Update: I completely forgot about Ohio State when it came to the NY6. What was I thinking???
Hello, college football/Big Ten fans!
Welcome to my second College Football Playoff projection for 2023.
Last Tuesday the College Football Playoff committee released their first rankings for the season and we've had our first week of action since then. How does that affect the Playoff race?
All of the "Big Three" (#1 Ohio State Buckeyes, #3 Michigan Wolverines, and #11 Penn State Nittany Lions) won Saturday. Undefeated Michigan and Penn State, whose only loss was to Ohio State, meet Saturday at Happy Valley. If Michigan wins, it should set up an undefeated showdown in Ann Arbor between Ohio State and Michigan on Nov. 25. If Penn State wins, Ohio State, assuming they get past Michigan State and Minnesota at home the next two weeks, can still win the Big Ten East outright at Michigan but Michigan can force a three way tie with a win.
As I mentioned in last week's FanPost, a tie likely goes to conference records by the Big Ten West opponents each team plays. Penn State picked up two key wins as both Iowa and Illinois won so right now Iowa has taken the lead with eight wins between Iowa, Illinois, and Northwestern. Michigan has seven wins between Minnesota, Nebraska, and Purdue and Ohio State also has seven wins between Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Purdue. Illinois's win over Minnesota was huge for Penn State, it was an extra win for them and prevented both Ohio State and Michigan from gaining a win.
Also, both Wisconsin and Nebraska were upset by Indiana and Michigan State, respectively. Minnesota and Purdue play so both Ohio State and Michigan will gain a win no matter what. Northwestern goes to Wisconsin in a head to head that will affect both Ohio State and Penn State. Illinois's last two games are against Iowa and Northwestern so no matter what happens Penn State will gain. Minnesota also goes to Ohio State in a game that can only help Penn State. If Minnesota loses, they give Michigan and Ohio State in the divisional tiebreaker. But if Minnesota can beat Ohio State and Michigan beats Ohio State, then the three way tie becomes a two way tie between Penn State and Michigan with PSU having the head to head. But if Penn State doesn't win this Saturday, none of this will matter.
As for the West Division, the Iowa Hawkeyes now have a one game lead over Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Iowa has the tiebreaker over Wisconsin but not over Minnesota and Iowa and Nebraska end the season vs. each other.
Big Ten Championship Prediction: Michigan over Iowa
The #2 Georgia Bulldogs and #8 Alabama Crimson Tide picked up key victories. Both teams will book their trip to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta with a win. The Missouri Tigers can't win the SEC East now because Georgia has the head to head. The Tennessee Volunteers can win the division with three wins but need Georgia to lose at home to the #10 Ole Miss Rebels this week. Meanwhile Alabama needs just one win or one Mississippi loss to clinch the SEC West. Alabama travels to Lexington to play Kentucky but hosts Auburn in the Iron Bowl the final week.
But success for Georgia and Atlanta isn't measured by getting to Atlanta, it's getting to the Playoff so losing isn't an option for each. Alabama absolutely has no margin for error to make the Playoff. Georgia could make the Playoff with a loss, especially if it is in the regular season and they still win the SEC Championship game (it would be less ideal for them to lose to a 12-1 Alabama with a head to head win over them). Alabama (and Georgia) also have to worry about the fact that Texas beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa and if Texas wins out the head to head will certainly come into play.
SEC Championship Prediction: Georgia over Alabama
The #4 Florida State Seminoles continue to win. With the ACC likely being the weakest of the Power 5 conferences this year, FSU likely has no margin for error, any loss likely eliminates them from Playoff contention, even if they come back to win the ACC. The Louisville Cardinals were ranked 13th in the first CFP rankings and could beat Florida State in the ACC Championship and finish 12-1 but their one loss is to a 2-7 Pittsburgh and that is definitely going to be held against them.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish likely were already out of the Playoff race but the loss at Clemson likely costs them a New Year's Six bowl game.
ACC Championship Prediction: Florida State over Louisville
The #5 Washington Huskies remained undefeated by winning a shootout at USC while the #6 Oregon Ducks remained right behind them. Both teams have big home games, Washington hosts Utah and Oregon hosts USC, both Utah and Oregon have two conference losses, USC also has a non conference loss at Notre Dame. Oregon State has a chance to beat both Washington and Oregon in the last two weeks.
The Pac-12 outside of Washington and Oregon, meanwhile, has fallen back to Earth as Arizona, who earlier this year lost to SEC bottom feeder Mississippi State, has beaten three consecutive ranked opponents and Colorado has collapsed. The Pac 12 might just be a two team conference.
The Pac 12 also was hurt when Oklahoma lost and Texas likely became the favorite to win the Big 12. A one loss Oregon likely would have a better resume over a one loss Oklahoma but if it came down to Oregon and Texas who won at Alabama it isn't as clear.
Pac 12 Championship Prediction: Oregon over Washington
Oklahoma's loss means only the #7 Texas Longhorns remain in the Playoff race. Texas and Oklahoma State are now tied for 1st with one conference loss with the top two teams making the conference championship game. Texas's one loss is to two loss Oklahoma, Oklahoma State's is to two loss (in conference) Iowa State. There are five teams with two conference losses so should Texas and/or Oklahoma State lose, there are plenty of teams that could make it to Jerry World.
Big 12 Championship Prediction: Texas over Oklahoma State
The main difference this week is that Texas is now favored to win the Big 12 instead of Oklahoma and Texas has the non conference win at Alabama to improve their case. On the other hand, Oregon will avenge their only loss to Washington and Oregon's loss will be to a one loss Washington team and Washington should on paper be a better win over Alabama who will have two losses.
Oregon's currently ahead of Alabama now and that's with Texas already having the win over Texas on its resume. If Oregon beats Washington in the Pac 12 Championship their resume can only get better. Texas can only beat Big 12 teams and their most likely Big 12 Championship Game opponent is an Oklahoma State team that lost at home to South Alabama. I'll stick with Oregon now.
Rose Bowl: #1 Michigan (13-0) vs. #4 Oregon (12-1), Jan. 1, 5pm
Sugar Bowl: #2 Georgia (13-0) vs. #3 Florida State (13-0), Jan. 1, 8:30pm
New Year's Six:
Note: Totally reshuffled these 11/6/23.
Cotton Bowl: Fri. Dec. 29, 8pm: Texas (12-1) vs. Mississippi (10-2)
Peach Bowl: Sat. Dec. 30, noon: Penn State (10-2) vs. Tulane (12-1)
Orange Bowl: Sat. Dec. 30, 4pm: Ohio State (11-1) vs. Louisville (11-2)
Fiesta Bowl: Mon. Jan. 1, 1pm: Washington (12-1) vs. Alabama (11-2)
The ACC is entitled to one of the Orange Bowl slots and unlike last week, I don't think Notre Dame can fill it no matter what. Notre Dame can be in the slot opposite the ACC but is competing with the SEC and Big Ten and with three losses has no shot at it. Right now Ohio State is projected to only lose to Michigan so they should finish in the Big Ten/SEC/Notre Dame slot. Louisville likely won't be ranked very high but unless there's trading between the bowls, OSU likely will be stuck there playing a weak opponent. Should Alabama upset Georgia in the SEC Championship, Georgia might wind up in Miami (if Alabama wins the SEC and doesn't make the Playoff, by rule they can't play in the Orange Bowl).
The Big 12 Champion normally plays in the Sugar Bowl if they don't make the Playoff but the Sugar Bowl is a semifinal this year so Texas has to play elsewhere so the Cotton Bowl is the most obvious alternative. They would be playing back to back games in Jerry World but Texas likely can't get enough of Dallas. Now I had Washington who will likely be one of the highest ranked one loss teams after losing to Oregon in the Cotton Bowl but I think it's more reasonable to let a Western team stay out West in the Fiesta Bowl. Alabama and Mississippi can't both be in the same bowl, Alabama already played Texas, and Mississippi already played Tulane. So I thought why not make Alabama travel out West and give Washington a top opponent (with the FIesta on NYD it needs to be a somewhat decent game)? Texas also needs a top opponent and if they played Penn State then Tulane and Mississippi would rematch so Mississippi meets Texas in a future SEC preview. Meanwhile PSU draws the short end of the stick playing the G5 team but gets the shortest trip to Atlanta. Certainly if Penn State is willing to fly all the way out to Arizona I could set up Washington-Penn State in the desert (the Fiesta was where PSU did win the national championship back in January 1987) and then Alabama gets Tulane as well. Ole Miss should be the one playing Tulane but they obviously played them already. Tulane should be the team that has to go to Arizona but that would be disrespectful to Washington. Maybe they do set up one loss Washington vs. one loss Texas in Dallas (or in Arizona). Would Texas want to leave Dallas if they can play there? And if Texas and Washington play in Dallas, Tulane's obviously going to Phoenix but who else do you punish (and it can't be Ole Miss)? You think Nick Saban's going to stand to have to go to Arizona and play Tulane?
Best Case and Worst Case Scenarios for Each Power Conference:
Best Case: Michigan or Ohio State wins out and grabs the #1 overall seed.
Worst Case: Somehow the Big 10 West wins the Big 10 Championship Game and the Big 10 gets shut out. OK, realistically? Penn State forces a three way tie. I think a 12-1 Big Ten champion still makes the Playoff no matter what but they could be seeded lower than expected and might have to play undefeated Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and not in the Rose Bowl.
Best Case: Florida State wins out, makes the Playoff.
Worst Case: Louisville loses a game and then beats Florida State in Charlotte. A two loss ACC Champion Louisville isn't making the Playoff and a one loss non champion Florida State isn't either, especially losing to Louisville. I personally think any Florida State loss and the ACC is screwed no matter what though but FSU losing in the regular season and going back to win the ACC championship and they might still have a chance.
Best Case: Washington wins. I don't think Oregon winning hurts that much, they are currently the highest ranked one loss team and if they beat an unbeaten Washington in Las Vegas I would find it hard for someone to pass them.
Worst Case: Oregon State pins a loss on one of the two teams and the loser winning the Pac 12 Championship Game. Still might not be enough, Oregon State is more likely to win in Corvallis over Washington and a 12-1 Washington beating a 11-2 Oregon (or vice versa) is still pretty good. They would like Georgia to beat Alabama and Texas to not win the Big 12 though, we're talking about a Pac 12 that hasn't made the Playoff since 2016. You can say for them "what can go wrong will go wrong". Last year USC most likely goes to the Playoff had they won the Pac 12 Championship and blew it.
Best Case: Undefeated Georgia cruises to the Playoff. They probably go to New Orleans even if the Big Ten champion is the #1 seed and I'm not sure Florida State, Washington, Oregon, or Texas makes much difference in first opponent.
Worst Case: Alabama upsets Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, Michigan or Ohio State, Florida State, and Washington finish undefeated and Texas wins the Big 12. Other than "because they're the SEC", tell me how the SEC isn't shut out of the Playoff. I don't think there's much chance for both Alabama and Georgia to make the Playoff this year. The Big Ten is a virtual lock, Florida State would really have to blow it to lose a game, and someone other than Oregon or Washington would have to beat one of them and that's assuming they would consider Texas over Alabama head to head.
Best Case: Texas wins the Big 12 Championship and Alabama wins the SEC Championship.
Worst Case: Texas loses a game the rest of the season and it's over. Even if they win out, they probably need help. They are behind Oregon in the CFP Rankings now with Oregon having a potential Pac 12 Championship win over currently undefeated/ #5 Washington while Texas has no chance to build their resume (their current best win would be Oklahoma who will surely drop out of the top 10).