With conference championships coming up this weekend, debate has ensued about which teams should be in the College Football Playoff.
With Oklahoma essentially a lock for the playoff, there are seven teams fighting for three spots. I broke down the five most likely scenarios.
First Scenario: Clemson and Alabama win
This is the most likely scenario. The four teams in the playoff would be Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and the winner of Iowa/Michigan State.
If Clemson and Alabama win there is no debate of who the top four teams should be.
Second Scenario: Alabama wins, Clemson and Stanford lose
In this scenario, the top three teams in the playoff would be Alabama, Oklahoma and the winner of Iowa/Michigan State.
The final spot should be between Ohio State and North Carolina, and if that’s the case, Carolina should be in.
Carolina’s resume is simply better than Ohio State’s if the Tar Heels are able to knock off Clemson.
|Signature Win(s)*||Vs. No. 15 Michigan||Vs. No. 1 Clemson|
|Losses||No. 5 Michigan State at home against a backup QB||South Carolina on a neutral field|
|Strength of Record (SOR)*||9||11|
|Strength of Schedule (SOS)||52||60|
*Game control reflects the chance that an average Top 25 team would control games from start to end the way this did, given their schedule.
*Signature wins are wins against the current top 25 according to the College Football Playoff Rankings
*Strength of Record reflects the chance that an average Top 25 team would have this team’s record or better, given the schedule.
Carolina and Ohio State have comparable SOR, SOS, and game control ratings. The main difference is Carolina would be a conference champion and have a win over the No.1 team in the nation.
Last year, Ohio State jumped TCU after winning its conference championship despite having a bad loss early in the year. TCU’s only loss was against No. 5 ranked Baylor. The committee has shown they value conference champions highly and a win over the No.1 team in the nation would improve Carolina’s resume greatly.
The four teams would be Alabama, Oklahoma, Iowa/Michigan State and North Carolina.
Third Scenario: Alabama and Stanford win, Clemson loses
Alabama, Oklahoma and the winner of Iowa/Michigan State would be locks for the playoff, leaving the final spot for Stanford or Carolina.
|Signature Win(s)||Vs. No. 8 Notre Dame, No. 20 USC (Twice)||Vs. No. 1 Clemson|
|Losses||No. 14 Northwestern (away) and No.16 Oregon (home)||South Carolina on a neutral field|
|Strength of Record (SOR)||12||11|
|Strength of Schedule (SOS)||9||60|
|No common opponents|
Strength of record, game control and number of losses favors Carolina, but strength of schedule and number of signature wins favors Stanford.
Stanford has more elite wins, but beating USC in the Pac-12 Championship would drop them out of the top 25. Therefore, both teams would have one win against a top 10 ranked team.
Based on previous rankings, this spot could be a coin flip. The committee has continuously ranked the Heels low because of their weak schedule, but, considering this situation, they would have beaten No. 1 Clemson. It comes down to Carolina beating Clemson but losing to South Carolina early in the year or Stanford beating Notre Dame and losing to Northwestern and Oregon. If UNC can win convincingly, they could secure the last spot.
The four teams would be Alabama, Oklahoma, Iowa/Michigan State and North Carolina, but the last spot could easily go to Stanford as well.
Fourth Scenario: Clemson and Alabama lose and Stanford wins
With this scenario, the only two locks for the playoff would be Oklahoma and the winner of Iowa/Michigan State.
The final two spots would be down to Stanford, North Carolina, Ohio State, and Clemson. Based on the precedent set by the College Football Playoff Committee, conference champions are valued heavily; therefore the final two teams should be Stanford and North Carolina.
Alabama would be eliminated with two losses and no conference championship and Clemson would fall below North Carolina because of head-to-head and below Stanford because they did not win a conference championship.
The four teams would be Oklahoma, Iowa/Michigan State, North Carolina and Stanford.
Fifth Scenario: Alabama, Clemson and Stanford lose
This scenario seems the most unlikely, but in college football, anything is possible. Oklahoma and the winner of Iowa/Michigan State would be locked into the playoff leaving two more open spots. If Carolina wins, they should be the No. 3 seed because they beat the No. 1 team in the nation and they are the only other conference champion in contention.
Alabama would have two losses and no conference championship and Stanford would have three losses eliminating them from contention. If Michigan State lost, they would be eliminated with two losses. If Iowa loses, they would have no conference championship and only one win over the current top 25, eliminating them.
Clemson and Ohio State would be fighting for the last spot in the College Football Playoff.
|Signature Win(s)||Vs. No. 15 Michigan||Vs. No. 8 Notre Dame and No. 9 Florida State|
|Losses||No. 5 Michigan State at home against a backup QB||No. 10 UNC on a neutral field|
|Strength of Record (SOR)||9||2|
|Strength of Schedule (SOS)||52||40|
|No Common Opponents|
Even with a loss to UNC in the conference championship, Clemson’s resume is far better than Ohio State’s. The four teams would be Oklahoma, Iowa/Michigan State, North Carolina and Clemson.
The first three scenarios are the most likely because Alabama is a 17.5 point favorite over Florida in the SEC Championship. Oklahoma and the winner of Iowa/Michigan State are a lock for the playoff, but, based on resume, there is no scenario that Ohio State should make the playoff.