Every year around Week 8 a whole bunch of people start tweeting the same dumb thing.
It is typically a list of 5-7 teams who are in the Power 5 with an accompanying question like, “What is the committee gonna DO if all of these teams WIN OUT?”
These tweets are dumb because that is never actually the problem for the committee.
In fact, let me pause and be old for a second.
The Boomers, Gen-Xers, and 9/11-remembering Millenials who read this site will recall how it is that we came to have a playoff in the first place.
It began in 2004.
In 2004 the true nightmare scenario finally occurred, and it was practically the only time that it has occurred since then. There were three major conference champions that were all undefeated: USC, Oklahoma, and Auburn. On top of that, five (YES, F I V E) teams total finished the year undefeated. Baby Urban Meyer’s Utah and Dan Hawkins’ Boise State were also unblemished, though neither team was considered Power 5 at the time—Utah played in the Mountain West and Boise played in the WAC (seriously!) at the time.
The Champion-deciding system back in those days was this awful thing called the BCS.
And so, based on a few polls and a series of computer-rankings (seriously), 2004 SEC Champion Auburn—with the unstoppable running-back tandem of Cadillac Williams and Cartersville, GA’s own, Ronnie Brown—were left out of the BCS Championship Game.
That year was the beginning of the end for the BCS. It took awhile, but Dan Wetzel’s “Death to the BCS” would appear years later, and the march to the playoff eventually became inevitable.
In my opinion, 2004 irrevocably shaped everyone’s perception of the difficulties faced by the committee.
The potential crisis that nearly everyone wonders and speculates about well into November is always based on what would happen if everyone just keeps on WINNING.
But this is never the real problem.
The real potential crisis for the committee is always the risk that someone will LOSE, and lose at the most inopportune time.
So, at long last, in this final weekend of college football, we can speculate about crises that might actually happen. Gone are the dumb thought-experiments about eight teams going undefeated. Arrived are the true nightmare scenarios.
Let’s play some of them out:
SCENARIO 1: ALL THE FAVORITES LOSE
Ok lets start with the real shitshow—the scenario that has ESPN going live to Dabo’s press conference and Paul Finebaum breaking into Scott Van Pelt’s set to give his take on why the committee has to put Bama in. The one where there are riots in Columbus, a city that somehow has LITERAL GARAGE NUCLEAR REACTORS NOW. The one where a whole lot of Mormons get really really really really tempted to say “darn” and drink a Coke. The one where Marcus Spears and Stephen A. Smith get into a “light tussle” on College Football Final.
What if ALL the favorites—LSU, Ohio State, Utah, Oklahoma, and even Clemson—stumble this weekend?
What if Auburn Jesus looks down from on high and basically says, “If I don’t get to play I am gonna punt this ball into the Sweet Fantastic!”?
What in Tim Tebow’s name is the committee gonna do now?
Here is what they’d be looking at:
12-1 Georgia is the SEC Champion. 10-3 (!) Virginia is the ACC Champion. 12-1 Baylor is the Big 12 Champion. 11-2 Oregon is the Pac-12 Champion. 11-2 Wisconsin is the B1G Champion.
UGA and Baylor look nice here.
But, you also have three teams whose only loss is now in their conference championship—LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson all now sit at 12-1. Oklahoma and Utah would be at 11-2.
Let’s assume (safely, I think) that OU and Utah are done. Let’s also assume that UGA is in because a one-loss SEC Champion is just gonna be in no matter what.
Now the tough questions start.
I think LSU and Ohio State have separated themselves pretty clearly from every other team in the country. Provided that neither of them get absolutely boatraced in their respective losses, I think they are safe, regardless of the results this weekend. LSU’s win over Bama in particular seems to make leaving the Tigers out, come Sunday, almost unthinkable. Ohio State is probably, PROBABLY, in the same boat.
But what oh what do we do with our dear friend Dabo and his Tigers that just lost 24-21 on a last second field-goal?
It is plausible, shockingly so, that if every favorite loses this weekend Clemson does not make the playoff, despite playing a near perfect season of football.
A 12-1 Baylor—nicely positioned by the Committee at #7 in the rankings so that the jump up to #4 is not insane looking—sneaks in ahead of the Tigers. Rob Mullens, the Oregon AD and head of the Committee, preaches “resume, resume, resume,” on the Selection Show.
Ok, but wait now, because the hellfire and brimstone still hasn’t been sucked up by the CFP Roomba just yet. YOU STILL HAVE TO SEED THE TEAMS!
At this point, you have to think that the committee says, “we don’t care if the seeds make sense. Just get matchups that won’t make people crazy.”
So now, in perhaps the funniest moment of the college football season, the University of Georgia team that lost to South Carolina in Overtime find themselves the #1 team in the country.
I also think the committee will want to reward Baylor for winning their conference championship. So they do not end up at #4. Sadly, that reward will mean the they get LSU in the first round.
FINAL PLAYOFF: #1 UGA v. #4 Ohio State, #2 Baylor v. #3 LSU.
Not to get all Clue the Movie on you, but it could also be:
OTHER FINAL PLAYOFF: #1 Ohio State v. #4 Baylor; #2 LSU v. #3 UGA.
The Committee just says, “F8ck it” and leaves the rankings basically as they are. Bonus guarantee of keeping an all-SEC national championship game from happening.
SCENARIO 2: Ohio State and Clemson Lose But The Other Favorites Win
Low key I think this might be the real nightmare for the committee.
Here is the dilemma this creates.
On the one hand, Ohio State and Clemson have been magnificent and still only have ONE LOSS. Let’s say even that these losses are CLOSE. Squeaker’s, nail-bitter’s, lemon-booty-er’s, give your life to Christ and kiss your ass goodbye kinda games. Both of them are still soooooo pretty. I mean my God look at their hair, how long does it take in the morning to make it do that?!
On the other hand, here sit 12-1 Utah and 12-1 Oklahoma. Both are conference champions. Oddly enough, both of them now have BETTER resumes than Clemson. Their only losses are on the road to quality teams, while Clemson’s loss is on a neutral site to a Virginia team that, let’s be honest, is ranked to help Clemson’s case for the playoff stick. And, more importantly, Utah and Oklahoma have wins over ranked teams, while Clemson has a big ole goose egg in that column. In fact, Clemson has now lost to the only ranked team it has played this season!
Bottom line, someone is gonna get screwed with their pants on. That’s just how this is gonna work.
It is either going to be Clemson or Oklahoma. The committee just has to pick which one.
Utah seems to be in if they win. The Committee has them ranked higher than either Big 12 Team for a reason. The committee also seems clearly down on Oklahoma, despite the Sooners only dropping a game against a KState team that is a bit inconsistent, but not the dumpster fire that say, I dunno, South Carolina is.
So Mullens and Company can do one of two things: Drop Ohio State to #4. And then go #1-3 with conference champions, waving bye-bye to Dabo as they close the door in his face.
OR, the Committee can drop Ohio State to #3, drop Clemson to #4, and put LSU and Utah as #1-2. (They could also just leave #1-3 as it is now and put Utah at #4 but lets assume they want to really emphasize that Utah won some shit). Riots ensue in Norman.
I’m really not trying to dump on Clemson in this post, despite having been inundated with insane Clemson takes since last Saturday, but I really worry they’d be out again here.
Oh and just because I know you’re thinking it: no, a two-loss UGA team does not sneak into the playoff here. Stop thinking it. Stop. STAHP.
FINAL PLAYOFF: #1 LSU v. #4 Oklahoma; #2 Utah v. #3 Ohio State
SCENARIO 3: EVERYONE LOSES BUT CLEMSONNNNNN
OH HEY, PLOT TWIST!!! [RAP AIRHORNS]
Dabo and the Boyz throttle Virginia, obliterate the Cavaliers, beat them so bad Thomas Jefferson’s slave-holding ass pops out the grave and wags his finger in a vigorous and surly manner at those Lollpoops and Gentlemen of Three Outs. “How very dare thee call yourselves Virginians! Begone with your Quaker dispositions and feminine constitutions! REMOVE YOURSELF, SIR!”
A booster gifts Dabo an Orange Ford F-350 with truck nuts and Dabo does donuts in the parking lot of Bank of America Stadium.
As he does, you can hear, blaring from the tricked out radio inside the cab, that the SKY IS FALLING EVERYWHERE ELSE.
Georgia has beaten LSU. Wisconsin has beaten Ohio State. Baylor has gotten its revenge. Oregon has wiped the floor with Utah yet again.
I don’t think there is much of a question here as to how things go, but it all depends on how bad Ohio State’s loss is.
If Ohio State just lays a major egg and Baylor looks really good against Oklahoma you could see:
#1 Clemson (GO DABO GO!) v. #4 Baylor; #2 LSU v. #3 UGA.
Now, I don’t think they’re gonna want to have a rematch in the first round, so maybe instead they go:
#1 Clemson v. #4 LSU; #2 UGA v. #3 Baylor.
Still, and I can’t imagine the takes if this actually happens, but I think in this scenario a 12-1 Baylor team, whose only loss is by single-digits to a Top Ten team, gets left out of the playoff.
FINAL PLAYOFF: #1 Clemson v. #4 LSU; #2 UGA v. #3 Ohio State.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED:
Georgia has to win to get in. There is simply no scenario where enough teams can lose so as to put a two-loss UGA in, even if they take LSU to the last play of the game (please God don’t let that happen!).
Clemson seems to be the only team genuinely at risk of losing their spot in the playoff. That stems from a bad regular season schedule (not their fault!) and a consequently lower-ranked opponent in their conference championship game (also not their fault!). BUT, and this is a big ole but here, we don’t really know that the Committee is willing to drop Dabo out if they lose a close one.
CLEMSON’S NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: a loss to Virginia, coupled with wins from Utah and Oklahoma. If that happens, they are in real trouble. Barring that, I think Clemson will just slide to #4.
LSU and Ohio State are basically invincible. Unless UGA and the Badgers beat their respective opponents by 40 and Utah and Oklahoma look magnificent, it is just impossible to imagine a playoff that doesn’t feature those two teams.
Finally, one more time for all you youths, the problem for the Committee is almost never that everyone wins out.
The real problems are when teams you are sure will keep on winning, suddenly don’t.
That is what makes College Football great, and also what makes real, true, objective knowledge about who is better than whom pretty much impossible.
So this weekend exult in the knowledge that all of this is made up and none of it is based in anything real.
Hold on to your butts.