Oklahoma dominated Oklahoma State in the one Bedlam game that decided the Big 12 championship. For that, they are a lock for the College Football Playoff before everyone else.
The conference championship games are coming up this Saturday and it’s a foregone conclusion that the remaining three slots are coming out of the Big Ten, ACC and SEC. Right now it’s No.1 Clemson, No.2 Alabama and No.3 Iowa.
The question is this: out of those three conference title games, how many of them carry the same prize for both combatants?
If it’s not Alabama winning the SEC, it’s No.18 Florida. If it’s not Clemson winning the ACC, it’s No. 8 North Carolina. If it’s not Iowa winning the Big Ten, it’s No. 5 Michigan State.
Michigan State is pretty much self explanatory. As much as the Big Ten is ridiculed, they have six teams in the AP Top 25, more than any other conference including the SEC. They would clearly make up for their lone loss to Nebraska with victories over Ohio State and Iowa. The Spartans defense is tied for 22nd in the FBS with 21.1 points allowed per game.
North Carolina doesn’t have the strength of schedule on their side, unless you want to count their opening season loss to SEC stalwart South Carolina and blowout victory over Big Ten powerhouse Illinois. Their only Top 25 win was against Pittsburgh, who was No. 23 at the time and is unranked now. The ACC has only three teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25, which is as many as the American Athletic Conference. The Tar Heels average 229.7 rushing yards per game (18th in FBS), 41 points per game (9th) and 20.8 points allowed per game (19th), but take that how you will.
Usually there is an unwritten double-elimination rule in terms of contending for a national title. So at two losses, with the most recent being absolutely embarrassing, Florida is likely out of the playoff race regardless. They’re the SEC version of Michigan State but with a backup quarterback.
My utopian guess is all three, because I can’t imagine the playoff committee — who has a track record of elevating Big Ten and SEC contenders higher in their poll than the AP while not offering the same gracious gesture for the Pac-12 and Big 12 — leaving the SEC out of it if Alabama lost the SEC championship. There was the possibility of them going in even if they missed out of the game all together due to a divisional tie-breaker.
If Florida were to win the SEC, they’ll probably have to settle for their conference title and the Sugar Bowl. Should Stanford win the Pac-12 against USC, they’ll probably take the place of the SEC in the playoff as the best two-loss team. Notre Dame lost to Stanford and Clemson and basically proved that they can beat the bottom of the ACC and the best of the American Athletic Conference.
The consensus doesn’t trust Iowa due to their lack of quality opponents. Their biggest wins were against Wisconsin and Northwestern. Both CBS Sports and ESPN project the Hawkeyes to lose to Michigan State, even though they are both similar statistically. Their offensive stats are in the upper middle of the FBS and their best quality is defense. Iowa can win their much due respect if they win the Big Ten.