The first College Football Playoff Rankings came out this week, and Washington is 12th. They’re obviously the highest-ranking Pac-12 team, because the Pac-12 is a fucking disaster this year. And yet, all I read about from Husky loyalists is how we’ve got as good a shot as anyone of making the College Football Playoffs if we just win out. The help will come.
Well, let’s just get right down to it, because there’s a lot of nonsense to work through.
Start with the SEC. Georgia and Alabama don’t play one another in the regular season, but appear to be on a collision course to meet in the SEC title game. So, let’s assume that happens: boom, there’s at least one spot in the Final Four, going to the winner of that game (let’s hold off, for now, on what happens to any 1-loss conference championship game losers).
That’s easy enough, right? Three more spots to go.
Third in the rankings is Notre Dame, with a 7-1 record, whose only loss was a 1-point affair to the aforementioned very-good Georgia Bulldogs. They play at Miami and at Stanford as their most difficult remaining games. Beating an undefeated Miami team would certainly help the Huskies (the Hurricanes are currently 10th and looking for a spot in the ACC title game). If Notre Dame wins out – even without the value of a conference championship, since they have no conference – they’re in. Their schedule is much too impressive, and their brand is much too popular, to keep out.
So, I guess, pray Notre Dame loses a second game.
Let’s go to the ACC, as there’s rumblings this conference could be left out. Well, right now, Clemson is ranked 4th, but as we all know that means nothing. If the season ended today, Clemson wouldn’t even be in their own conference title game, which would probably eliminate them from contention. Of course, all they have to do is go on the road to beat NC State, which seems like a slam dunk, right? After that, their schedule is trash, so this week is really for their season; they’ll coast into the ACC title game. At which point, if they win that, they’re golden, lock them in. If they lose to an undefeated Miami team (or even a 1-loss Miami team, for that matter) I would think the Hurricanes would take their spot in the final four. They will CERTAINLY have a better argument for making it over a 1-loss Washington team.
So, I guess pray NC State beats Clemson, and all hell breaks loose to the point where the conference champion has 2 losses?
The Big-12 is heavily represented in the rankings, with Oklahoma 5th, TCU 8th, Oklahoma State 11th, and Iowa State 15th. Three of those teams are currently ranked ahead of Washington, and if any one of them wins out (they all have 1 loss at the moment), that team will get a spot in the Final Four. The curious case of Iowa State is that they have 2 losses, but only 1 in the Big-12. Yet, they’re actually leading in the conference because they handed both TCU and Oklahoma their only defeats of the season. They play OK State in a couple weeks in a knockout game for the loser; but if Iowa State wins that one, and ends up winning the conference title game, they could be trouble. Or, they could effectively eliminate the Big-12 from playoff contention once again.
So, I guess pray Iowa State makes some noise and the conference champ has 2 losses.
That brings us to the vaunted Big 10. Ohio State and Penn State are 6th & 7th; Wisconsin is 9th. Ohio State and Penn State both have 1 loss; Wisconsin is undefeated. Ohio State just beat Penn State, giving them the inside track for the conference title game; their only tough matchup going forward is at home against Michigan State. It would be VERY shocking if the Buckeyes lost again. Assuming that’s the case, that knocks out Penn State. Wisconsin sits there on the other side of the Big 10, with the weakest fucking schedule I’ve ever seen. They’ll walk into the conference title game. If they win out, even with their garbage schedule, you can’t keep them out of the playoffs. If Ohio State wins out, they’re in.
So … actually, I don’t think there’s any way the Big 10 blows this; it’ll be either Ohio State or Wisconsin.
Do you see where I’m getting at here? We have the SEC champ, we have a 1-loss Notre Dame team, we have Clemson almost certainly winning out, we have the Big-12 cannibalizing one another (still with a shot that Oklahoma wins out to take the reins), and we have the Big 10 champ. That’s FIVE potential teams (4 champs & Notre Dame) all rated ahead of a potential 1-loss Washington team. Then, you have to consider a 1-loss SEC loser.
Honestly, a scenario where Washington makes it looks pretty implausible, and that’s assuming we even win out! That game down in Stanford is never a picnic, and say what you will about USC (who can all but wrap up their spot in the Pac-12 title game with a win over Arizona this weekend), but they handled us – particularly our passing game – pretty well last year.
That’s why I’m setting my sights a little more conservatively. Just a little! As we all know, the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl will gobble up the Final Four teams this year, meaning if we do end up as Pac-12 champions, we won’t get our rightful spot down in Pasadena. But, that leaves open the other bowls: Peach, Cotton, and Fiesta (I believe the Orange is reserved, but that might open back up depending on how the playoff rankings shake out). I wouldn’t think we’d go back to the Peach Bowl for a second consecutive year, which leaves the Cotton and Fiesta Bowls. Could be fun! Lower stakes, get to face a team we probably hardly ever get to play, televised on a Friday or Saturday which allows for maximum drinking and partying. Let’s go THERE!
And, quite frankly, let’s get to a major bowl game that we can WIN!