Alabama or Ohio State might make the Playoff, but they don’t deserve to. Look at the records.


If a spot in this year’s top 4 opens, it should go to a conference champ that didn’t get blown out twice.

With wins on Saturday, these teams will make the Playoff: 12-1 Clemson or 11-1 Miami, 11-2 Auburn or 12-1 Georgia, 12-1 Oklahoma, and 13-0 Wisconsin.

So what happens if spots open up, via losses by OU or UW?

Based on the committee’s penultimate rankings, the only reasonable conclusions are that idle Alabama and Ohio State (with a win over Wisconsin) would be the next teams up. I don’t believe any team ranked behind No. 8 Ohio State has a shot.

Do Bama and OSU really deserve that status, though?

The only thing Bama, which didn’t win its division, and Ohio State, which got pantsed twice, have in their favor: they’ve impressed Vegas and the computers, which are excellent predictors going forward. The committee’s not supposed to go by computers, though.

This is a parity-heavy year in which every team has a major flaw — Clemson lost to Syracuse, Auburn lost twice, Oklahoma failed to really put away several weaker teams, and Wisconsin/UCF failed to go back in time and schedule teams that would happen to be good — but that’s no reason to default to two teams that’ve combined for five Playoff bids in three years.

So, in ABC order, let’s compare scenarios based on what happens in Week 14.

I’m not saying all of these scenarios would mean great Playoff arguments. I’m saying a whole lot of these teams would have great arguments to rank ahead of Alabama or Ohio State.

We’ll use really simple metrics, such as the committee’s beloved records vs. .500-plus teams and records vs. top-25 teams (a projected version of the final top 25, based on each scenario).

Note: the following list does not include the teams mentioned up top. Those teams are already in with wins.

11-1 Alabama, who’s idle

The same resume as potentially undefeated conference champ Wisconsin, minus “potentially undefeated” and “conference champ.”

  • Either 3-1 or 2-1 against ranked teams, depending on whether Fresno State wins the Mountain West, meaning a Boise State win in Boise could wreck Bama’s resume.
  • Seven .500-plus wins (assuming a checked-out Florida State in total disarray beats ULM), but zero top-10 wins. Like Ohio State, just lots of blowouts of mediocre teams … albeit without losing at home, losing to an unranked team, losing by more than two scores, or doing all three, as Ohio State did.
  • Also, take the committee’s explanation for Auburn being No. 2 and apply it to Bama:

10-3 Auburn, if Georgia wins

Say Auburn loses to UGA by a field goal. Auburn would’ve:

  • Beaten Alabama decisively and won their division.
  • Beaten two more top-10 teams than Bama did.
  • Lost close three times, all away from home, all to ranked teams, once to a team it’d already crushed, and twice to Playoff teams. Ohio State’s two losses would be worse than Auburn’s three.
  • Still beaten more bowl teams than OSU did.
  • Played six games against top-25 teams, by far the most of any contender, beating at least as many of them as Bama or Ohio State did.

11-2 Clemson, if Miami wins

Even with a loss, Clemson:

  • Suffered its unranked loss by 3 points, not 31. (And gets a committee semi-mulligan, due to QB injury.)
  • Beat eight bowl teams (again, assuming FSU beats ULM), compared to OSU’s five.
  • Matched OSU in record vs. top-25 and top-10.
  • Topped Bama in top-10 wins and maybe top-25 wins as well.
  • Won a division.
  • And beat the team that beat Bama. The committee says it uses performance against common opponents to break ties.

11-2 Ohio State, if Ohio State wins

Three wins against top-25 teams and a conference title would be pretty good. But the Buckeyes got blown out twice and beat fewer bowl teams than any other team on this list, including UCF.

Two-loss 2016 Penn State and 2015 Stanford also had three wins against top-25 teams and conference titles, and each lost one of its games by a single score, rather than getting blown out twice. Neither made the Playoff (PSU at the expense of a one-loss Ohio State with three top-10 wins), and that was fine.

If the Buckeyes make it in:

  • The first two-loss CFP team (or second, if Auburn’s in) has two top-10 wins, sure, but two-loss Auburn had that many before conference title weekend.
  • Going 5-2 against bowl teams is easily the worst mark of any Playoff team ever. The previous worst: 2016 No. 4 Washington’s 6-1. The average for a CFP team through three years was 7-1.
  • The Buckeyes have already lost by 15 points to another contender, the most decisive loss ever suffered by a CFP team, if not for …
  • … their 31-point loss to 7-5 Iowa, comfortably the ugliest loss ever suffered by a CFP team.

I’ll only consider changing my mind if the Buckeyes obliterate Paul Chryst’s rock-solid Wisconsin like they did in a similar situation against a one-foot-out-the-door Gary Andersen’s Wisconsin in 2014.

11-2 Oklahoma, if TCU wins

Another losing team that could have a better case than a winning Ohio State.

  • A losing Oklahoma would have two more wins over bowl teams than Big Ten champ Ohio State would, match the Buckeyes in top-25 record, and (since TCU would move up) match OSU’s top-10 record.
  • OU’s losses would be by one score and to a team it blew out in their other meeting, not by multiple scores or multiple multiple scores.
  • The Sooners would top the Tide in number of games against bowl teams, possibly in wins against the top 25, and certainly in wins against the top 10, though Bama didn’t go and lose to Iowa State at home.
  • OU would also have a dominant win at Ohio State. The committee’s stated it considers head-to-head to be roughly equal to conference titles in importance.

11-2 TCU, if TCU wins

The Frogs are out, unless the committee vaults them far higher than it has Week 14 teams in the past. That’s unfair.

  • The Frogs would top a B1G-champ Ohio State in record against bowl teams (7-2 to 5-2), and they’d have split in two games away from home against the OU that beat the Buckeyes in Columbus. Performance against common opponents is considered roughly equal to conference titles, per committee guidelines.
  • Iowa and Iowa State played to overtime and finished with the same record. Therefore, TCU’s close loss at Iowa State can be considered much less embarrassing than Ohio State’s loss at Iowa.
  • The Frogs would have a conference title, unlike Bama.

12-0 UCF, if UCF wins

Mid-majors are not eligible for the Playoff, until the committee releases evidence to the contrary, but:

  • The Knights would have the same number of games against bowl teams as Ohio State — without losing to two of them. (FWIW, UCF whooped a somewhat healthy-ish Maryland on the road, while Ohio State did the same to a less-healthy Maryland at home.)
  • Two wins over Memphis might give UCF as many top-25 wins as Bama has, if Fresno lost and Memphis only fell from No. 20 to No. 25 or so.
  • Surely the only team to beat Memphis could come within 31 points of 7-5 Iowa.
  • Oh, and surely winning the entire AAC counts for more than not winning half of the SEC?

11-2 USC, if USC wins

The Trojans would have:

  • Beaten eight bowl teams, three more than Ohio State.
  • Only lost to ranked teams on the road, rather than to unranked teams or at home.
  • Only been blown out once, not twice.
  • A conference title, unlike Bama.
  • And faced at least as many ranked teams as Bama did.

No wins against top-10 teams or ranked wins besides Stanford and Stanford [Sanford and Son theme plays], though both of those Stanford wins might still outrank any of Bama’s.

12-1 Wisconsin, if Ohio State wins

If Bama’s still eligible, then why not?

  • Compared to Bama, the Badgers won a division, would have more wins, were roughly as dominant all year, would have just one fewer win over bowl teams, and would have the same record against top-10 teams.
  • Against Ohio State, head-to-head and the conference title would be factors, but the committee also considers performance against common opponents. The scoring difference in their games against Iowa: 55 points in Wisconsin’s favor (which happens to be the total OSU surrendered to the Hawkeyes).
  • UW would also have beaten more bowl teams than OSU did and not lost a second game. Ohio State would fairly rank ahead of Wisconsin, but unless it’s a blowout, let’s double-check the figures first.

Anyway, if a spot opens, Bama’s probably gonna take it.


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