Bill Connelly: We can’t help ourselves. We have to keep an updated bracket in our heads at all times. "Okay, these four teams are now in the College Football Playoff." We know nothing about nothing, but we still have to keep tabs.
A lot of these fanciful, silly brackets currently have Houston involved. The Cougars beat Oklahoma, 33-23, in Houston last weekend, clearing what we assume to be the largest hurdle on the way to a 13-0 record and a potential semifinal bid.
But there are still 11 or 12 games in the way. And UH might still need help from others. So let’s talk about the road ahead for Tom Herman’s squad.
Bud Elliott: I think I'm most interested in what is outside of Houston's control. Like who do they need to be strong or not suck? How much does that Temple loss to Army matter?
Jason Kirk: 13-0 and they’re in.
Bud: If Oklahoma loses three games, is Houston still in?
Bud: Wow. I mean, maybe if other teams have big years, but I think that would be tough.
Bill: The way we treat mid-majors is odd and unfair, but it actually almost benefits Houston now. We force them to be awesome for more than one year to even give them a look, but in that way, UH will still sort of get credit for beating Florida State last year.
Jason: There are likely to be a lot of bowl teams on UH's schedule, and those count as good wins in the committee’s eyes. A 9-3 Oklahoma would be ranked, so that would still count as a great win by the committee’s Record Against Ranked Teams metric. Louisville’s also on the schedule.
Compare UH’s potential 2016 resume with 2014 Ohio State’s. The Buckeyes made it in at No. 4 after playing 10 bowl teams, only three of them in the final rankings (with one of those barely in, at No. 25), and losing to a team that’d gone 5-6 otherwise. Houston could play two or more final-ranked teams, eight or so bowl teams and not lose to anybody. That’s very comparable. If UH whoops mid-majors like an Oklahoma-beating team should, there’d be no argument for letting in some one-loss team instead.
This won’t be 8-0 Marshall remaining unranked after beating nobody. Keeping out this UH team would have people howling.
Bud: Conspiracy theory: the CFP committee uses Houston to make its example of how much schedule strength matters.
Jason: That's when the people who were always suing the BCS for excluding mid-majors start suing the Playoff.
Steven Godfrey: That conspiracy theory won’t work. Houston just opened the year with a win over a 2015 Playoff team in non-conference play. A host of committee members have talked about how they value non-con scheduling. That’s as good as it gets.
Bud: If Oklahoma falls apart, the committee will absolutely use that against Houston. FSU opened 2014 with Oklahoma State, which had normally won 10 games a year and ended up losing five that year, and the committee didn't exactly praise FSU for scheduling that game back when the Cowboys were elite.
I also think with Navy losing QB Keenan Reynolds, Temple losing to Army and Memphis not being near as good, this could be really lacking schedule. Temple was projected by Vegas odds to win nine games and now it could be a 7-5 program. UConn just escaped Maine by a field goal.
If Temple goes 7-5, and only one of Navy, Memphis and Cincinnati makes a bowl, the AAC’s reputation it built up last year will take a big hit.
Godfrey: Yes, but this is a mid-major that scheduled to the absolute best of its ability. If Oklahoma is 9-3 or 8-4, Louisville is 9-3 or 8-4 and the Cougars are 12-0, they’re in. Actually, 13-0 Houston, which would likely include a win against USF in the conference title.
Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin keeps it simple when he’s asked about this stuff. If the Broncos are undefeated in any season, he believes they should be in the Playoff. Not 12-1. I’d agree with that argument for 2016 Houston, but maybe not a 2016 Boise whose best non-conference game is a 0-1 Wazzu this week.
Bill: Yeah, Barry Alvarez has used the words "scheduling intent." (And I don’t really think the committee punished FSU for OSU not being very good — I think they punished FSU for not being very good. Burn.)
Godfrey: Here’s a conspiracy theory I endorse. There’s a lingering rumor that ESPN could renegotiate the Big 12 TV deal to avoid expansion. If that happens, why not let 13-0 UH in, if only to prove the system is fair for G5s? And by "let," I’m absolutely implying the obvious influence ESPN has over both conference alignment and a Playoff system it helped co-create.
Bud: The SEC's awful opening weekend was probably good for Houston, in that it's one of probably two conferences that had a shot to get two in.
Jason: The ACC being the other, but Houston beating Oklahoma also rules out the Big Ten doing that, since Ohio State beating an 11-1 OU but losing to Michigan is off the table.
Bill: Another key for Houston: Louisville might be awesome.
Granted, my S&P+ haaaaates UH with an illogical passion (I love talking about my numbers as a sentient human), but not including the AAC title game, there are four games left in which Houston is given a less-than-70 percent chance of winning: at Cincinnati (Sept. 15), at Navy (Oct. 8), Louisville (Nov. 17), and at Memphis (Nov. 25). You could potentially add a good USF to that (if USF indeed turns out to be good).
I think perceived quality, plus a win over Louisville, would prove their bona fides, even if OU finishes 9-3 and UL finishes 8-4 or something. The scheduling intent is clearly in the right place, and ... swag. They’ve got swag. National swag.