Handicapping the CFP Race, Week 11

Another week of college football is in the books, and we’re almost at the end of the regular season. The top 4 held steady with Georgia, TCU, Michigan, and Ohio State remaining undefeated. The Pac-12’s playoff hopes took a major blow with Oregon and UCLA losing, taking away some of the hype from their marquee games this week. The ACC and SEC conference championship games were set this weekend, and TCU clinched a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game. So without further ado, here are the contenders for the playoff after week 11, going into week 12

Group of 5: No one
Independents: No one

ACC: #9 Clemson. 7-0 ACC, 9-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 12 vs. Miami, Week 13 vs. South Carolina, ACC Championship Game vs. North Carolina

Despite their loss to Notre Dame, they’re still in contention for the playoff, but they’re going to need some chaos to get in, as they face an uphill battle. They will need 4 or 5 teams in front of them to stumble to have a realistic chance at getting in.

Big 12: #4 TCU. 7-0 Big 12, 10-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 12 @ Baylor, Week 13 vs. Iowa State, Big 12 Championship Game (opponent TBD)

What were the oddsmakers thinking, making TCU a 7.5 point underdog against Texas? They handily defeated them in a game that was not as close as the final score indicated. TCU is 10-0 for the first time since 2010 when they were a mid-major school. Their path to the playoff is simple: Win out, and they’re in.

Big Ten: #3 Michigan. 7-0 Big 10, 10-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 12 vs. Illinois, Week 13 @ Ohio State.

#2 Ohio State. 7-0 Big 10, 10-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 12 @ Maryland, Week 13 vs. Michigan.

This is how it’s supposed to be in the Big Ten. Michigan. Ohio State. If Big Ten was division-less like they are talking about doing when USC and UCLA join for the 2024 season, this would be the Big Ten Championship Game. Regardless of what happens this week, Michigan-Ohio State will be for all the marbles in the Big Ten East. But don’t expect either team to lose. Look for both teams to be 11-0 going into this matchup just like the 2006 1 vs. 2 game. In the Big Ten West, what looked like Illinois’s division to win just 2 weeks ago is now in complete disarray following 2 consecutive losses by the Illini. 4 teams are tied at 4-3, and there is the potential for a 5-way tie at 5-4. I’m not even going to go into the tiebreaker scenarios.

Pac-12: #7 USC. 7-1 Pac 12, 9-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 12 @UCLA, Week 13 vs. Notre Dame.

As I mentioned in the opening, the Pac-12’s playoff hopes took a major blow this past weekend with Oregon losing to Washington, and UCLA losing to Arizona, with both teams losing at home, taking some of the luster off the USC vs. UCLA and Utah vs. Oregon games. USC is now the Pac-12’s only hope to make the playoff, and if they win out, they should be in, as they’ll have had 3 consecutive wins over ranked opponents in UCLA, Notre Dame, and the Pac-12 Championship Game.

SEC: #1 Georgia. 7-0 SEC, 10-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 12 @ Kentucky, Week 13 vs. Georgia Tech, SEC Championship Game vs. LSU

#5 Tennessee. 5-1 SEC, 9-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 12 @ South Carolina, Week 13 @ Vanderbilt.

#6 LSU. 6-1 SEC, 8-2 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 12 vs. UAB, Week 13 @ Texas A&M, SEC Championship Game vs. Georgia

#8 Alabama. 5-2 SEC, 8-2 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 12 vs. Austin Peay, Week 13 vs. Auburn.

After last week’s intriguing action, there were no real surprises this past week in the SEC. Georgia and LSU clinched their spots in the SEC Championship Game, Tennessee steam rolled Mizzou, and Alabama eliminated Ole Miss from playoff contention. The SEC has set themselves up nicely to get 2 teams in the playoff, and still might get 3 teams in.

Never before has a 2-loss team made the playoff, but due to SEC bias, LSU and Alabama still have a chance. LSU lost their opening week game to Florida State and lost to Tennessee. LSU has a quality win over Alabama, and winning the SEC would give them a top-5 win against Georgia, that would almost certainly put them in the playoff.

If this was any other conference, Alabama would have no chance at the playoff, but they are still alive due to SEC bias. This isn’t like the BCS era with computers ranking teams and writers with axes to grind and agendas to advance making the polls. The playoff is determined by a committee of 13 members. The fact this panel has them ranked 8th tells me they still have a chance, however faint. The committee says they value conference championships, head-to-head, and strength of schedule. However, they showed in 2017 that they don’t always follow those guidelines. Alabama won’t win their conference, let alone their division, they don’t have a signature win, and they lose the head to head with Tennessee and LSU. I don’t think Alabama will be in, but if several teams in front of them stumble, Alabama could sneak their way into the playoff.

Top 10 playoff rankings:

  1. Georgia
  2. Ohio State
  3. Michigan
  4. TCU
  5. Tennessee
  6. LSU
  7. USC
  8. Alabama
  9. Clemson
  10. Utah

Championship Saturday matchup predictions:
ACC: Clemson vs. North Carolina (set)
Big 12: TCU (clinched spot) vs. Oklahoma State
Big 10: Iowa vs. Ohio State
Pac-12: Oregon vs. USC
SEC: Georgia vs. LSU (set)

Games to watch for this week:
USC vs. UCLA, Utah vs. Oregon. As I mentioned in the opener, these games have lost some of their luster due to the losses by UCLA and Oregon, but they’re still the top games this week. The loser of Oregon-Utah is eliminated from winning the Pac-12, while USC clinches a spot in the Pac-12 championship game with a win over their intra-city rivals.

Playoff prediction:
Peach Bowl: #1 Georgia vs. #4 TCU
Fiesta Bowl: #2 Ohio State vs. #3 Tennessee

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