are the ones who do not need help. For anyone else to make it in would require more losses than just the head-to-head matches in the ACC and SEC.

The race for the playoffs is tighter this year than the previous three. Things can shift quickly with upsets, but if four of the top seven win out, they’re in the playoffs. Teams on the outside have to hope for OU and/or Wisconsin to stumble or unfathomable losses leading into the ACC Championship Game. Otherwise, a combination of four of the top seven will be playing each other for the trophy.

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