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Playoff Picture: Week 12

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We take a look at the College Football Playoff poll each week and break down the path to the Playoff.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Michigan State
Michigan State snuffed out Northwestern’s Playoff candidacy and hopes to do the same to Ohio State.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

It was a pretty uneventful week as far as the Playoff is concerned, with the exception of Northwestern falling flat at Michigan State and bringing an abrupt end to their dark-horse Playoff candidacy. The top seven remained unchanged, and for now we are considering these teams the only ones with a realistic chance to make the four-team field. Things could always change, but it seems exceedingly likely your four Playoff teams will come from that select group.

We get a nice unexpected treat with Coastal Carolina and BYU scheduling an impromptu matchup of undefeated non-Power-5’s desperate to bolster resumes for a last-ditch Playoff push. Would a win be enough to help either team stake a legitimate claim? We would typically assume “no”, but this is also not exactly a typical season.

Each of the top six teams, aside from Notre Dame, hits the road against an unranked opponent this week. Will anybody stumble, or will we see another week of the status quo?

NOTE: We will only provide individual breakdowns for teams that have a reasonable shot to make the Playoff.

***“SOR” denotes strength of record

***“SOS” denotes strength of schedule

1. Alabama (8-0; SOR: 1; SOS: 29)

The Tide disposed of Auburn as easily as expected and simply have to handle business in road trips to LSU and Arkansas to finish an undefeated regular season. They can even afford a slip-up in one of these games — as long as they beat Florida in the SEC Championship — and still make the Playoff field comfortably.

2. Notre Dame (9-0; SOR: 1; SOS: 34)

The Irish’s scheduled trip to Wake Forest was at least an interesting test in theory, but it has now been replaced with a home date with Syracuse. Notre Dame simply has to take care of the ACC’s last-place team to enter the ACC Championship game undefeated. Pretty good trade-off.

3. Clemson (8-1; SOR: 10; SOS: 41)

The Tigers looked sharp in their first time back on the field in three weeks, racing to a 31-0 first-quarter lead against Pittsburgh and cruising to a convincing win. The Tigers’ calculus is pretty simple right now: Beat Virginia Tech and avenge the Notre Dame loss in the ACC Championship Game. Anything short of that is probably going to land Clemson short of a Playoff bid, barring unforeseen circumstances.

4. Ohio State (4-0; SOR: 6; SOS: 77)

The Buckeyes are skating on thin ice after a second cancelled game and now desperately need to get in this week’s game against Michigan State and next week’s against Michigan in order to be eligible for the Big Ten Championship Game — at least according the conference’s stated policy. Even then, the Buckeyes’ best-case scenario now seems to be presenting a 7-0 record and a Big Ten title to the committee and basically saying, “Look how good we are.” This could be enough for inclusion, possibly. It would probably be a tough sell for a team with less gravitas than Ohio State, but the Buckeyes don’t need too much to go in their favor to have a pretty good shot at making the field. Covid may be their biggest adversary right now.

5. Texas A&M (6-1; SOR: 3; SOS: 8)

The Aggies are holding tight to that big win over Florida, but they are still in a precarious position when it comes to the Playoff. They don’t control their own destiny as it stands right now, so winning out and getting some help seems to be the best recipe.

6. Florida (7-1; SOR: 5; SOS: 35)

Florida can work their way into the field by winning out and knocking off Alabama in the SEC Championship. Anything less than that would likely not be enough to sneak in.

7. Cincinnati (8-0; SOR: 4; SOS: 70)

As we discussed last week, Cincinnati is perhaps in the best position we have ever seen from a Group of 5 team regarding possible Playoff inclusion. They will need to beat Tulsa twice to end the season and hope there is enough carnage in front of them to force the committee’s hand.

8. Georgia (6-2; SOR: 12; SOS: 3)
9. Iowa State (7-2; SOR: 15; SOS: 19)
10. Miami (7-1; SOR: 7; SOS: 24)
11. Oklahoma (6-2; SOR: 21; SOS: 40)
12. Indiana (5-1; SOR: 14; SOS: 30)
13. BYU (9-0; SOR: 11; SOS: 87)
14. Northwestern (5-1; SOR: 8; SOS: 37)
15. Oklahoma State (6-2; SOR: 17; SOS: 25)
16. Wisconsin (2-1; SOR: 28; SOS: 83)
17. North Carolina (6-3; SOR: 38; SOS: 48)
18. Coastal Carolina (9-0; SOR: 13; SOS: 89)
19. Iowa (4-2; SOR: 32; SOS: 59)
20. USC (3-0; SOR: 9; SOS: 81)
21. Marshall (7-0; SOR: 20; SOS: 109)
22. Washington (3-0; SOR: 18; SOS: 108)
23. Oregon (3-1; SOR: 26; SOS: 86)
24. Tulsa (5-1; SOR: 19; SOS: 60)
25. Louisiana (8-1; SOR: 22; SOS: 65)

GAMES TO WATCH:

No. 4 Ohio State @ Michigan State - Noon
No. 5 Texas A&M @ Auburn - Noon
No. 12 Indiana @ No. 16 Wisconsin - 3:30 p.m.
No. 13 BYU @ No. 18 Coastal Carolina - 5:30 p.m.
No. 3 Clemson @ Virginia Tech - 7:30 p.m.