CFP: Ten Possible Playoff Curveballs

    E-mail Pete FiutakFollow me … don’t cost nothin’ @PeteFiutak It’s not a forgone conclusion that the top four teams in the College Football Playoff

    November 18, 2014

    E-mail Pete Fiutak
    Follow me … don’t cost nothin’ @PeteFiutak

    It’s not a forgone conclusion that the top four teams in the College Football Playoff rankings are going to hang around there. There’s still plenty of time for lots of fun, and there are still plenty of chances for weird and wild things to happen. Here are the ten playoff curveballs that could be coming, starting from the least possible to the not-that-far-fetched. 

    10. No SEC? Big, big problem 
    How it happens: Georgia loses to Georgia Tech but is still in the SEC title game after a Missouri loss. Ole Miss beats Mississippi State, and a three-loss Georgia wins the SEC championship. No SEC team finishes with fewer than two losses. Florida State goes 13-0 and wins the ACC championship, Oregon goes 12-1 and wins the Pac-12 title, Ohio State obliterates everything in its path and rolls over Wisconsin to finish 12-1 with a Big Ten championship, and both TCU and Baylor finish 11-1. 
    Is it going to happen? No, but would a two-loss SEC champ get in over an 11-1 TCU or Baylor? Yeah. Georgia Tech could absolutely catch Georgia on the wrong day, and Auburn could get hot at the right time to shock Alabama, but it would take all the planets to align to keep the SEC out of the big four. 

    9. I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer 
    How it happens: Georgia Tech slowly starts to get more and more respect in the rankings as others fall, and then … boom. Duke loses to North Carolina or is stunned by Wake Forest, and the Yellow Jackets win the ACC Coast. They go on to shock Georgia for its one major win of the year, and then beats a 12-0 Florida State for the ACC title. 
    Is it going to happen? It’s not as crazy as you might think. Georgia Tech is red hot winning four straight with strong wins over Virginia and Clemson as part of the mix, and it has a road win over Virginia Tech to throw in Ohio State’s face. No coach wants to face the Georgia Tech offense in a one game shot with the world on the line. 

    8. F-R-O-G-S F-I-G-H-T AND Bear down you Bears of Old Baylor U We’re all for you! 
    How it happens: So far the debate has been about Baylor or TCU, TCU or Baylor, but what happens if they’re both 11-1? Say Ohio State loses again and the Big Ten champion has two losses. The SEC is in with one team, but not two, and the Pac-12 champion has two losses. Florida State is also in, but at the end of the year, just four teams from Power 5 conferences finish with fewer than two losses and two of them are from the Big 12. 
    Is it going to happen? It would be a tough sell. Both TCU and Baylor would have to obliterate everyone else on their respective schedules, and the rest of the world would have to crumble. The committee would likely rather see a two-loss Pac-12 or any other option than a second Big 12 team. 

    7. Bear Down, Arizona 
    How it happens: The win over Oregon gets more and more respect as the season goes on. The UCLA and USC losses, though, become major problems in the tie-breaker scenarios, needing UCLA to beat USC and Stanford to beat UCLA to get the ball rolling. Arizona has to beat Utah and Arizona State – to go along with the help – to get a rematch with Oregon. If that happens, beat the Ducks twice and finish 11-2 with a Pac-12 title, and RichRod might have his team into the four.
    Is it going to happen? A lot of things have to happen for the USC and UCLA parts of the puzzle to fit, but none of them are that crazy. Stanford would have to come up with something special to beat the Bruins, and it all falls apart if USC beats UCLA.

    6. Echo From The Buttes, Give ‘Em Hell Devils! 
    How it happens: The loss to Oregon State is a tough one for Arizona State to get past, but the blowout to UCLA could be reasoned as one really, really bad half with no Taylor Kelly at quarterback. With the solid win against Notre Dame, the wins over USC and Utah, and if the Sun Devils can get by Arizona, they’ll be a good 10-2. If USC beats UCLA, then ASU is in the Pac-12 championship with wins in its final two games. If UCLA beats USC, ASU needs to win out and hope for Stanford to take care of the Bruins. ASU goes on to beat Oregon in the Pac-12 championship for an impressive 11-2 record.
    Is it going to happen? It all comes down to USC beating UCLA. If that happens, it’s all there for the taking. The loss to Oregon State could be a deathblow, but the Pac-12 South is the second-best division in college football in the second-best conference. If Oregon is hot, and ASU win the Pac-12, there should be a fourth-seed available.

    5. On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Plunge right through that line! 
    How it happens: Now it becomes a juice thing. All eight Wisconsin wins have come by double-digits, the loss to LSU was a million years ago and is more than acceptable, and the Northwestern loss starts to look a wee bit better after the Cats beat Notre Dame – but not really. The destruction of Nebraska and the performance from Melvin Gordon gets the ball rolling, and everything continues to work against Iowa and Minnesota on the way to the Big Ten championship. The Badgers roll by an 11-1 Ohio State that’s either ranked in the top four, or close to it, and they get the respect for being red hot at the right time. 
    Is it going to happen? It’s going to take a lot of help. Don’t assume Iowa and Minnesota are going to be pushovers, and Ohio State is obviously a barrier, but for this to happen, TCU and Baylor have to implode and something weird has to happen with the ACC. It would really, really help if USC were to take the Pac-12 South, lose to Notre Dame, and then beat Oregon. Even if everything goes right, Bucky might be close to knocking on the door, but won’t be able to get in. 

    4. Flim Flam, Bim Bam OLE MISS BY DAMN! 
    How it happens: No one’s talking about it, but Ole Miss has a decent shot – if Auburn can pull off the upset over Alabama. Don’t sleep on the Rebels’ game at Arkansas, and the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State obviously won’t be a layup, this is a rested team that could rally back over the final few weeks. Auburn has to beat Alabama to create a three-way tie at the SEC West top between Bama, Miss State and Ole Miss. With the Rebels winning the head-to-head against the two, they’d get the nod to the SEC championship. 
    Is it going to happen? Ole Miss doesn’t control its own destiny, needing Auburn to take care of business. Beating Arkansas and Mississippi State isn’t going to be easy, either, but at least it can take its season into its own hands.

    3. Mizzou-Rah! Mizzou-Rah! Mizzou-Rah! Tigers! 
    How it happens: Missouri first has to get by Tennessee and Arkansas in a span of six days just to get to 10-2 with an SEC East title. No matter what sins were committed in the past, they’d all be forgiven with a win over a one-loss Alabama or Mississippi State for the SEC championship. And then the spin control would have to begin, explaining that Indiana was a different team in mid-September with Nate Sudfeld at quarterback, and hoping people believe that the 34-0 loss at home to Georgia was simply a really bad day. Again, though winning an SEC title would be good enough to blow out everything else. 
    Is it going to happen? It’s actually the one of the cleanest and easiest paths to the final four by anyone outside of the mix at the immediate moment, but is Mizzou good enough? No, but if it wins the next three games, it’s almost certainly in. 

    2. UCLA … Fight! Fight! Fight! 
    How it happens: First of all, don’t blow off the growing narrative that the Pac-12 South is by far the second-best division behind the SEC West, and yeah, the Pac-12 is easily the second-best conference behind the SEC. Also, don’t forget the ingrained belief by many who expected huge things at the start of the season that UCLA might still be really, really good, and is peaking now at the right time. If the Bruins can beat USC and Stanford, they take the South and go off to the Pac-12 championship game. If they can beat Oregon, that would avenge a midseason 42-30 loss and, at 11-2 with the other loss a late 30-28 gag to Utah, it would be enough to get in. The Pac-12 has to get a team into the playoff, and with wins over Texas, Arizona State, Arizona, Washington, USC, Stanford, and, if this works, Oregon, the committee has to accept the conference champ.
    Is it going to happen? Good, where’s the consistency? Yeah, it’s on a four-game winning streak, but it was a struggle to get by Cal and Colorado on the road. The talent is all there to run the table, but it might be a little more of a fight than it might appear to get a two-loss Pac-12 champ in if the other four Power 5 leagues have one-loss champions and Florida State. 

    1. Glory, glory to old Georgia! 
    How it happens: Missouri has to lose to either Tennessee or Arkansas, and Georgia has to beat Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech. If the Tigers lose once, the Bulldogs take the East no matter what, and then comes the chance they’ve been waiting for in the SEC championship. The two losses to South Carolina and Florida won’t matter after a win over Alabama, Mississippi State or Ole Miss.
    Is it going to happen? Georgia doesn’t control its own fate, needing Mizzou to lose along the way. The Tigers are just flaky enough to lose either game, but for this to happen and for Georgia to get into the playoff, there can’t be a gack against Georgia Tech. A three-loss Georgia team – even as the SEC champion – doesn’t get in. 


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