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Final 2023 College Football Playoff Projections

Hello, college football/Big Ten fans!

It seems like there is a controversy brewing when it comes to the 2023 College Football Playoff field. But should there be?

With all respect to Liberty, the CFP has traditionally valued the Power 5 conferences more than the others. This season among the five Power 5 conference champions, three finished undefeated and the other two finished with just one loss. This is the tenth and final season of the four team CFP format with the CFP expanding to 12 teams in 2024. There have only been two seasons before this year when no Power 5 conference champion has finished with 2 or more losses, 2014 and 2018. The precedent in other years has been that the two (or more) losses conference champion was the one to be eliminated each year. No team with two losses has ever been invited to the College Football Playoff. In 2016 and 2017 both Penn State and Ohio State were excluded from the CFP despite winning the Big Ten because they had two losses. In both years, they were passed over in favor of teams that didn't win a conference championship with just a single loss. In 2016, Penn State was passed over in favor of an Ohio State team it beat head to head.

Common sense would dictate this year that the three undefeated teams would be automatically be in the field and that the 4th spot would be between the two one loss conference champions. Well the two one loss champions happen to play each other this year and the road team won so the team that lost can't even use home field advantage as an excuse. So based on the results of the season, the four Playoff teams should be the Michigan Wolverines, Washington Huskies, Florida State Seminoles, and Texas Longhorns.

I would like anyone to tell me that Alabama deserves to be in the Playoff over one of these four teams without using the phrase "SEC". Now the College Football Playoff Committee does not work for the NCAA and there is no rules that they have to abide by the same rules as the NCAA men's basketball tournament principles but the NCAA men's basketball rules have often said that teams get bids, not conferences and teams are judged by the current year not past years. It shouldn't matter how many conference championships Alabama or the SEC has won in the past, only this season should matter. Michigan, Washington, and Florida State didn't lose a game. Alabama did, and it was to Texas. The results say Alabama is the odd one out. The results should matter. If they don't, why bother playing the games?

Alabama can and probably is trying to campaign they belong in the field over undefeated Florida State because of a stronger schedule vs. a weaker Florida State schedule. It's funny that they didn't have a problem getting in over Ohio State in 2017 when they clearly had a weaker schedule and one of Ohio State's two losses was to an Oklahoma team that made the Playoff. Did Alabama also forget Florida State also beat the same LSU team Alabama beat? That the ACC was 6-4 this year vs. the SEC? Or that Auburn lost this year 31-10 at home to New Mexico State? In the past the CFP Committee has ranked teams with more losses over teams with fewer losses (2014: Oregon with one loss was #2 over Florida State with no losses, #3, 2018: Georgia with two losses was #5 over Ohio State with one loss, #6) but it has never been the difference between making the Playoff and not making the Playoff.

Florida State recently has become a target for Alabama and the SEC because of their starting quarterback Jordan Travis's injury and they are not the same team without him. Well Florida State is still undefeated in Travis's injury and beat a ranked Louisville team last night, what more do you want from Florida State? It is not clear that Florida State is worse record wise or even margin of victory without him than with him. I'd argue Louisville is a ranked opponent and beating Louisville by any margin is impressive. Florida State barely beat Florida? Rivalry game and teams do have bad games. By the way, Alabama had a bad game too vs. Auburn. They needed a miracle play on 4th and 31 or we're not even having a discussion about Alabama today.

Also, if the CFP Committee was going to mark Florida State down because of Travis they've had two weeks to do so. They did drop Florida State from #4 to #5 behind Washington the week after Travis went down but that might also have been because Washington had beaten a ranked Oregon State team on the road. In no situation this season has Florida State been ranked below a team with one loss. If the CFP Committee thought a Florida State team without Travis was worse than one or more of the one loss teams, they should have moved them behind Texas and Alabama before they won games without him. Even if you say Florida State was ahead of Alabama but Alabama is now ahead because they beat Georgia, there is no justification to say Texas is now ahead of Florida State, Texas hasn't beaten anyone noteworthy enough to jump Florida State and they already had beaten Alabama. If Texas wasn't ahead of Florida State before, there's no reason they should be ahead of them now. The only reason Texas would be ahead of Florida State is to justify letting Alabama in.

There is no data or results that can justify Alabama belongs in the Playoff over either Florida State or Texas (and don't even get me started vs. Michigan or Washington). I also don't want to hear eye test crap, people only say eye test to convince people their team is better when it isn't or when the data doesn't justify it. If Alabama wanted to make the Playoff. they shouldn't have let Texas beat them at home. None of the other three undefeated P5 teams lost a game this year and Florida State lost a starting QB and still didn't lose a game. Where would Alabama be without Jalen Minroe? If Alabama is in the CFP, there's clearly SEC bias in the CFP Committee. Alabama doesn't belong, plain and simple. If they want to say losses shouldn't matter, Ohio State would like Alabama's 2017 national championship. Should Alabama be punished for scheduling Texas and losing? No. But should Texas be punished for scheduling Alabama and winning? Should Florida State be punished for scheduling LSU and winning?

Final Playoff Projection:

Rose Bowl: #1 Michigan vs. #4 Texas, Jan. 1, 5pm ET

Sugar Bowl: #2 Washington vs. #3 Florida State, 8:30pm ET

New Year's Six:

Alabama is obviously #5 in my CFP rankings. The big question is who is #6 between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Ohio State Buckeyes and it is important because the current Orange Bowl rules is they get the highest ranked SEC or Big Ten team although they can't get either the SEC or Big Ten champion (so Alabama would not be eligible for the Orange). The opponent in the Orange Bowl is the ACC and since Florida State is in the Playoff the next highest ranked ACC opponent will go. I am not 100% sure but I believe the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are not eligible for the Orange Bowl bid so Louisville will go (they beat NC State so they should be ranked ahead of them).

So I would think both Georgia and Ohio State are hoping not to be ranked higher in this case to avoid the Orange Bowl in hopes of a better opponent in a more higher profile bowl game. In the case of Ohio State, the entire Big Ten is hoping Ohio State is not in the Orange Bowl because if a Big Ten team goes to the Orange then the ACC gets the Big Ten's slot in the ReliaQuest (formerly Outback) Bowl in Tampa.

In the last CFP rankings Georgia was #1 and Ohio State was #6. Georgia lost but it was to formerly #8 Alabama. Georgia has beaten #9 Missouri, #11 Mississippi, and #21 Tennessee on the road (a 4 loss UT team that lost to a 5-7 Florida team being ranked to me is highly debatable). Ohio State beat #10 Penn State and #17 Notre Dame on the road. Ohio State's loss is better than Georgia's (and was on the road vs. a neutral field) but Georgia's wins are better. If this was a fight over the #4 Playoff spot, I would be fighting tooth and nail that Ohio State is better. But since we're fighting over who doesn't go to the Orange, Georgia's better!!!

In figuring out who round out the New Year's Six, there were two upsets that affect the possible field from my previous projections.

The first is obvious. I had been projecting Oregon to win the Pac-12 championship, instead Washington won. A one loss Washington would have been a sure bet to make the NY6 but is a two loss Oregon vs. other two loss teams Missouri, Penn State, and Mississippi?

Oregon: Two losses to #3 Washington, Ranked wins: #20 Oregon State

Missouri: Losses to #1 Georgia and #13 LSU (home), Ranked wins: #21 Tennessee, #25 Kansas State

Penn State: Losses to #2 Michigan (home) and #6 Ohio State, Ranked wins: #16 Iowa

Mississippi: Losses to #1 Georgia and #8 Alabama, Ranked win: #13 LSU

If it were me, Missouri would be the odd team out, they have the worst loss by far and it was to a team that Mississippi beat. I am assuming that they were dropped below Missouri (and Penn State) due to their blowout loss to Georgia while Missouri kept it close vs. Georgia. The same week Georgia blew out Mississippi Missouri blew out Tennessee but I feel UT is overrated. That being said, the CFP Committee has consistently ranked Missouri, Penn State, Mississippi in that order since then so the only question to me would be between Mississippi and Oregon. If the Committee really is against that blowout loss, they would have to like those close losses by Oregon to Washington so I'll say for now Mississippi is the odd team out.

The other debate now is between SMU, who beat Tulane to win the AAC, and Liberty, who won Conference USA to finish undefeated. Tulane was ranked #22 in last Tuesday's CFP rankings and SMU won at Tulane but Liberty was ranked #24 in the same rankings. It should be very close between the two for the G5 spot. New Mexico State, a team Liberty has now beaten twice, beating Auburn handily, should help Liberty's case. For now, give me Liberty or give me death!

New Year's Six Matchups (the final ones!)

Cotton Bowl: Fri. Dec. 29, 8pm: #5 Alabama (12-1) vs. #7 Ohio State (11-1) - You can't get up for this matchup?

Peach Bowl: Sat. Dec. 30, noon: Missouri (10-2) vs. Penn State (10-2)

Orange Bowl: Sat. Dec. 30, 4pm: #6 Georgia (12-1) vs. Louisville (10-3)

Fiesta Bowl: Mon. Jan. 1, 1pm: Oregon (11-2) vs. Liberty (13-0)

Big Ten Bowls:

Citrus Bowl: Mon. Jan. 1, 1pm: Iowa (10-3) vs. Mississippi (10-2)

ReliaQuest Bowl: Mon. Jan. 1, noon: Wisconsin (7-5) vs. SEC - LSU (9-3)

Las Vegas Bowl: Maryland (7-5) vs. Pac 12 - Utah (8-4)

Music City Bowl: Northwestern (7-5) vs. SEC - Texas A&M (7-5)

Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers (6-6) vs. ACC - Duke (7-5)

Thank you everyone for reading these projections and thank you college football for changing up my projections to keep it interesting! Here's hoping for an SEC free Playoff!

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