Hello, college football/Big Ten fans!
This college football season never fails to disappoint!
The Big Ten's own Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes looked yesterday like they were looking ahead but eventually won their games to finish 11-0. The TCU Horned Frogs also had a close call. Meanwhile the Tennessee Volunteers weren't so lucky as they got stomped on by South Carolina??? 63 points?
The AP and Coaches polls are out, the CFP poll comes out Tuesday. If these are an indication, the USC Trojans are expected to move up to #5, the LSU Tigers to #6. The Clemson Tigers are #7 in the AP while the Alabama Crimson Tide are #7 in the coaches poll. Tennessee is #9 in the AP and #11 in the coaches poll behind the Oregon Ducks and Penn State Nittany Lions. Penn State can brag that their only losses this year are to two undefeated teams, who else can say that? The problem is the best team the Lions beat this year is either 7-4 Purdue and Minnesota or 8-3 Ohio University.
So with Tennessee's loss, back to the drawing board for my Playoff Projection.
"The Game" is really "The Game" this year. 11-0 vs. 11-0. The last time they were both undefeated when they met was 2006 and the game was a 42-39 thriller. The winner is the Big Ten West winner away from the Playoff. In last week's Playoff Projections, I said an 11-1 Tennessee would definitely get in over the loser of Michigan-Ohio State but Tennessee is obviously out of the picture so the chances that the loser makes it goes up.
Big Ten West? Iowa went on the road in Minnesota and now are the overwhelming favorite to win the West Division, they only have to beat 3-8 Nebraska at home to clinch the tiebreaker over Purdue. Purdue needs a win and a miracle from Nebraska to advance to Indy. My Illinois needs to beat Northwestern and TWO miracles from both Nebraska and Indiana. The bad news for Purdue and Illinois is they're probably not going to win the Big Ten West. The good news is they're probably not golng to get stomped on by Michigan or Ohio State either.
Big Ten Championship Game Prediction: Ohio State (13-0) over Iowa (8-5)
The Georgia Bulldogs didn't look good (at least on the scoreboard, I was watching Ohio State and a little of Penn State yesterday). They have Georgia Tech this week before the SEC Championship vs. LSU. LSU still has a conference game vs. Texas A&M. The best chance the SEC has of getting two teams in the Playoff is for LSU to win the SEC Championship Game but you'd still have to justify LSU over a Tennessee team with the same number of losses and that beat them 40-13, the Michigan-Ohio State loser, most likely TCU (even with one loss they'd have a case over a two loss LSU), and potentially Clemson and/or USC. Also, for this to happen, Georgia would likely have to give up their #1 seed to the Big Ten champion and have to go to Phoenix (Fiesta Bowl) for the Playoff instead of playing their semifinal in nearby Atlanta and it being a practical home game.
SEC Championship Game Prediction: Georgia (13-0) over LSU (10-3)
They're not winning pretty but they're winning and that's all that matters. Some people thought Tennessee was better than TCU but that's out the window. The Frogs are Iowa State from an undefeated regular season and they won't have to leave the Dallas/Fort Worth area for the Big 12 Championship as it will be at Jerry World in Arlington. Kansas State is the favorite for the second seed, win at home over Kansas and they are in, and that's great news for TCU and the Big 12. If Kansas wins, it opens the door for Texas if they beat Baylor, and that would be a nightmare for TCU and the Big 12 (in more ways than one with UT heading to the SEC). Kansas State has won road games at Baylor and Oklahoma this year and the game in Fort Worth was close (38-28) so should it be KSU-TCU it won't be a gimme for Texas Christian but most teams would love a "home" game for the conference championship game, especially a small private school that would have been outnumbered by a lot of Big 12 schools.
Big 12 Championship Game Prediction: TCU (13-0) over Kansas State (9-4)
Things are looking up for them. USC did what they needed to do, survive the shootout with cross town rival UCLA. I miscalculated the tiebreaker last week between Oregon, Washington, and Utah. I had thought Arizona State was a common opponent but ASU didn't play Oregon. Instead, the Deseret News figured out the tiebreaker. It goes down to Pac 12 "strength of schedule" and Utah would win a three way tiebreaker between Utah, Oregon, and Washington.
This scenario also assumes UCLA beats California. If California beats UCLA, then tiebreaker #3 changes from record vs. UCLA and Oregon State to just Oregon State. Oregon is the only school that would have lost to Oregon State so they would be out, leaving Washington and Utah. Then they go to common opponents. The only team Washington played Utah didn't play is California and the only team Utah played Washington didn't is USC. That changes nothing. It then goes to record against best common opponent and Washington beat Oregon so they would go.
But Oregon could make it easy for everyone, win and they're in. Of course that would be bad news for USC and the Pac 12. USC has been down this road before (2020) as they were playing the Pac 12 Championship for a possible College Football Playoff bid and lost. Oregon also cost Utah a potential Playoff bid in 2019. The last team USC wants to see in Las Vegas is Oregon. The Trojans haven't played Washington either this year so that could be an unknown. They lost to Utah but that was at Salt Lake City by a point. On the other hand, USC might be trying to get the highest ranked opponent and Oregon, if they beat Oregon State, would be. Washington wouldn't be too far behind. Utah already has three losses including a loss to a Florida team that lost to Vanderbilt yesterday. Right now the Trojans can't afford to look past Notre Dame, just ask Clemson and North Carolina.
Pac 12 Championship Game: USC (12-1) over Utah (9-4)
The good news for Clemson is Tennessee lost. The bad news is North Carolina also lost, at home to Georgia Tech. This ruins the ranking of Clemson's ACC Championship Game opponent. North Carolina's slim Playoff chances are now zero and it all lies with Clemson. USC also won and if both USC and Clemson finish 12-1 and conference champions it's really easy to use Notre Dame as the tiebreaker between the two. Clemson also has a South Carolina team coming in with a ton of confidence next week but I would expect Clemson to win that game easily (and South Carolina could help Clemson's resume). Unlike TCU and past ACC Championship Games, Clemson will have North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte so there will likely be UNC fans there this time.
ACC Championship Game: Clemson (12-1) over North Carolina (10-3)
Group of 5:
Central Florida had an easy trip to hosting the AAC Championship Game ahead of them but blew a home game to 4-7 Navy. Cincinnati and Tulane now lead the AAC standings and the winner of that game will host the AAC Championship Game. Coastal Carolina still has just one loss while both Tulane and Cincinnati have two but they trail both Tulane and Cincinnati in both the AP and Coaches polls and their one loss was a 28 point loss to a 3-8 Old Dominion team at home.
I would expect the Tulane-Cincinnati winner to remain the highest ranked Group of 5 champion even if Coastal Carolina finishes 12-1. There is a potential three team tiebreaker between the Tulane-Cincinnati loser, UCF, and Houston.
AAC Championship Game (Group of 5 NY6 Bid): Cincinnati will win, I'm not going to bother to figure out who will make it.
Georgia (13-0), Ohio State (13-0), and TCU (13-0) will be in and the remaining one loss teams will be USC (12-1), Clemson (12-1), and Michigan (11-1). Michigan of course won't have the conference championship on their resume. They though will have the best loss, on the road to an undefeated Ohio State. USC's loss was to a four loss Utah (would be three if Oregon or Washington makes the Pac 12 Championship Game instead). Clemson's would be to a three or four loss Notre Dame. Among teams ranked in either the AP or Coaches poll:
USC: Oregon State, UCLA, Notre Dame, one of Utah, Oregon, or Washington
Clemson: North Carolina, Florida State
Michigan: Penn State
The Pac 12 has six teams in the last College Football Playoff. If Oregon State loses to Oregon, they likely won't be in the final Playoff rankings but that's still five. It's still a lot of respect for the conference so I think in this scenario plus Notre Dame should be enough for USC to get the nod if they win out.
I think the interesting scenario will be if USC (or TCU) loses and it is between Clemson and Michigan. Penn State is a better win than either Florida State or North Carolina but Clemson beat both. Michigan's loss was way better and you can't help but think Clemson lost 35-14 to Notre Dame (if Notre Dame loses to USC, they'll be a four loss team). South Carolina's win does help Clemson. I think it would be too close to call and the results of the last two weeks probably will be a factor. But for now,...
Fiesta Bowl: #2 Ohio State (13-0) vs. #3 TCU (13-0), Dec. 31, First Semifinal
Peach Bowl: #1 Georgia (13-0) vs. #4 USC (12-1), Dec. 1, Second Semifinal
The only CFP rankings that matter will be the final ones but watch out for the second to last one to see where the Michigan-Ohio State loser is ranked in relation to USC and Clemson. I still think either or both could pass the Michigan-Ohio State loser with a conference championship (also pay attention to where their opponents are ranked, if they aren't in the top ten, that would make their conference championship wins less impressive).
New Year's Six:
Tennessee's loss slightly shakes up the potential lineup. Right now Tennessee dropped below LSU and Alabama but in the end you would have to evaluate the three after the dust settles. UT beat both U of A and LSU (LSU in Baton Rouge 40-13) so they'd have to be the top SEC team among the three. Assuming they don't beat Georgia, LSU will drop by having their third loss and even though they beat Alabama it was at home by a point and a lucky two attempt. I can certainly argue the SEC order behind Georgia is Tennessee, Alabama, LSU. Penn State is also in the mix and LSU will be the odd one out.
Orange Bowl: Dec. 30, 8pm: Clemson (12-1) vs. Alabama (10-2)
Sugar Bowl: Dec. 31, noon: Tennessee (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4) - I guarantee UT will win!
Cotton Bowl: Jan, 1, 1pm: Cincinnati (11-2) vs. Penn State (10-2)
Rose Bowl: Jan. 1, 5pm: Michigan (11-1) vs. Washington (10-2)
Other Big Ten bowls:
Citrus Bowl: Jan. 1, 1pm: Purdue (8-4) (Iowa went to Disney World last year) vs. LSU (10-3)
ReliaQuest Bowl, Tampa: Jan. 1, noon: Iowa (8-5) vs. Mississippi (9-3)
Duke's Mayo Bowl: Charlotte Dec. 30, noon: Illinois (7-5) (Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team to play there)
Music City Bowl: Dec. 31, noon, Wisconsin (7-5)
Pinstripe Bowl: Dec. 29. 2pm: Minnesota (7-5) (Maryland went last year)
Guaranteed Rate Bowl, Phoenix, Dec. 27, 10:15pm: Maryland (7-5)
Teams could go up or down depending on whether Penn State makes a NY6 Bowl or not (or if it's the Orange Bowl since then the Big Ten has to give the Relia Quest Bowl to the ACC), and if the Big Ten gets both Michigan and Ohio State in the Playoff.
Enjoy Michigan-Ohio State!