Donald Trump is President. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. The Process is working in Philadelphia. The world has turned upside down and the college football world is no different. While the 2016 season surely will not be remembered like the 2007 season was (I see you Boston College and South Florida at number two in the nation), week 11 will go down as one of the great upset Saturdays of all time. Suddenly the zombified Big 12 is back in contention for a playoff spot. Ohio State and Louisville are laughing to themselves. Schools like Penn State, Colorado, and the Oklahomas have hope in their lives again, but not Western Michigan, because what’s doing everything you can possibly do right these days?
The “Win And Your In?” Conference
The “Probable Champion” Division
Alabama will be the number one seed and undisputed favorite if they win out. A lone loss will no longer knock them out of the playoff, perhaps even if the 8-2 FCS Chattanooga Mocs beat them this weekend. The only way Alabama can potentially be realistically knocked out comes from back to back losses to Auburn and the SEC East winner in the SEC title game. Even then a two loss Bama team can still easily sneak in as a four seed.
The “Actual Win and Your In” Division
Even with the loss, if Clemson wins out and wins the ACC title they are in. Another loss puts their season in big time jeopardy. Depending on how the cards fall the next two weeks, even a loss in the ACC title game might not be automatic elimination.
The Huskies have a straight forward path but it is a tough one. If they beat 5-5 Arizona State and win at 8-2 Washington State and then win the Pac-12 title they will be in the playoff, perhaps as high as a two seed. Any one loss along the way severely hurts their chances but is not prohibitive. Two losses eliminates them.
The “It’s A Bit More Complicated Than That” Division
Ohio State (9-1)
Penn State (8-2)
If either Michigan or Ohio State wins out and wins the Big Ten Championship game, that team will be in the playoff. Simple as that. One team will be eliminated Thanksgiving weekend at the Big Game no matter what. The real fun happens if Penn State wins out and Ohio State beats Michigan. In that scenario PSU will go to the Big Ten title game. Would the committee slot an 11-2 Big Ten Champion Penn State team over an 11-1 Ohio State team that narrowly lost to Penn State? What happens if the Big Ten West winner wins the conference title? Would the playoff committee select two Big Ten teams if there are eleven win Penn State and Ohio State programs?
Michigan’s path is still clear. Beat Ohio State and win the conference title and they are in. Beat Ohio State and lose the title and they will need help. Ohio State needs to win out and have a Penn State loss and they are in. A Penn State loss and an OSU Big Ten title loss requires help for Ohio State to sneak in as well.
The Cardinals have the easiest path to the playoff at this point outside of Alabama. Beat decent Houston and Kentucky teams and they will be in at some capacity. Loss either and the red flag of that loss might be too much to overcome even with big losses on rivalry weekend and conference championship weekend.
Oklahoma State (8-2)
West Virginia (8-1)
Any one of these teams can easily sneak into the playoff and anyone who insists the Big 12 is still eliminated at this point doesn’t know what they are talking about. If West Virginia wins out, the wins over OU and Baylor would make them a good looking 11-1 team and that loss to Oklahoma State keeps looking more and more excusable. The out of conference strength and the perception of the Big 12 as a whole hurts their chances but with the right losses at the top they could sneak in. A late season loss eliminates them.
The Oklahomas are an interesting case at this point. The two losses combined with losses to G5 teams (even if Oklahoma State’s came on questionable officiating) and the perceived weakness of the conference mean both programs have a hill to climb and need more breaks at the top. In addition the Bedlam Game forces the fact that one of these two teams will have a third loss at minimum. Oklahoma State has already beaten West Virginia, if they can down TCU and OU on the road, take home the Big 12 title, and get some chaos at the top they can still sneak in as the four seed. If OU can beat West Virginia and Oklahoma State they will win the Big 12 outright, have justifiable early season losses and finish with two big wins. A Washington loss and the Pac-12 eliminating itself would open the door, especially if the committee favors four conferences and conference champions over at-large bids from the ACC or Big Ten.
The “Fringe Hopefuls” Division
The Buffaloes have two losses, both respectable against top 15 programs in Michigan and USC. Beating Washington State, Utah and the Pac-12 North winner to take home the Pac-12 title would be an incredibly impressive way to end the season. Utah would have a similarly impressive path (albeit without the Wazzu win) with wins against Oregon, at Colorado and then over the Pac-12 North winner for the conference title. An 11-2 conference champion would definitely contend for a three or four seed, especially if teams get upset along the way.
At minimum Wisconsin is looking at a ten win season. Win at Purdue and beat Minnesota at home and the Badgers are going to the Big Ten title game. What if Wisconsin wins the Big Ten? No one is talking about the Badgers but let us not forget that in back-to-back weeks they narrowly lost to Michigan and Ohio State. A Wisconsin win could easily supplant the Big Ten playoff favorites and with the right losses the Badgers could even grab a two or three seed. Assuming the Big Ten playoff representative comes out of the east does a disservice to the season Wisconsin has had so far.
Nebraska is alive in the same way a virus is technically a living creature. Any realistic shot was destroyed during the Massacre at Columbus on November 5 but the Huskers can repair the damage by going undefeated down the stretch and getting some help. Wins against Maryland and at Iowa to finish the season would be respectable. The narrow loss to Wisconsin can be excused and the blowout to Ohio State can be rectified if Wisconsin loses one more down the stretch and NU goes to the title game. In a perfect world for Big Red they’d avenge the Buckeye loss by beating them a second time around for the conference title. A win over Michigan or even Penn State though would mean a blue blood program is an 11-2 conference champion with a big win their final weekend. A sneaky four seed would be very justifiable with the right losses above them.
The SEC East sucks has been the meme all season. Here is my question, what happens if Alabama decides to have their trip up game in the SEC Championship? The Gators don’t have a great resume and their signature win thus far is over a pedestrian Georgia team but the next three weeks could set up a quiet playoff run. Beat LSU in Death Valley, down rival Florida State in Tallahassee and finish that stretch by beating Alabama for the SEC title…it suddenly becomes very hard to leave a red hot 11-2 conference champion out of the playoff. One loss does the Gators in but the road is there.
Western Michigan (10-0)
The sad reality here is WMU is rooting for every team above them to hit three losses to get a sniff. Western Michigan has a path to the playoffs but it requires unprecedented upsets from here on out.
The “Eliminated” Conference
The “Hoping for a New Years Bowl” Division
Florida State (7-3)
North Carolina (7-3)
Virginia Tech (7-3)
Washington State (8-2)
The “If Western Michigan Loses We Might Get To Go To a Good Bowl!” Division
Boise State (9-1)
San Diego State (9-1)
South Florida (8-2)
Western Kentucky (8-3)
The “I’m Not Particularly Surprised But I Kind Of Want To Fire My Coach Nonetheless” Division
Texas A&M (7-3)
The “Delightfully Above Average” Division
Air Force (7-3)
Eastern Michigan (6-4)
Louisiana Tech (8-3)
New Mexico (7-3)
Old Dominion (7-3)
Wake Forest (6-4)
The “Paul Johnson Memorial Low Ceiling, High Floor” Division
Georgia Tech (6-4)
The “G5’s That Might Be Having a Good Year But Its Hard To Tell Because It’s Also The Sun Belt” Division
Appalachian State (7-3)
The “Frisky Five Game Winners” Division
Arizona State (5-5)
Colorado State (5-5)
Kansas State (5-4)
North Carolina State (5-5)
South Carolina (5-5)
Southern Miss (5-5)
The “I’m Not Surprised And I’ve Wanted My Coach Fired For Years” Division
The “Middling G5 Programs” Division
Central Michigan (6-5)
Miami (OH) (5-6)
Middle Tennessee (6-4)
The “Middling Independents” Division
The “I Actually Am Surprised But Am Not Sure I Want To Fire My Coach Yet” Division
Michigan State (3-7)
Notre Dame (4-6)
Ole Miss (5-5)
Texas Tech (4-6)
The “I Actually Am Surprised And Want To Fire My Coach” Division
The “I’m Not Surprised Nor Do I Want To Fire My Coach Yet” Division
Mississippi State (4-6)
The “Good Bad Teams” Division
Arkansas State (5-4)
Ball State (4-6)
Georgia Southern (4-6)
North Texas (4-6)
South Alabama (4-5)
The “Bad, Bad Teams” Division
Northern Illinois (3-7)
Utah State (3-7)
Boston College (4-6)
The “I’m Not Surprised And I Did Fire My Coach” Division
The “Garbage” Division
Bowling Green (3-8)
Kent State (3-8)
San Jose State (3-7)
The “Hot Garbage” Division
Georgia State (2-8)
Iowa State (2-8)
Oregon State (2-8)
Texas State (2-7)
The “How The Hell Did They Beat New Mexico And How The Hell Did New Mexico Lose To You?!” Division
New Mexico State (2-7)
The “I Actually Am Surprised And Did Fire My Coach” Division
Fresno State (1-9)
The “Kansas 77-Duke 75 And Shooty Hoops Is Back!!!” Division