Hello, college football/Big Ten fans!
The 2022 season gets crazier and crazier! I don't know who's on first or what's on second! Well at least it keeps these columns interesting!
Only the conference championships (and Army/Navy and some makeup games) remain in this season. Next Sunday, the College Football Playoff teams will be announced. I've been trying to project them all season but that was assuming certain results which for the most part have been wrong:) But I'd like to have seen most of you to have done better the last few weeks!
Before I predict conference championship games, let's evaluate teams if the season ended today.
Before yesterday, it seemed like an obvious answer, the Georgia Bulldogs. But no one other than biased Michigan Wolverines fans thought Michigan would win yesterday at Ohio State, especially with an injured Blake Corum. They not only won, but they dominated. Georgia can't claim any victory as good as Ohio State and they haven't beaten anyone on the road anywhere near as good as the Buckeyes (their best wins are 8-4 South Carolina and 8-4 Mississippi State). They didn't beat Alabama and they don't play LSU until next week. Keep in mind Michigan also has a win over 10-2 Penn State as well. If I were voting now, Michigan would be my #1 team although Georgia could go back up if they beat LSU.
How Far Does Ohio State Fall?
Losing at home is bad, especially by 22 points.
Let's compare current losses by other teams in the CFP Rankings:
6. USC (at Utah, 9-3, 1 pt)
7. Alabama (at Tennessee, 10-2, 3 pt, at LSU, 9-3, 1 pt)
8. Tennessee (at Georgia, 12-0, 14 pt, at South Carolina, 8-4, 25 pts)
On the other hand, consider the top wins of each of these teams.
- Ohio State: Notre Dame, at Penn State
- USC: at Oregon State, "at" UCLA, Notre Dame
- Alabama: at Texas, Mississippi State? (Mississippi is currently ranked but should drop out)
- Tennessee: at LSU, Alabama
I would rank the Buckeyes #5 behind Michigan, Georgia, the TCU Horned Frogs, and the USC Trojans, and ahead of Alabama and Tennessee. Ohio State's road win at Penn State is definitely better than any of Alabama's. and their loss is certainly better than either Tennessee or LSU. Alabama wasn't helped yesterday when a 5-7 Texas A&M beat LSU. If A&M beat LSU, why couldn't Alabama? Who beat Michigan this year? No one. Alabama could be helped if LSU wins the SEC Championship.
Ironically Ohio State can be helped by, of all teams, Toledo winning the MAC Championship. If we're going to punish Ohio State for their big loss and reward Alabama for their close losses, how about rewardlng OSU for the fact that they beat all of their 11 opponents by double figures while Alabama has a one point win over Texas and two other wins of less than a single possession (Texas A&M and Mississippi). I heard a lot of talk about a debate between Ohio State and Alabama.
Did we forget that Alabama lost to Tennessee and Tennessee has the same number of losses? Forget Alabama vs. Ohio State, Tennessee belongs in the Playoff over Alabama and if Alabama does make the Playoff over Tennessee, Tennessee should be incredibly angry.
My top 8 right now:
1. Michigan (12-0)
2. Georgia (12-0)
3. TCU (12-0)
4. USC (11-1)
5. Ohio State (11-1)
6. Tennessee (10-2)
7. Alabama (10-2)
8. Penn State (10-2)
Conference Championship Games:
Michigan most likely is in, win or lose. They certainly wouldn't want to fall to the 4th seed with a loss and have to play Georgia in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. I can't read the CFP Committee's minds, but if there is a race between Michigan and Georgia for the #1 overall seed, both schools might be trying to impress the committee next Saturday. The #1 seed and the right to play in Atlanta obviously would mean a lot more to Georgia than to Michigan but certainly they can hurt UGa's chances of winning their semifinal if they force them away from Atlanta.
Congratulations to Purdue. It's their first ever trip to the Big Ten Championship Game and their first ever Big Ten Division championship. And this is Purdue we're talking about. Last year Purdue knocked out both Iowa and Michigan State when they were both highly ranked and Ohio State fans remember 2018 when Purdue knocked them off, essentially costing them the national championship. Michigan will certainly be a heavy favorite but they shouldn't underestimate Purdue, especially this season.
Prediction: Michigan over Purdue
Georgia also looks to be in, win or lose. LSU's loss to Texas A&M eliminated the possibility of the Tigers passing them in the standings. On paper, LSU has no business winning this game. They beat Alabama but at home in overtime on a lucky 2 point conversion. On the road, their best wins were vs. 6-6 Florida and 6-6 Arkansas (13-10). Don't forget they lost what was essentially a home game (in New Orleans) to Florida State in addition to their loss to Texas A&M. But of course in this crazy mixed up season, watch LSU win. I'm not going to pick it though.
Prediction: Georgia over LSU
After many close calls, TCU blew out Iowa State 62-14 last week. I've mentioned for weeks that TCU was hoping for Kansas State to be the opponent in the Big 12 Championship Game as they wouldn't have many fans in Arlington vs. Texas who would have a ton of fans. They got their wish. This game is a virtual home game for TCU, even more than Georgia in Atlanta (they certainly will have an advantage playing far away LSU as opposed to nearby and more popular Alabama).
An interesting question is can TCU make the Playoff if they lose? They would not have the conference championship when compared to Ohio State. Their best wins would be over two loss Kansas State (home) and Texas (road). Their loss would be to Kansas State which would be considered a neutral loss but might as well be a home loss and KSU is a three loss team (one to a Group of 5 team, although they are hosting the AAC Championship Game) vs. OSU's loss to an undefeated Michigan. If the CFP Committee cares about margin of victory, that could come into play. Ohio State fans probably should want TCU to get blown out.
Prediction: TCU over Kansas State
USC is certainly the biggest winner of losses yesterday. It was slightly insulting of them to have been ranked behind two loss LSU last Tuesday but now it really doesn't matter. The Pac 12 has five teams in the latest CFP Rankings. USC played Oregon State and UCLA along with Notre Dame and has a shot vs Utah, the one team they lost to earlier this year. Win and they should be in the Playoff. Even better for them was Oregon's meltdown vs. Oregon State which sent Utah to Las Vegas instead of Oregon which knocked both 2020 USC and 2019 Utah out of Playoff consideration.
USC has to like their chances of making the Playoff much more vs. Utah than they would have vs. Oregon. I don't expect Utah to roll over and die, they're playing for the Rose Bowl (I would expect Washington to go to Pasadena if USC wins and goes to the Playoff).
Prediction: USC over Utah
Even if Michigan does pass Georgia this week, Georgia will be playing the better opponent in their conference championship game. This is also the CFP Committee which has been known to be biased against our Big Ten and towards that other conference. So I'm still going to predict Georgia will be #1 at the end. I think Michigan should be ahead now but if you add a win over LSU that does improve Georgia's resume and it would be closer.
Fiesta Bowl: #2 Michigan (13-0) vs. #3 TCU (13-0), Dec. 31, 1st Semifinal
Peach Bowl: #1 Georgia (13-0) vs. #4 USC (!2-1), Dec. 31, 2nd Semifinal
New Year's Six:
Rose Bowl: Ohio State (11-1) vs. Washington (10-2), Jan. 2, 5pm
Sugar Bowl: Tennessee (10-2) vs. Kansas State (9-4), Dec. 31, noon - Editor's Note: Changed from Texas after relooking at the CFP Rankings, KSU is way ahead of Texas and would really have to drop after losing to an undefeated team to lose the Sugar Bowl spot to Texas.
Orange Bowl: Clemson (11-2) vs. Alabama (10-2), Dec. 30, 8pm
Cotton Bowl: Tulane (11-2) vs. Penn State (10-2), Jan. 2, 1pm
I wouldn't put anything past the biased CFP Committee but the ideal scenario for the Big Ten would be Utah beating USC and Ohio State clinching that 4th spot (it would be better if TCU got blown out so even if they put Alabama ahead of OSU they would still get in). I can certainly see Tennessee and Alabama switched.
I think the fact that South Carolina beat Clemson made Tennessee's loss look not as bad while LSU losing to Texas A&M made Alabama's loss look worse but the CFP Committee could just see "Alabama" and just be biased (or just care about point differential more than they should).
The highest ranked from the SEC or Big Ten goes to the Orange Bowl (not counting Playoff, Rose Bowl, or Sugar Bowl representatives). So if Penn State beats out either Alabama or Tennessee in the final CFP rankings, they go to Miami instead of Dallas. The problem with that is then the Big Ten has to give their berth in the Relia Quest Bowl (formerly Outback Bowl) in Tampa to the ACC. So the Big Ten is better off if Penn State goes to the Cotton Bowl than the Orange. Of course, if Ohio State sneaks into the Playoff, Penn State goes to the Rose Bowl.
The worst case NY6 scenario is if LSU upsets Georgia and Tennessee and Alabama rank ahead of PSU. Then LSU goes to the Sugar Bowl as CFP Champion, Georgia still goes to the Playoff, and Alabama and Tennessee go to the Orange and Cotton Bowls.
North Carolina and UCF would obviously replace Clemson and Tulane if they win.
Big Ten Bowls:
Citrus Bowl: Jan. 2, 1pm: Purdue (8-5) (likely vs. 9-4 LSU)
Relia Quest Bowl: Jan. 2, 12:30pm: Illinois (8-4) (likely vs. 8-4 South Carolina, maybe vs. 8-4 Mississippi State) - I must have miscounted their record, I certainly wouldn't have predicted they would lose to Northwestern.
Duke's Mayo Bowl: Charlotte, Dec. 30, noon: Minnesota (8-4)
Music City Bowl: Nashville, Dec. 31, noon, Maryland (7-5)
Pinstripe Bowl: New York, Dec. 29. 2pm: Iowa (7-5)
Guaranteed Rate Bowl, Phoenix, Dec. 27, 10:15pm: Wisconsin (6-6)