Not surprisingly, with Louisville losing to Houston last week, the Huskies had no one in their way to get to the 5th spot. And so here we are, the week before the week before.
As always, understand that what I talk about below all hinges upon the Huskies winning on Friday, and then winning again in the Pac-12 Championship Game. It’s officially down to four teams now in the Pac-12: the winner of the Apple Cup in the North vs. either Colorado or USC in the South. Colorado hosts Utah on Saturday; if they win, they’re in. If they lose, USC is in, because USC has completed their conference schedule (they host Notre Dame this weekend).
As I also predicted, it was more important for Colorado to beat Washington State than the other way around. Had Wazzu won, they might have jumped into the Top 15, but it would’ve also forced us into a rematch with USC, and right now, I’m all about trying to avoid the Trojans at all costs. This way, Colorado jumps into the Top 10 (they’re currently 9th, and may get higher if they beat Utah, depending upon how the rest of the Top 10 shakes out this weekend), making a potential showdown between us and them a juicy affair on December 2nd.
Now, obviously, I’m well aware that this could be a Beware What You Wish For situation, as my over-confidence could be devastating if the Buffaloes beat us. But, I see two teams in Washington and Colorado who have both lost to USC this year, and I can’t help but worry that those Trojans are some sort of juggernaut and we’re just lucky it took them so long to find their quarterback earlier this season.
Anyway, that’s that. More on the Pac-12 after this weekend.
I’m here to talk about the Big 10, and how it’s VERY possible that we’ll be royally fucked even if we do win out.
Alabama is in the top spot; they play Auburn this weekend, and most certainly they will win that game. Even if they lose, they’ll still be in the Top 4, and they’ll still get to play Florida in the SEC Championship Game. The only way Alabama falls out of the Top 4 is if they somehow lose their next two games, but that would be utter chaos and is hardly even worth writing about. Alabama is going to win the SEC, period.
Clemson is currently in the 4-hole. They host an okay South Carolina team, are already in the ACC Championship Game, and will go on to play either Virginia Tech (most likely) or North Carolina (less likely). Clemson only falls out of the Top 4 if they lose one of these games, but I can’t imagine that happening.
That leaves the Big 10, currently hogging the 2-hole and 3-hole (Ohio State & Michigan, respectively). The Big 10 is also hogging the 6-hole and 7-hole (Wisconsin & Penn State, respectively). Here’s how crazy the Big 10 is:
Ohio State hosts Michigan this weekend. If they win, and Penn State beats the hapless Michigan State team, Penn State plays for the Big 10 Championship against either Wisconsin (if they beat Minnesota) or Nebraska (if they beat Iowa and Wisconsin loses).
Now, let’s say all the teams who are SUPPOSED to win actually win. That means Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin all win. Obviously, that knocks Michigan out of the Top 4. But, if you think Ohio State is going anywhere, you’re crazy, because they will have only 1 loss, and how are you going to punish a team that’s ranked 2nd in the nation, just because they weren’t involved in their conference’s championship game?
By the same token, if it’s Penn State vs. Wisconsin for the Big 10 title, the winner of that game will only have 2 losses on the year (Penn State lost to Michigan and the sometimes-frisky Pitt; Wisconsin lost to Michigan and Ohio State). The committee is on record as saying they prefer conference champions over all their other criteria, so how do you keep out a 2-loss conference champ (especially if it’s Penn State, who has a regular season win over Ohio State on their resume)? Wisconsin has less of a stake in that race, because they lost to Ohio State, but you have to wonder if the committee would choose a 1-loss Pac-12 champ over a 2-loss Big 10 champ? Really, Wisconsin’s only legitimate win (aside from a hypothetical Big 10 championship win) is over Nebraska, as LSU and Michigan State are both unranked now.
It’s my belief that if Penn State wins the Big 10, the committee will choose both them and Ohio State, meaning it will come down to either Washington or Clemson. At that point, what do you do? Clemson would have wins over Louisville, Auburn, and Florida State (currently 11th, 13th, and 14th respectively), but their ACC Championship Game opponent would be pretty weak. Washington would have wins over either Colorado or USC (currently 9th & 12th, respectively), Utah, Wazzu, and Stanford (22nd, 23rd, & 24th, respectively). Of course, if both Washington and Colorado win out, Utah and Wazzu would likely fall out of the Top 25 entirely, which would take away at least two of those wins against ranked opponents.
I dunno. My hunch – if all this came to pass – is that it would be Alabama at 1, Ohio State at 2, Clemson at 3, and Penn State at 4, with Washington at 5 and playing Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Ugh. After ALL that.
Of course, if you want a simple rooting guide for the weekend, I’ll dumb it down for you:
If Michigan wins, all our troubles are over. A Michigan win over Ohio State knocks the Buckeyes out of the Top 4. That also prevents Penn State from playing for the Big 10 championship, because Michigan holds the tiebreaker over them by beating them earlier this year. That puts Michigan against Wisconsin in the title game, and at that point, I’m secure enough to go out on a limb and say that the loser of that game will be knocked out of the Top 4.
That’s the easiest and clearest path for Washington to make the playoffs: Michigan needs to beat Ohio State. That game starts at 9am on Saturday. Get up early and root root root for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines! Yeah, I know, I’m sick about it too, but what are you gonna do?