Well, all hell as broken lose, and I’m still in a depressed stupor because of Alabama losing. But that’s college football, and Saturday is why college football is great. Doesn’t mean you can escape without any heartache though. Only one team each year can do that, so there is over a 99% chance that your team isn’t that team.
But now that giants have been slain and Cinderella’s have found their glass slipper (maybe), where does everyone fall? I find these shows and articles that decide to pick the top 4 “if the season ended today” to be useless. If the season ended last week, you’d have 2-3 SEC West teams in it. If the season ended this week, you’d still have 2-3 SEC West teams, just different ones from last time. But why doesn’t anyone want to predict the future and actually see how it would turn out after all of these SEC West teams have played each other. It’s not like Alabama is done now that they lost to one of them, they still have two more top 5 teams to play. Same with A&M. And even same with LSU, despite being unranked.
So I’d rather take a look at how things could really turn out.
The first team has to be FSU, not because I (or a lot of people) think they are the best, but because they are in the best position to finish the season undefeated, and have been the current #1 team, save for last week in the AP Poll. Florida State’s hardest games come against Notre Dame in two weeks, and then whoever they face in the ACC title game. They have some semi-decent opponents in Louisville, Miami, Virginia, and Florida, but those aren’t really hard games.
I don’t see FSU as the #1 seed if an SEC team remains undefeated, and I don’t see them as a #1 seed should Baylor remain undefeated. But they definitely have the easiest path to the playoffs, and have the best percentage chance to finish the season still at #1.
Auburn has the highest chance of any SEC team at the moment. They haven’t really struggled, except for on the road at Kansas State on a Thursday night. Auburn has one of the hardest schedules in the nation, with the fact that they have to play Georgia as their one SEC East game each year. The rest of their schedule isn’t much worse than anyone else’s in the SEC West. It looks like it still might come down to the Iron Bowl, yet again, to determine the fate of not only Auburn, but Alabama as well. They have the hardest road, but as of this moment, are the best team (even over FSU).
I firmly believe that despite the loss to Oregon, Michigan State holds the best chance of all the one-loss teams to make it in. That’s not to say I believe they are the best one-loss team as of the October 4th weekend, that still (for now) belongs to Oregon and Alabama. But despite failing their first big test against the Ducks, they took it to Nebraska, and don’t have much left on their schedule. They have to face Ohio State for what will most likely be the division title, and then they will most likely face Nebraska again in the Big Ten championship.
These are the only three teams I see getting in solidly. If I had to predict who I thought the other team would be, I would suggest the Pac-12 champion, whoever that may be. Either Oregon, Arizona, or UCLA.
Now, let’s look at other teams and how they can grab that final spot:
ND has the best chance of the rest of the schools because they have the opportunity to play better teams every year than any other division in football, save for the SEC West. They have already beaten Stanford, and have the chance to beat FSU, Arizona State, and USC. Even if the Irish lose to FSU, as long as it’s close, they can still make a case if they run the table otherwise.
The best case scenario for Alabama is if Mississippi State beats Auburn this week in Starkville, then Alabama turns around and beats Mississippi State AND Auburn. This is also assuming that the the Bulldogs and the Tigers run the table otherwise until the final week. That gives Ole Miss a loss (to Auburn), Mississippi State a loss (to Alabama), Auburn a loss (to Mississippi State), and Alabama a loss (to Ole Miss). Heading into the Egg Bowl and Iron Bowl, all the teams will have one loss, and most likely all still be in the top 15, maybe even top 10 depending on the rest of the country. That would put the winner of the two rivalry games in a tiebreaker, with the winning team head-to-head going to the SEC title game. But with both teams being 1-loss SEC West teams, the other (especially if it’s Alabama finishing 2nd in the division) could easily walk into the playoffs.
TL;DR – Mississippi State beats Auburn, Auburn beats Ole Miss, Alabama beats both Mississippi State and Auburn and runs the table from here on out.
Ole Miss/Mississippi State/Texas A&M
Win out. Simple as that. I’m afraid these two teams wouldn’t be considered as highly in the committee’s minds as teams like Alabama or Oregon would if they had one loss, even though Ole Miss has already beaten Alabama. If Ole Miss loses to anyone now in the SEC West, and Alabama wins out, that will diminish their win over the Tide because Alabama has then beaten someone who has beaten the Rebels. State and A&M both just need to hang on for dear life as they ride through the craziest SEC West in a while. A&M has to hope the Bulldogs drop to Alabama, then they can beat the Tide (or Auburn).
Georgia has what is now a really bad loss. South Carolina has fallen apart, and the only team they did anything against, just happened to be UGA. I’m afraid Georgia is done for good with that loss, but if they win out and get wins over Auburn, a Georgia Tech team that stays ranked, and then the SEC West champ, whoever it is, then they might have an outside chance. They have to be the SEC champ, no wildcard spot for them.
Win out. Hope that the SEC teams continue to pound on each other as well. TCU is not considered a strong team to people now, but going undefeated and winning the Big 12 will be enough. Despite looking like a stronger team, same applies for Baylor. Oklahoma can make it with one loss and a Big 12 title as well unless TCU goes down the drain, then it will be harder to make a case.
If Arizona wins out, then absolutely they deserve to be in. Wins over Oregon, then UCLA and Utah on the road, and over Arizona State and a Pac-12 North champ such as Oregon again? Definitely in. That’s why I think the Pac-12 champ will be the last one in. Oregon still has some good games left to get back in the picture, same for UCLA and Utah, all though Utah’s loss to Washington State will hurt bad. Utah is in the same boat as Georgia in my mind.
They have to win out, but that might not be enough. Their loss to Virginia Tech is bad, and their only good win will be over Michigan State, and maybe Nebraska in the Big Ten championship. If OSU wins the Big Ten, they could be a champ to be passed by a one-loss SEC West runner-up.
Everyone else is pretty much done for, except maybe Georgia Tech, who hasn’t looked impressive, but does have a decent road to finishing undefeated. If they can finish undefeated over Georgia and FSU, then they definitely get in. But no one sees that happening.
Now that I’ve given my reasons for those teams to make the playoffs, and determined my final four, here is how I would rank the top 25 this week:
2. Florida State
3. Mississippi State
4. Ole Miss
6. Notre Dame
9. Michigan State
13. Texas A&M
16. Oklahoma State
17. Kansas State
18. East Carolina
19. Arizona State
21. Georgia Tech
23. Ohio State