A short quiz. Three of the answers are no surprise at all, the fourth maybe. Who are the four winningest teams in college football since 2014? 1- Alabama (46-4). 2- Clemson (43-5), 3- Ohio State (41-5). And four? How about Wisconsin at 37-9. And all four of these teams are in the race for the national championship today. Fans in these parts probably aren’t aware that the best winning percentage over the last five plus years belongs to Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes at 66-7! Stunning.
And I guess the names we have become accustomed to as far as the College Football Playoff is concerned appears likely to remain the same, although, there is a shot somebody different could appear, but I’m not sure the odds are real good.
Upsets ruled the day last week. Michigan, void of offensive firepower, went down to an always gritty Michigan State team at home. I think the Wolverines are all but out of the picture. Oklahoma is close to being gone after being favored by over 30 points to Iowa State at home, leading by 24-3 and getting beat. Iowa St. played with a third team quarterback and one quarterback even played linebacker on defense. Based on their level of play the past three weeks, I don’t think the Sooners will make it.
But regardless of the national photo, the ACC could be exciting right to the final whistle. Clemson has to be considered the class of the conference and one of, if not the best team, in the nation. It would appear there is one final hurdle vs. N.C. State, however, as difficult as things have been for Florida State, that will not be an easy win, and never, never overlook Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech. But even should the Tigers lose a game, they will still be in the ACC title match, and if they win it, 12-1 puts them back in the playoff.
The other bracket of the ACC, regardless if it has any national implications, is going to be exciting. ACC football overall has become exciting the past two seasons. Miami, Georgia Tech, an yes, UVa have not lost an ACC game! Virginia Tech at 1-1 is obviously very much in the mix. Can any other ACC team be in the national playoffs other than Clemson? I’d say Miami, but only if the Hurricanes run the table. That will be difficult. The Hokies still have games with GT, and Miami, and at least for the moment, the clash with the Wahoos could actually mean a great deal at season’s end.
Now how about the SEC? It’s already down to just three teams. There are no other contenders, and the SEC is no longer the dominant conference in the country. That is up for debate, and that makes things interesting, but I have always said it’s about teams, not conferences, and I still believe that. For instance this year, it’s not about the SEC. It’s about Alabama, Georgia, and Auburn, nobody else, and nobody is pulling for anybody else.
Not much appears left on their side of the conference until the annual Tide-War-Eagle clash. The winner could be a 11-1 Auburn, and the loser a 11-1 Alabama. Georgia appears well on the road to winning the other side, and the Bulldogs appear likely to be in the SEC title game at 12-0. So what would happen to an 11-1 Alabama? If the Tide gets in the title game, and beats Georgia and the Dawgs finish 12-1 what happens to them?
Ohio State did not win the Big 10, but got in the playoffs last season, but this is likely going to be a different scenario. The winner of an Auburn-Georgia SEC title game with the winner finishing at least 12-1 is a lock for the playoff. Should Ohio State run the table in the Big 10 with wins over Michigan, presently third ranked Penn State, and then presently number 7 ranked Wisconsin in the conference title game the Buckeyes are in at 12-1. If Wisconsin runs the board, beats Ohio State or Penn State for the Big 10 title, the Badgers win the Big 10 at 13-0, and they should absolutely be in.
Now you have TCU. Can they run the table in the Big 12? Maybe. Then you have undefeated Washington and Washington State in the Pac 12. One of those is likely to run the table and that will be be determined when they play each other. Does a 13-0 Pac 12 champ get in? Certainly. And until it’s proven other wise, Notre Dame must also be considered a “wild card” possibility.
So what would happen to the second place SEC team? Remember this was the conference that just three years ago was talking about one day getting three of the four playoff teams. And now the second place team might come up short because the SEC strength of schedule will not hold up. How ironic.
So you have Clemson, maybe Miami, out of the ACC, likely Ohio State or Wisconsin, and maybe Penn State out of the Big 10, TCU wants in at 13-0 if the Frogs can do it, a 13-0 Pac 12 team totally expects to get in, that leaves you with Alabama, Georgia, and Auburn in the SEC, and I predict that one of them is going to eliminate the other two.
So only half the season if over, likely there is maybe a dozen teams with a realistic shot at the playoffs. Only four will make it, and I think the hurt from those that don’t will be greater this time. But that’s what makes it exciting. The College Football Playoff is a four-team affair based on competition, and if it means as much as fans say it does, that’s the way it should be.
“The Bald Eagle:”
He was my father’s favorite professional football player. While in the Navy he got see him play in person in old Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. His biggest years came as the quarterback for the New York Giants. He came up short to the Packers in one of those famous sub-zero title games in Green Bay. His name was Y.A. Tittle. He was the “Bald Eagle” for an obvious reason. They called him Y.A. because his full name was Yelberton Albert Tittle. The best thing you can say about Y.A. was that he was a real pro. He died today at age 90. RIP.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot