2016 is shaping up to give the College Football Playoff committee its hardest decisions ever.
Below, a rundown of the postseason picture, based on guesses updated after Rivalry Weekend.
That weekend included an Ohio State win over Michigan that knocked the Wolverines out of the Playoff, but that wasn't enough to secure a Big Ten Championship trip for the Buckeyes. Penn State and Wisconsin will play for the conference title, and how the committee handles this will be fascinating. In year three of the Playoff, we'll finally learn something about exactly how the committee really works.
There's still a chance that conference title weekend could either resolve a dilemma or give us whole new ones, but for now, here's how things might shape up. I'll update this somewhat on Tuesday night, after the committee reveals its new rankings, and then we'll be five days from seeing the real deal on Selection Sunday.
|College Football Playoff|
Dec. 31, Glendale, AZ
|Clemson||Washington||Playoff rankings top 4|
Dec. 31, Atlanta
|Alabama||Ohio State||Playoff rankings top 4|
Jan. 9, Tampa
|Alabama||Clemson||Fiesta winner vs. Peach winner|
- Two are obvious. If Bama beats Florida in the SEC Championship, Bama's in (Bama probably doesn't even need to beat Florida, really), and if Clemson beats Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship, Clemson's in.
- The Big Ten's representation will teach us a lot about what the committee values. Conference championships are the committee's first stated criteria, but the committee also reserves the right to pick the four teams it thinks are the best, rather than only picking conference champions. So the previous sentence is basically meaningless.
- Penn State and Wisconsin have two losses. Ohio State is 11-1. Do you take the conference champ, or do you take an OSU that's also beaten Oklahoma and that would be favored against the conference champ in a rematch? Do you take both the conference champ and OSU?
- No one knows, because this scenario has never happened before. If someone tells you the answers are certain, that person is just making stuff up.
- I'm guessing the committee takes OSU, a team that's already No. 2 and just beat No. 3. Is a team that's been No. 2 for three weeks really going to fall to No. 5 because of one weekend of conference title games?
- Remember the committee's stated goal of selecting the four "best" teams, rather than the four "most deserving" teams. Advanced statistics, raw records, strength of schedule, strength of record, the eyeball test, and whatever else you want to use favor the Buckeyes over the Badgers or Nittany Lions on the season.
- PSU's head-to-head win on a blocked field goal complicates things further. If PSU wins the conference in addition to holding a head-to-head over Ohio State, maybe PSU feels like a clear choice and the popular debate moves to Ohio State vs. Washington for the fourth spot.
- The Huskies do not have a strong schedule to lean on, but still have a chance to finish as a one-loss Power 5 champ. It would be hard to bump them for a two-loss team or a team that didn't win its league, if you're the committee.
|New Year's Six bowls|
Jan. 2, Arlington, TX
|Western Michigan||Penn State||At-large|
Jan. 2, Pasadena, CA
|Wisconsin||USC||Big Ten 1 vs. Pac-12 1|
Jan. 2, New Orleans
|Oklahoma||Auburn||Big 12 1 vs. SEC 1|
Dec. 30, Miami
|Louisville||Michigan||ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND|
Very few things are certain at this point. That's a big change, compared to most of the season.
- Four Big Ten teams are likely to make the New Year's Six. We just have no idea which will go where. I'm picking UW to win the conference, but get jumped for the Playoff. OSU beat Wisconsin and has one fewer loss. That'd make UW the easy choice for the Rose.
- With only two losses, Michigan can't fall far. Penn State might seem like a candidate to drop out of New Year's with a third loss, but remember: PSU would still be a division champ with the country's only win over Ohio State (yes, the Big Ten is this year's SEC, a.k.a. the conference whose best teams keep bouncing each other upward in the rankings).
- The SEC Sugar bid comes down to a team that lost its most recent game. Auburn lost at Bama, which is more forgivable than the recent deeds by Florida, Tennessee, and Texas A&M. LSU's good, but a scant 7-4.
- The Big 12 champ likely takes the other Sugar bid. Oklahoma hosts Oklahoma State next week for that.
- The Pac-12 is tricky. If Colorado loses to Washington, that means USC has the country's only win over the Pac-12 champ. USC also beat Colorado head-to-head and hasn't lost since September.
- The ACC is also tricky! Louisville was a sure bet, but lost to Houston and an unranked Kentucky as Florida State whooped Florida. However, Louisville annihilated FSU by 43 points in September, and Bama's likely win over Florida would make that win over UF mean less. Let's see where these two rank on Tuesday.
- Unbeaten WMU is in the mid-major driver's seat, but here comes Navy. An AAC title win over Temple would give the Midshipmen an undoubtedly superior schedule, albeit with two more losses. The Cotton bid would be delayed six days in order for Navy to play Army, if the committee felt Navy still had a shot to overtake WMU.
|Conference selection order, not based on standings|
Jan. 2, Tampa
|Nebraska||Florida||Big Ten 2-4 vs. SEC 3-8|
Dec. 31, Orlando
|Virginia Tech||LSU||Big Ten 2-4/ACC vs. SEC 2|
Dec. 31, Jacksonville
|Miami||Tennessee||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8|
Dec. 30, Nashville
|Minnesota||Arkansas||ACC 3-6/Big Ten 5-7 vs. SEC 3-8|
Dec. 30, Memphis
|TCU||South Carolina||Big 12 5 vs. SEC 3-8|
Dec. 30, El Paso, TX
|Pitt||Stanford||ACC 3-6 vs. Pac-12 5|
Dec. 30, Tucson
|Air Force||Idaho||MWC vs. Sun Belt|
Dec. 29, San Antonio
|Oklahoma State||Colorado||Big 12 2 vs. Pac-12 2|
Dec. 29, Charlotte
|North Carolina||Kentucky||ACC 3-6 vs. SEC 3-8|
|USF||Georgia||American vs. SEC 9|
Dec. 28, Santa Clara, CA
|Indiana||Utah||Big Ten 5-7 vs. Pac-12 4|
Dec. 28, New York City
|Georgia Tech||Maryland||ACC 3-6 vs. Big Ten 5-7|
Dec. 28, Orlando
|Florida State||West Virginia||ACC 2 vs. Big 12 3|
Dec. 28, Houston
|Kansas State||Texas A&M||Big 12 4 vs. SEC 3-8|
Dec. 27, Tempe, AZ
|Baylor||Colorado State*||Big 12 6 vs. Pac-12 7|
|Heart of Dallas
|Army*||WKU||Big Ten vs. C-USA|
Dec. 27, San Diego
|Iowa||Washington State||Big Ten 2-4 vs. Pac-12 3|
Dec. 27, Annapolis, MD
|NC State||Temple||ACC vs. American|
Dec. 26, Shreveport, LA
|Wake Forest||Vanderbilt||ACC vs. SEC|
|South Alabama*||Houston||ACC vs. American|
Dec. 26, Detroit, MI
|Boston College||Northwestern||ACC vs. Big Ten|
Dec. 24, Honolulu
|Southern Miss||Hawaii||C-USA vs. MWC|
Dec. 23, Mobile, AL
|Toledo||Troy||MAC 1 vs. Sun Belt 2|
Dec. 23, Fort Worth, TX
|Mississippi State**||Navy||Big 12 vs. Navy|
Dec. 23, Nassau
|Old Dominion*||EMU||American vs. MAC|
Dec. 22, Boise, ID
|CMU||Boise State||MAC 2 vs. MWC|
Dec. 21, San Diego
|BYU||Wyoming||BYU vs. MWC|
|Memphis||LA Tech||American vs. C-USA|
|UCF||Ohio||American vs. MAC|
|San Diego State||North Texas**||MWC 1 vs. Pac-12 6|
Dec. 17, Montgomery, AL
|Miami (OH)||Arkansas State||MAC 3 vs. Sun Belt 3|
Dec. 17, Orlando
|MTSU*||ULL||American vs. Sun Belt|
Dec. 17, Albuquerque
|UTSA||New Mexico||C-USA vs. MWC|
|Appalachian State||Tulsa*||Sun Belt 1 vs. C-USA|
|* = Filling another conference's spot
** = Here at 5-7, thanks to APR scores
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