May 21, 2024

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The road remained for the eight teams

The road remained for the eight teams

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There are still eight teams in the College Football Playoff mix and a number of ways things could unfold over the final weekend of the regular season, from predictable hum to absolute chaos.

With pivotal matchups coming up — starting with Georgia and Alabama and a rematch between Washington and Oregon — the playoff race could eventually settle into the top four easily and uncontroversially.

Or things could get out of control. Sharpen those pitchforks, just in case.

With time until the start of the regular season, these are the big questions facing the playoffs and what the top four could look like on Sunday:

Can Ohio State get back to the playoffs?

A year ago, Ohio State lost to Michigan by 22 points but still fell short of the playoffs and nearly upset Georgia in the Peach Bowl. The landscape this year is dramatically different, leaving the Buckeyes with only a narrow path to a top-four finish — but there is a way.

Here are the steps:

Georgia wins over Alabama. This takes the crimson tide out of the equation.

Michigan wins over Iowa An Iowa win would make the Buckeyes the third-place team in the Big Ten, which is easy for the committee to rule out.

Washington wins over Oregon. Losing the rematch would knock the Ducks out of contention.

Louisville beats Florida State. This upset will be the biggest piece of the puzzle for Ohio State.

Oklahoma State wins over Texas. This would give the Longhorns a second loss.

This scenario would leave Georgia, Michigan and Washington undefeated in the top three. The fourth spot would then come down to five non-conference champions: one-loss teams in Ohio State and Florida State and two-loss teams in Oregon, Alabama and Texas.

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The debate will then settle on the Buckeyes and Seminoles. That’s the debate that would favor Ohio State, the top-ranked team in the playoff rankings for several weeks and a close runner-up in one of the FBS’s top two leagues.

There’s even a possibility that Ohio State could make the top four if all of the above happens, but Oregon State is ahead of Washington, leaving both the Buckeyes and Huskies to be compared. But that might lean toward UW because of a high-quality resume, an appearance in the conference championship game and the fact that the Huskies topped the Ducks earlier in the year.

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Will Georgia lose to Alabama?

It’s hard to say. For example, the Bulldogs will become the second-ranked team in the SEC, and we already know that this year’s field may be too crowded to include multiple teams from one league.

There’s no doubt the Bulldogs will have the finish at 12-1, with one specific condition: that Michigan is the only Power Five team undefeated at the end of the regular season.

In other words, as noted above, Louisville beats Florida State and Oregon beats Washington. With a win over Oklahoma State, Texas will secure a spot due in large part to this year’s win over the Crimson Tide.

Connecting the Wolverines, Alabama and Longhorns to the field would leave Georgia in contention with Ohio State and the one-loss teams from the Pac-12 and ACC.

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We think Georgia will be picked before Ohio State. The Bulldogs were ahead in the playoff standings when both were undefeated and had identical records, and then should stay ahead with one more win and the division crown. The Bulldogs will also come in ahead of Florida State with cap space.

That would leave the comparison to a one-loss winner in the Pac-12. It would be a very difficult decision: Oregon State was dominant and was going to avenge its previous loss to Washington.

This may be the toughest choice in the four-team era. Will the committee take a Power Five champion with a resume that guarantees a top-four finish and leave the two-time defending national champions on the outside?

Does Florida State need to be uptight?

Not real.

Every undefeated Power Five team has made the playoff while the format has existed, so there’s no legitimate reason to worry as long as Florida State takes care of business against Louisville.

Mother, barely There is no reason to worry. With a heavyweight approach and the potential to be matched by one loss at Georgia and Texas should Alabama win the SEC Championship, the Seminoles could be able to beat Louisville in some fashion to prove they can thrive without Travis and to the relief of the committee.

Back in 2014, Ohio State quieted the committee by dominating Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game behind third-string quarterback Cardell Jones. Florida State backup Tate Rodemaker completed 12 of 25 attempts for 134 yards in Saturday’s close win over Florida, which finished with a losing record.

What are the five potential playoff venues?

While a lot could change over the next two weekends, here are five playoff scenarios:

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No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Washington, No. 4 Florida State. This is the scenario the committee dreams of: four undefeated Power Five champions and no reason for any real debate. While undefeated teams can hold serve in conference championship matches and leave the top four without a doubt, the committee has never had this much luck.

No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Washington, No. 4 Texas. There was some chaos after Florida State lost to Louisville, leaving the way for Texas to claim the No. 4 seed. In this scenario, the Longhorns would win the debate against second-place teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12.

No. 1 Michigan, No. 2 Washington, No. 3 Texas, No. 4 Alabama. Two undefeated Power Five then Texas and the Crimson Tide, with the Longhorns falling ahead due to a head-to-head tiebreaker. Georgia is under pressure here due to the loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship game and the fact that Alabama can’t get into the top four without one loss at Texas as well.

No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Texas. The Ducks beat Washington and Louisville beats FSU, eliminating the Huskies and Seminoles from the conversation. Alabama was knocked out by a loss to Georgia and the Longhorns easily jumped Ohio State thanks to another win, a win over the Tide and the conference championship.

No. 1 Michigan, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Georgia. Michigan beats Iowa, Alabama beats Georgia. Oregon wins over Washington. Louisville beats FSU. Oklahoma State wins over Texas. Although there is no way to get Ohio State into the top four, this would represent one of the most star-studded playoff groups in history.