With the end of college football’s regular season finally here, it is time to gear up for championship weekend.
Each of this weekend’s power five conference championship games has serious playoff implications. As it stands currently, there are seven teams (Clemson, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and Miami) with legitimate chances to make the playoff, along with three others (TCU, Ohio State and USC) that are longshots.
The Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn this past Saturday, Nov. 18, really shook up the playoff situation. Coming into the game, Alabama was undefeated and unquestionaly the No. 1 team in the nation. However, the 9-2 Auburn Tigers had something to say about that and bolstered their playoff resume by knocking off the Crimson Tide 26-14 at home to secure their SEC West title and earning their way into the SEC Championship game over Alabama.
Auburn faces Georgia this Saturday, Nov. 25, in the championship game. The Tigers already beat the Bulldogs once this season just three weeks ago. The winner of the SEC will undoubtedly make the playoff; however, the question remains if the SEC will be able to get two teams into the four-team playoff. Alabama only has one loss all year and it was on the road to Auburn, a team who would make the playoff if the season ended today. A few things may have to go Alabama’s way to make it into the playoff, but it may prove too difficult for the committee to leave such a deserving team out.
In the ACC, Clemson and Miami will battle for the championship and a virtually guaranteed spot in the College Football Playoff. Clemson seems to be hitting its stride late in the season and has risen up to No. 1 in the country with the fall of Alabama last weekend. Meanwhile, Miami was undefeated all year before losing to Pitt this past weekend at home, ending its regular season on the wrong foot. Whoever wins this game will almost certainly make the playoff, and whoever loses is definitely out. I would be very surprised if Clemson does not wind up being the ACC’s representative in the playoff.
The Big 12 Championship game this weekend is between No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 10 TCU. Assuming Oklahoma wins this game, they should make the playoff. It would be a major upset if TCU is able to defeat Oklahoma. The Sooners have already defeated the Horned Frogs once this season, and it was in convincing fashion by a score of 38-20. If TCU wins, however, it could make things extremely interesting, but many things would have to fall their way to sneak into the playoff in January.
Perhaps the most interesting game this weekend is the Big 10 championship game between No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 8 Ohio State. If Wisconsin wins, they are unquestionably in the playoff. With a win, they would be 13-0 and the only undefeated team in a power- five conference. Even though Wisconsin has had a remarkably easy schedule, they would still have wins over Northwestern, Michigan and Ohio State and not a single blemish on their record. If Ohio State wins, Wisconsin is definitely out and Ohio State would have a slim chance to make it. The thing is, though, it would be very difficult to put Ohio State at 11-2 into the playoff over 11-1 Alabama even though Ohio State would have a conference championship on its resume.
USC and Stanford square off in a basically meaningless Pac 12 Championship that has essentially zero playoff ramifications. If USC wins, they will have a shot at making the playoff, but still dozens of different things would have to happen that it is hardly even worth discussing.
It will be very interesting to see what plays out this weekend and which teams will make the College Football Playoff. Right now, there are six teams that clearly deserve to make the playoff for the chance to win a championship, but there can only be four. My prediction is that Clemson, Oklahoma, Auburn and Alabama will be the four teams to make the playoff. I would really love to see Wisconsin make it and defeat Ohio State, but I am worried their lack of tests so far will hurt them this weekend when they face the Buckeyes. This weekend will undoubtedly define the CFP slate.