Handicapping the CFP Race Going Into Championship Weekend

The college football regular season is over, but the playoff chase isn’t settled. We still have championship weekend, and then the playoff field will be set, in this the last year of the 4-team playoff. Louisville’s faint playoff hopes vanished with their defeat to Kentucky, and Ohio State’s hopes are on life support following a 3rd consecutive loss to Michigan. They’re probably not backing into the playoff like they did last year. So without further ado, here are the contenders for the playoff heading into championship weekend:

Group of 5: No one
Independents: No one

ACC: #4 Florida State. 8-0 ACC, 12-0 overall. Remaining schedule: ACC Championship Game vs. Louisville

Louisville’s loss to Kentucky ended their playoff hopes. Meanwhile, Florida State won without Jordan Travis, but they had to overcome a 12-0 deficit to Florida with backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker. The playoff committee looks at teams in their current state. However, there is precedent for selecting a team despite losing their quarterback. In 2014, Ohio State made the playoff with their 3rd quarterback, Cardale Jones, after JT Barrett broke his ankle in the rivalry game vs. Michigan. Injuries are no excuse. Next man up. I still like Florida State to win. They have more talent than Louisville.

Big 12: #7 Texas. 8-1 Big 12, 11-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Big 12 Championship Game vs. Oklahoma State

The Longhorns destroyed Texas Tech, and we got to see Arch Manning’s college football debut. They clinched their spot in the Big 12 Championship Game, where they will face Oklahoma State. Although the Pokes would like to send Texas out with a loss before they leave for the SEC with Oklahoma, look for the Longhorns to win.

SEC: #1 Georgia. 8-0 SEC, 12-0 overall. Remaining schedule: SEC Championship Game vs. Alabama

#8 Alabama. 8-0 SEC, 11-1 overall. Remaining schedule: SEC Championship Game vs. Georgia

Georgia held off a Georgia Tech rally to finish off a 3rd consecutive undefeated regular season in their quest to win a 3rd consecutive national championship. Meanwhile, Jalen Milroe saved Alabama’s season with a touchdown pass on 4th and 31. What was Auburn thinking, only rushing two and giving him all day to throw on that play? Georgia and Alabama now face each other in Atlanta. I’m taking Alabama in an upset.

Pac-12: #3 Washington. 9-0 Pac-12, 12-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Pac-12 Championship Game vs. Oregon

#5 Oregon. 8-1 Pac-12, 11-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Pac-12 Championship Game vs. Washington

Just like I predicted, Oregon and Washington won over their in-state rivals. Washington showed what you do to win a big game, going for it on 4th down deep in their own territory with a minute to go in regulation to set up the walk-off field goal. Oregon easily handed the Beavers, to give themselves a chance to avenge their only loss of the season. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. I’m going with Washington to beat the Ducks for a 2nd time this season.

Big 10: #2 Michigan. 9-0 Big 10, 12-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Big 10 Championship Gane vs. Iowa

#6 Ohio State. 8-1 Big 10, 11-1 overall

Like I said in the open, Ohio State has now lost 3 in a row to Michigan following 8 straight wins and 15 of the previous 16. Unlike the previous two games, this one came down to the end. Ryan Day played not to lose vs. an interim coach who played to win, and it cost him. Fortunately for Day, his job is safe for 2024 due to an expanded playoff and a division-less Big 10 coming, But Ohio State is the only team among the power 5 undefeated or 1-loss teams not playing this weekend. They’re not going to back into the playoff like they did last year, simply due to the number of undefeated and 1-loss teams. Meanwhile, in Indy, Michigan will destroy Iowa. The game won’t even be close. The Hawkeyes may have a tough defense, but they have an anemic offense.

CFP Top 10 Rankings:
1. Georgia
2. Michigan
3. Washington
4. Florida State
5. Oregon
6. Ohio State
7. Texas
8. Alabama
9. Mizzou
10. Penn State

Championship Saturday Predictions:
ACC: Florida State vs. Louisville: Florida State
Big 12: Oklahoma State vs. Texas: Texas
SEC: Georgia vs. Alabama: Alabama
Pac-12: Oregon vs. Washington: Washington
Big 10: Iowa vs. Michigan: Michigan

Playoff prediction:
Rose Bowl: #1 Michigan vs. #4 Texas
Sugar Bowl: #2 Washington vs. #3 Florida State

If this happens, there are 3 13-0 teams, and the last spot comes down to 12-1 Georgia, Alabama, and Texas. The committee values conference championships, which Alabama and Texas would have, common opponents, and head-to-head. Texas would have a win over Alabama while Georgia would have a loss, and Texas gets in due to their win over Alabama. The SEC hasn’t been left out of the playoff since inception, but even with SEC bias, they wouldn’t have any valid argument to take an SEC team in this scenario.

Predictions based on other scenarios:

Chalk: Georgia, Michigan, Washington, Florida State (them 4 and Texas winning is chalk). This is easy. 4 13-0 teams.

Chalk minus Washington: Georgia, Michigan, Florida State, Texas. Texas gets in over Oregon due to their win over Alabama while Oregon played no one in non-conference.

Chalk minus Georgia and Washington: Michigan, Florida State, Texas, Alabama. Alabama gets in over Oregon due to SEC bias.

Chalk minus Florida State and Texas: Georgia, Michigan, Washington, Ohio State. The only reason Ohio State would get in in this scenario is due to Jordan Travis’s injury. If he’s healthy, the Noles would still get in in this scenario.

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