Cavalcade, Part 2: Ten Big Playoff Questions

Cavalcade, Part 2: Ten Big Playoff Questions. Can Georgia Tech get into the final four with a win?

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Dec, 2, Part 2

E-mail Pete Fiutak
Follow me ... don't cost nothin' @PeteFiutak 
Fiu on TV?! Beautiful people talking college football on Campus Insiders

December 2nd

- Part 1 Defending Missouri's loss to Indiana 

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
The ten biggest playoff questions.

By the time I gear this up again next week, we’ll know the bowl matchups and the big four in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Between the various radio shows and tweets and e-mails from readers, here are the main questions being asked about what might happen this weekend and the several different possibilities. I’ll try the best I can to figure it all out from what I know both inside and out, but keep in mind that I’m doing this before the second-to-last rankings come out Tuesday night the 2nd.

10. What happens if Arizona beats Oregon in the Pac-12 championship?
I think the Wildcats would be a mortal lock to get in. Considering the committee is supposed to put a premium on winning conference championships – actually, they’re not “supposed” to, but it’s out there as a strong suggestion – Arizona will be within range of the big four and then would get a massive push if it can get by the No. 2 team in the country for the second time this year. It’s actually an easy case to make.
- Pac-12 is the second-best conference behind the SEC.
- Pac-12 South the second-best division behind the SEC West.
- The win at Oregon is probably the best victory by anyone this year, considering the Ole Miss win over Alabama was in Oxford.
- The loss to USC was on a missed field goal, and the 17-7 loss at UCLA was hardly anything to get into a twist over.
However, there aren’t a ton of amazing wins. Beating Utah is fine, but it’s not that big a deal anymore. Arizona State was a strong victory, but the non-conference slate is relatively light with UNLV, UTSA and Nevada. Two wins over Oregon, though, would be pretty tough to beat.

9. Is there any path whatsoever for Wisconsin to somehow get into the playoff? Everything would have to set up absolutely perfectly for this to happen, starting with a total wipeout of Ohio State.

There’s a ton of traffic to get through, and the loss to Northwestern should be a deathblow, but it might not be as crazy as it appears, considering Ohio State is scratching and clawing just to get noticed over TCU. The loss of J.T. Barrett for the Big Ten title game doesn’t help, but the committee probably won’t dog the Badgers too much for coming up with the win over Cardale’s Buckeyes.

Baylor losing to Kansas State would be a big deal, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing if Florida State lost to Georgia Tech. The Pac-12 and SEC championships probably don’t matter in Bucky’s equation, but just like Ohio State has a problem with TCU, so would a two-loss, Big Ten champion Wisconsin. The resume is sort of light, with the best non-conference win coming against Bowling Green, so unless the committee falls in love with the blowout win over Nebraska and the victory over Minnesota, and unless there’s a 2012-like 70-31 Big Ten title win to throw into the ring, it’s not going to happen.

8. If Florida State loses to Georgia Tech, can it still get in? What about the Yellow Jackets?
Let me put it this way. Out of all the Power 5 championship games this weekend, barring a college football apocalypse, Florida State is probably the one team that can lose and still finish in the top four.

I think I have a strong read on the other four Power 5 leagues, but this one is a guess. The problem would be that Florida State is going to be No. 3 going into the weekend, making it tough to keep it from being knocked out by Ohio State and the top Big 12 champ if they win convincingly. The Defending National Champion card will be played if the Noles go 12-1, but that won’t and shouldn’t matter – 2013 doesn’t exist in the equation. However, would 12-1 FSU be stronger than 11-1 TCU and/or Baylor? Maybe.

Not winning the ACC championship would almost certainly put FSU down below a 12-1 Big Ten champ Ohio State, but even with all of the close calls, beating Clemson, Notre Dame (when it was healthier – the committee needs to take that into account), Louisville and a Boston College team that beat USC is pretty good. The win over Florida is better than the team will get credit for, but the sloppy play hurts the committee’s “eye test.”

Georgia Tech just doesn’t have the overall body of work. Losing to Duke and North Carolina isn’t great, and while the team is hot late with wins over Clemson and Georgia, the ACC just doesn’t have the overall respect – it’s not like winning the SEC or Pac-12 championships this year. But it would be really, really interesting if the Yellow Jackets stopped Florida State’s winning streak and took the ACC crown. All of a sudden, everyone might readjust their attitudes.

7. Why is Baylor’s head-to-head win over TCU not counting as much as it probably should in the rankings?
Here’s the difference, and it’s this simple. Baylor’s non-conference schedule is Northwestern State, SMU and Buffalo. TCU also faced an FCSer in Samford, and whacked SMU, too, but the committee liked the win over Minnesota from the start. The loss to Baylor was a loss, but it was also in the final moments in a wacky shootout of a game – it’s not like the Bears won convincingly. TCU beat West Virginia at home, while West Virginia thumped Baylor 41-27. That’s part of it, and for whatever reason, the committee didn’t really give a hoot that TCU struggled so badly against Kansas. (As a side note, in general, the committee hasn’t punished too much this year when it comes to close losses against bad teams.) Personally, I think Baylor should earn the nod over TCU because, technically, in the BCS days, Baylor would’ve won the tie-breaker to the Fiesta Bowl.

6. What does the CFP committee need to see out of Cardale Jones?
As long as he’s okay and doesn’t totally wet the bed, it won’t matter. Obviously it’ll help the cause immensely if he goes lights out and rocks Bucky’s world, but he doesn’t have to be J.T. Barrett. If he doesn’t make a ton of mistakes, and Ohio State finds a way to win without too much of a problem, I think the committee won’t punish in this case for a lost quarterback. However, remember, even if Barrett was still healthy, it would still be a fight to get past TCU and into the big four, so …

5. If all the top teams win, does Ohio State at 12-1 get in over TCU at 11-1?
TCU is almost certainly going to move up from five to four this week, and Ohio State will be No. 5 in a wait-and-see thing. I don’t think Ohio State has to crush Wisconsin, but it has to look good and Jones has to merely be competent. 12-1 with a Big Ten title will probably look nicer than 11-1 and a Big 12 co-champ. Virginia Tech getting to 6-6 and a bowl game helps far more in terms of perception than it probably should, and Illinois beating Northwestern is probably a big positive because, with a win over Wisconsin, Ohio State will have wins over nine bowl bound teams. Unless Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma, TCU will have five.

4. Just how much weight will be put on winning the conference championship, really?
I’m guessing it’ll mean everything. Don’t dismiss the pressure on the committee to set the tone for the future by realizing the precedent it’s about to set. Realizing this, I believe a message is about to be sent that the regular season is still the big thing in this whole equation, and it really will matter if you win your conference title. That’s why I don’t think there’s any chance a two-loss Alabama or Oregon hangs around unless everyone else of note loses badly. From the start, the general feeling was that if you win your Power 5 conference title, chances are that you’ll be in. Conference championships would be rendered moot if the winner didn’t get in over the loser, and this committee isn’t going to let that happen.

3. Even if Florida State moves up to No. 2 and Oregon goes to three, aren’t the Seminoles punished by going to the Rose Bowl?
Yeah, but that’s the deal. This is assuming Alabama is No. 1, then it’ll be put into the Sugar. The committee isn’t going to move Florida State – if it beats Georgia Tech – to No. 4 just so the geography makes more sense. The rankings are the rankings, and while there will be some maneuvering and wiggle room for the New Year’s Day bowls, 1-2-3-4 are 1-2-3-4, and that’s it, and it’ll have nothing to do with the locations. No. 1 team will get the bowl closes to them, so if you’re a Florida State fan, root hard for Missouri, because then Oregon – if it beats Arizona – will be No. 1 and in the Rose Bowl and the Noles will be No. 2 or 3 and in the Sugar.

2. Is it really possible for Missouri to get into the playoff with a win?
It’ll melt the brains of a lot of Big 12 and Big Ten fans, but if the Tigers close out the year with seven straight wins, they’ll have beaten eight bowl bound teams, they’ll have road wins at South Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M and Tennessee, and, oh yeah, they’ll have won the SEC championship by beating the No. 1 team in the country. The precedent was set when Alabama beat No. 1 Mississippi State and vaulted into the top spot, and while Mizzou won’t be No. 1 with an SEC championship win, it’s going to be tough for any of the committee members to justify not putting in the winner of the best conference in college football. Good luck trying to sell the world on the idea of Alabama getting into the top four over Missouri after a loss in the supposedly all-important conference championship game. But there’s still the factor of the home loss to Indiana and the 34-0 abomination against Georgia at home in what seemed at the time like a key showdown for the SEC East, so …

1. Really? Can you have a playoff without an SEC champion?
How? Yeah, yeah, yeah, the ACC went 4-0 against the SEC last weekend, but that was the SEC East. How many non-conference losses does the SEC West have this year? Zip. Outside of Arkansas losing to Georgia and Missouri, how many West losses came against the East? Two. Texas A&M losing to Missouri and Auburn losing to Georgia – that’s not bad. But what if Missouri beats Alabama, and Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State, TCU and Baylor all win. All of a sudden, there are five viable options with one unbeaten conference champ and four one-loss title holders – where does the SEC fit in? It’s totally and completely unfair, considering the conference cannibalized itself – especially the West – but the committee has grossly undervalued and under-ranked the West teams like LSU and Arkansas all season long. Now it could come back around, because it’ll be a tough argument to put a two-loss Missouri team in if there are four other strong considerations.

"If it were me, I'd bet everything. But that's me. I'm an aggressive gambler. Mr. Vegas. Come on. Go for it. Go for it. Yes, yes, there we go. I'm in." … This year, what more could you possibly want out of me? I gave you 5-3 ATS last week. I gave you your manhood. I gave you Darien. Of course I’m picking all the championship games. … So Far: SU 47-28, ATS 44-28-1

1) Northern Illinois -6 over Bowling Green
2) Arizona +14 over Oregon (Oregon SU)
3) Baylor -8.5 over Kansas State
4) Louisiana Tech +13.5 over Marshall (Marshall SU)
5) Missouri +14.5 over Alabama (Alabama SU)
6) Florida State -3.5 over Georgia Tech
7) Ohio State +4 over Wisconsin
8) Boise State -19 over Fresno State

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Johnny Manziel … Underrated: Brian Hoyer
2) Overrated: Tom Osborne’s run, outside of 1983, from 1973 to 1993 … Underrated: The Bo Pelini era
3) Overrated: Marshall’s wild loss to WKU ... Underrated: Boise State’s blowout win over Utah State
4) Overrated: Alabama 55, Auburn 44 ... Underrated: Alabama 20, LSU 13 in OT
5) Overrated: Thinking Chip Kelly will leave the NFL for college ... Underrated: Thinking Brian Kelly will leave Notre Dame for another college job

Sorry if this column sucked, I wasn’t my fault … unlike Jameis Winston, I couldn’t make up for the miserable first quarter.

December 2nd

- Part 1 Defending Missouri's loss to Indiana 

Scout CFB Top Stories