College Football: Wild weekend makes it easy for CFP committee
Now, the math is easy.
The College Football Playoff selection committee will never be able to make five conference champs go into four spots, but a wild two days of games over the holiday weekend made the equation about as simple as possible.
n Oklahoma, whose regular season is over at 11-1, is the Big 12’s one true champion after walloping Oklahoma State 58-23. The Sooners are in.
n Also in: the winner of the Big Ten title game between 12-0 Iowa and 11-1 Michigan State.
n No. 1 Clemson is in if it beats one-loss North Carolina in the ACC championship game.
n And Alabama merely needs to beat punchless Florida in the SEC title game to be the only team to make a repeat appearance in the 2-year-old playoff.
The selection committee was spared the anguish of considering independent Notre Dame, which lost on a last-play field goal to Stanford late Saturday night, suffering its second loss. The Irish are good enough to play with anybody in the country but will have to settle for an at-large spot in a New Year’s Six bowl — Peach or Fiesta.
Speaking of Stanford, the Cardinal are clearly on the outside as they head to nearby Santa Clara to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. With two losses, Stanford needs chaos. And by chaos, we mean losses by either Clemson or Alabama, or both.
Let’s consider that chaos. A loss by the Tigers or Tide brings Ohio State, Stanford and North Carolina into the mix.
Ohio State’s case: The Buckeyes just throttled Michigan, finally looking like the No. 1 team we’ve known lurked inside them all season. Based on previous CFP rankings, we know the committee values the “eye test” when talking about Ohio State, whose only loss came on a last-play field goal to Michigan State.
Stanford’s case: The Cardinal would be a conference champ, and the committee could heavily weigh that in a comparison to Ohio State, which didn’t win its division. Stanford’s win over Notre Dame is also better than any Buckeyes’ victory.
North Carolina’s case: The Tar Heels would have the best win in the country — beating No. 1 Clemson — and be on a 12-game winning streak. Now the case against them: Their one loss came against woeful South Carolina, and two of UNC’s wins came against teams from the FCS.
As for Florida? If the Gators somehow score enough to beat Alabama, they would be a two-loss SEC champ. In many cases, that would be playoff-worthy. But a team that needed overtime to beat FAU and then lost 27-2 to Florida State wouldn’t really be able to mount much of a complaint if excluded.
Chaos prediction: The committee could not ignore Ohio State.
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama. Congratulations, Derrick. Those 271 yards on 46 carries against Auburn just punched your ticket into a very exclusive club.
2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. The sophomore ran for 114 yards, passed for 279 and accounted for four touchdowns in a win over South Carolina. He’s completing almost 72 percent of his passes, and has reached triple digits in rushing in three of the past four games.
3. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State. He ran for 183 yards against Florida’s tough D, and his average of 7.9 yards per carry is unmatched among major conference backs with more than a handful of attempts.
4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. He returned from a concussion suffered a week earlier to lead the Sooners over Oklahoma State, making a highlight play by throwing a lead block on a 66-yard change-of-direction touchdown run by Joe Mixon. Mayfield is third nationally in passing efficiency.
5. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford. He was mostly bottled up by Notre Dame (94 rushing yards), but he is still averaging 252.9 all-purpose yards per game — a stunning 52 more than the second-place guy. He deserves a spot at the Heisman festivities.
Best Week 14 games
Michigan State vs. Iowa (Saturday, 7 p.m., at Indianapolis, FOX). Iowa’s best attributes are run blocking, quarterback decision-making and turnover margin. Not sexy, but if the undefeated Hawkeyes beat Michigan State for all the Big Ten marbles, don’t worry about their lack of prettiness, embrace what would be an amazing story.
Alabama vs. Florida (Saturday, 3 p.m., at Atlanta, CBS). We’ll just go ahead and set the over-under number for the Gators’ total yards at 225. But if Florida comes up with a couple of turnovers, Alabama’s collars could begin to tighten in the SEC title game.