The first College Football Playoff rankings will be unveiled at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, which will lead to a chain reaction of arguments about the pecking order of teams, conferences and so much more.
It’s made-for-TV drama, and those arguments will only intensify with each week. That is part of the sell, and it works, considering there are five Power 5 conferences but only four seats at the Playoff table. With that in mind, here are the five inescapable arguments that could unfurl for fans — and the Playoff committee — heading into the final month of the regular season.
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Two-SEC Playoff argument, Part 1
This one should feel familiar because the same pattern has started to emerge. Alabama (8-0) is the best team in the FBS heading into November and one of four unbeaten teams left in the FBS heading into Saturday’s matchup against LSU (7-1).
Georgia (7-1), which lost to the LSU, got back on its feet with a convincing 36-17 victory against Florida (6-2) on Saturday.
You know the next part. What if Georgia beats Alabama in a close game in the SEC championship? Would that be enough to let both teams in the College Football Playoff? Both teams made it last year, after all. There is that scenario where both could do it again.
As we learned last year, anything is possible when Alabama is involved. Which leads to the second argument:
Two-SEC Playoff argument, Part 2
This argument will only have a shelf life if LSU beats Alabama next week — which is seemingly the only way to derail an SEC West championship for the Crimson Tide. Of course, the Tigers would have to win out from there as well.
If that were to happen, then it’s feasible Alabama would be locked out of the SEC championship game with a one-loss record for the second straight season. That one loss didn’t keep the Crimson Tide out last year, and this team is better — especially on offense — with Heisman Trophy front runner Tua Tagovailoa.
We’ve seen LSU and Alabama play each other in the BCS championship game. There’s no reason to believe they can’t be in a four-team Playoff if this scenario were to unfold — especially if the Crimson Tide loses close at Tiger Stadium.
Now, for three arguments that don’t involve the Crimson Tide or the SEC.
Michigan vs. Notre Dame, Part II
This one hasn’t quite started yet. If the Irish and Wolverines both win out, there’s a good chance both will be in the Playoff. The Week 1 regular-season matchup — which Notre Dame won 24-17 in South Bend — wouldn’t come into play at that point.
If the Irish lose, however, then this argument could be a factor if it means the final spot in the rankings. Would Notre Dame’s head-to-head victory weigh more than the Wolverines’ schedule? How would the Big Ten championship game factor in? After all, the Irish play Northwestern — the front runner in the Big Ten West — next week.
Both teams have improved significantly since Week 1. Perhaps it would be appropriate if they had a rematch in the semifinal.
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Big 12 vs. Big Ten champ
Let’s assume Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame all win out and take the first three spots. That would leave three conferences scrambling for one spot, with the Pac-12 looking like the odd man out in that case.
It would be campaign season in the Big Ten and Big 12 if that were the case. Michigan has a better path than Ohio State, which could easily win out but is saddled by a 49-20 loss to Purdue. How would that stack up against a one-loss Oklahoma or West Virginia team, if it came to that?
It would be particularly interesting if it came down to Ohio State and Oklahoma — teams that are both armed with Heisman finalist quarterbacks in Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray, respectively. These teams settled it on the field the previous two seasons, and that was the difference in getting the winner in the Playoff both times. Will it happen off the field this time? Stay tuned.
UCF vs. two-loss mess
The Knights’ positioning will be talked about on Tuesday, and their Playoff hopes remain debatable at best. The best thing UCF can do is to continue to win while watching the two-loss mess pile up behind them. How does that work?
Let’s say Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame win out. That’s fine. Washington State would need to lose to knock the Cougars out of the mix. The Knights should root for Penn State to beat Michigan, then for the Wolverines to win the Big Ten (knocking off Ohio State in the process). Then, they’d need to hope West Virginia and Oklahoma trade wins in the final week of the regular season and in the Big 12 championship game.
Would an undefeated UCF get in over a two-loss Big Ten or Big 12 champion? That will be a debate for another day, but it’s not an impossible question at all.
In fact, Knights fans should probably tweet about it for the next month.
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