The short history of the College Football Playoff has provided a murky picture on selection priorities. However, it is unlikely that an undefeated, Big 12 Champion WVU team will be left out of the playoff. But what happens if the best-case scenario doesn’t occur?
This is the first in the series of articles that will outline the scenarios necessary for a one loss West Virginia to make the College Playoff. It is assumed that a quality loss may not eliminate the Mountaineers if it is, for example close and/or on the road. Two losses would likely make things impossible. These scenarios will provide a look at the dominoes that need to fall to eliminate other conferences from playoff contention or deny conferences a second berth. The focus here is on the most likely contenders. As a reminder, the goal isn’t to eliminate every conference, so not all these need to occur. Rather, the goal is to discuss what needs to happen to eliminate at least one other Power 5 conference, the combined Independents/Group of 5 teams, and prevent any conference from securing a second bid.
Independents and Group of 5
The elimination of the independents is important. There are five Power 5 conferences and only four playoff teams. Winning your championship game is clearly not enough as one conference is guaranteed to be left out each season. An undefeated independent or Group of Five team snagging a spot in the final four would further complicate matters. This would greatly reduce the chances of a one loss Big 12 champion making the playoff.
Stanford are the toughest remaining game on the Irish’s weak schedule. An undefeated Notre Dame team will be a likely be a strong candidate, so their game against Stanford on Saturday is pivotal if the Irish are to be eliminated early. To ease the path starting this weekend, the Big 12 needs a Cardinal win here.
The Golden Knights have another excellent chance of going undefeated this year. Unfortunately, their poor strength of schedule would likely prevent an invite to the College Playoff once again. This isn’t to throw digs at their team, but unless they are the only undefeated team in the country and every other team has at least 2 loses, it is tough to see them getting the required respect based on their schedule
The winner of the Pac 12 North is likely the best option the Pac 12 has for the playoff and to eliminate the conference, the North champion needs to have at least one loss. Two losses would end any chances of a playoff bid at all, and the conference is not strong enough for a non-champion to pull an Alabama and slip into the running. I am assuming at this point, the South is no longer in playoff contention but can certainly play spoiler for the North by either winning in the regular season or pulling off the upset in the title game.
Currently they are four teams that theoretically could win the Pac 12 North, Stanford, California, Oregon and Washington. Stanford will hopefully beat Notre Dame this weekend, putting a large dent the Irish’s chance of making the playoff. Still undefeated California faces off against Oregon this weekend, who lost in a heart breaking come back to Stanford. BYU plays Washington, who is the final contender remaining in the North. Much like what will be needed for the Big 10 East, this division needs to cause chaos within itself to ruin the chance of a team making the playoff. However, the game to circle for the North is Stanford – Washington. Cal has yet to convince it’s a real player, so a Washington win on Nov 3 likely means the Pac 12 is destined for a 1 loss champion, with Washington holding the tie breaker over the Cardinal.
The conference race is still wide open. While there is an important game this weekend between Penn State and Ohio State, it will do little to determine who will make the playoff from their conference. The power teams in the East need to beat one another to make sure that only one team from the Big 10 can make the playoff. The better scenario would be the eventual champion having two losses or one poor loss. While we are still too early to highlight and games beyond PSU-OSU this weekend, any upsets within the conference could prove be important.
Come back next week as we continue to highlight the path for West Virginia and the Big 12 to the College Football Playoff .