Hello, college football fans!
We're one way until the College Football Playoff field is announced!
A lot has happened in the college football world has happened since last week's projections.
First, Michigan/Ohio State was canceled. The original rule in the Big Ten was that a team needed to play six conference games to be eligible for the conference championship game. But the Big Ten then decided to change the rule and allow the Ohio State Buckeyes to "win" the East Division and represent them in next Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game vs. the West Division champs, the Northwestern Wildcats.
How do I feel about this? I don't think there's anyone in the Big Ten or the country that can debate that Ohio State isn't the Big Ten East's (or the Big Ten's) best team (Northwestern could argue but they'll get the chance to prove they are better on the field this Saturday. COVID-19 willing). The Indiana Hoosiers can argue the rules and this is what the Big Ten agreed to but Indiana played Ohio State this season and lost. If Indiana had won that game, Indiana would be playing in the Big Ten Championship Game. The only reason Indiana can say they should be playing in the championship game is because of a rule that is punishing Ohio State because Michigan and Maryland had two many COVID-19 cases which I think is unfair (in the Illinois case, it was Ohio State that had the problem so you could say it was "their fault" if you are even saying it's anyone's fault). The Big Ten did build in a contingency plan with an "average number of games" but they weren't prepared for the number of games that were going to be canceled. Ohio State wasn't the only team that lost three games this season, Maryland and Wisconsin also did. Only Penn State, Rutgers, and Iowa (three out of 14 teams) played a full eight games. Other conferences dealt with cancellations as well. It might have been a rule that sounded good at the beginning of the season but it was stupid at the end to "punish" a team.
Was the rule changed only because of Ohio State? I'm not saying it wasn't. Would it have been changed if Indiana had been 5-0 and beat a 6-1 Ohio State and the rule favored Ohio State getting in the championship game instead of a 5-0 Indiana who would have earned their spot? In this situation, the right thing to do would have been to allow Indiana to play in the championship game. Would the Big Ten have done it or said "rules are rules, Ohio State's playing". I can't answer that question. I'd like to believe the Big Ten would've done the right thing. Certainly there is a lot of skepticism outside of the Big Ten because Ohio State is favored in this case and it's pretty clear that Ohio State's resume looks a lot better with a Big Ten Championship on it vs. not having it.
The other big story affecting the Playoff race happened last night. You might not have seen it because it happened in the fog. I mentioned last week that the ACC canceled Notre Dame's game with Wake Forest and the SEC's commissioner questioned the move and refused to do it for their teams who had clinched or were in position to clinch berths in the SEC Championship Game. Now I'm sure he wishes he had as the Florida Gators were upset by the LSU Tigers and they threw away their Playoff hopes ... literally. You can't make this stuff up!
This does take away one potential team that could have taken away Ohio State's Playoff spot (I wasn't saying it but others were). I thought Florida would have been in with a win and Notre Dame would have been out with a loss but people are saying Notre Dame's in win or lose and if Florida had won Ohio State would be out. People didn't respect Ohio State and really don't respect OSU now after getting "preferential treatment". Dabo Swinney went as far to say his Clemson Tigers belong in the Playoff even if his team LOSES to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Is he for real? Who's Clemson beaten this year that's any good? They beat a Miami Hurricanes team that looked like crap yesterday on their home field. I'll give them they couldn't beat Notre Dame in South Bend without Trevor Lawrence (and took them to 3 OT). But you better show us when you play them Saturday in Charlotte which is basically a home game for you. You lose that game, you're not a Playoff team. Oh, and it's not like the ACC didn't take care of you. You didn't have to play Saturday either. Ask Florida how big that was. Ohio State beat #12 Indiana and will beat #14 Northwestern (if they lose to them, they won't be in the Playoff). I hope Ohio State and Clemson play in the Playoff and OSU embarrasses them.
Relevant Conference Championship Games:
Big Ten (Noon ET, FOX) #4 Ohio State vs. #14 Northwestern
Big 12 (Noon, ET, ABC) #7 Iowa State vs. #11 Oklahoma
ACC (4pm ET, ABC) #2 Notre Dame vs. #3 Clemson
SEC (8pm ET, CBS) #1 Alabama vs #6, will go down, Florida
AAC (8pm ET, ABC) #8 Cincinnati vs. #24 Tulsa
Related to the Playoff race is the fact that the Cincinnati Bearcats had a game at Tulsa cancelled due to COVID-19. On one hand, it would have been a tough road game that Cincinnati could have been an underdog in or at the very least had a decent chance of losing and if they had lost they would have been eliminated from Playoff consideration. The problem is had Cincinnati won at Tulsa it would have improved their resume and the Bearcats lost that opportunity.
In the most recent CFP rankings, Iowa State jumped Cincinnati for #7 which I think is a complete joke and shows disrespect against non Power 5 teams. Iowa State has two losses including one to a Group of 5 team! The Big 12 embarrassed themselves in non conference play this year! If the CFP Committee won't rank Cincinnati ahead of a two loss Iowa State, is there any chance Cincinnati makes the Playoff?
I'll start with my projections, the same as the last two weeks:
Big Ten: Ohio State beats Northwestern
SEC: Alabama beats Florida
ACC: Clemson beats Notre Dame
AAC: Cincinnati beats Tulsa (and goes undefeated)
Big 12: Oklahoma beats Iowa State
Rose Bowl: Jan. 1, 5pm: #2 Clemson vs. #3 Ohio State (Because OSU wasn't able to play Michigan and based on current CFP rankings, I'll say the Committee will rank Clemson ahead, not that it will matter if they are #2 and #3).
Sugar Bowl: Jan. 1, 8:30pm: #1 Alabama vs. #4 Notre Dame
If Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame win,
Rose Bowl: #2 Notre Dame vs. #3 Ohio State
Sugar Bowl: #1 Alabama vs. #4 Texas A&M (assuming they don't lose at Tennessee)
I'm not ready to think about any chaos scenarios such as Alabama, Ohio State, or Texas A&M losing (Texas A&M losing won't matter if Clemson beats Notre Dame).
If Clemson wins, then A&M will likely be #5. Knowing the CFP Committee, they'll probably rank Oklahoma #6 if they beat Iowa State, ahead of Cincinnati, who will be #7. I'm not sure if they will drop Florida below Georgia considering Florida beat them although they will have three losses by the time they are through. I'll put Florida #8, Georgia #9, and for now Indiana #10. That would initially put Texas A&M in the Orange Bowl, Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, Cincinnati would want the Peach Bowl ahead of the Fiesta Bowl, Florida would "choose" the Cotton Bowl again allowing the Cotton and Orange to switch, Georgia would get to "stay home" in the Peach, and Indiana ... is stuck in the Fiesta Bowl.
Should Georgia be ranked ahead of Florida, I'm sure the Cotton Bowl will still want Texas A&M. Maybe the Orange Bowl will rather have Georgia instead of Texas A&M and still want a trade. Or they do a triple trade involving the Peach Bowl allowing Texas A&M, Florida, and Georgia to play in their home states. If there were fans at the games, it would be a no brainer.
As for the other Fiesta Bowl team, well the Pathetic 12 has to get a team in no matter how bad they suck, so their champion gets the other bid. Finally, North Carolina jumps Miami for the Orange Bowl's ACC bid.
Cotton Bowl: Dec. 30, 7:15pm: #5 Texas A&M vs. #6 Oklahoma
Peach Bowl: Jan. 1, 12:30pm: #7 Cincinnati vs. #9 Georgia
Fiesta Bowl: Jan. 2, 4pm: Pathetic 12 Champion vs. #10 Indiana
Orange Bowl: Jan. 2, 8pm: #8 Florida vs. North Carolina
If Iowa State somehow wins the Big 12 Championship, maybe the Cotton Bowl doesn't want them and will want Cincinnati or Indiana instead. Fans won't mean as much (although Texas will probably allow some fans). None of the teams will likely bring that many TV viewers.
If Notre Dame beats Clemson, Clemson goes to the Orange Bowl, sending Texas A&M into the Playoff. That would open up the Cotton Bowl for Indiana. As for the Fiesta? They'll just take anybody willing to travel to the Arizona Desert if they can find anybody. Why not an undefeated Coastal Carolina?
Final shoutout to Sarah Fuller, Vanderbilt kicker who became the first female to score for a Power 5 team yesterday!