The College Football Playoff selection committee may have a more difficult job than it did in the format’s first two years. And this after only the first October weekend of 2016.
Clemson and Louisville played a thriller Saturday, a loss that did little to diminish the losing Cardinals’ bona fides. Meanwhile Michigan and Ohio State seem destined to hurtle toward each other for the post-Thanksgiving collision as top-five unbeatens.
Will the committee, for the first time, pick more than one team from the same conference for the four-team playoff?
Let’s consider this scenario: Both Louisville and the loser of the Michigan-Ohio State game finish the regular season with just one loss each, to their rival in a close game that wasn’t decided in the waning seconds. But because they reside in the same division as the lone team they lost to, they wouldn’t be able to play for their respective conference championship.
Does the committee select an “at-large” team (or even two) for the playoff field? In the CFP’s first two years, each of the eight participants were Power 5 conference champions. But would that precedent be ignored in 2016?
Even though we’re only five games into the season, that possibility is very real. The Big 12 has virtually played itself out of the playoff already. The Pac-12 has just one undefeated team left in Washington and its strength of schedule might precludes it from making a case. And there’s still Houston, but if it can’t beat Louisville in a November showdown, it will be instantly eliminated.
So that leaves us with candidates only from the ACC, Big Ten and SEC. Each conference still has multiple undefeated teams currently ranked in the top 10 (AP poll) and at this point the winner of those conferences seemingly are assured of a spot in the playoff.
That leaves us with at least one more spot up for grabs. That means the committee will have to decide if it will, for the first time, invite a team that failed to win its conference (or even its own division) to participate in the playoff. And if it does pick two teams from the same conference, would it force them to face each other in the semifinals as to avoid the potential of an all-(insert your conference) championship game as we did in 2011 with LSU and Alabama in the BCS title game?
It’s still a long way until decision day on Dec. 4. But the committee would be wise to consider its options even now.
Game of the Week
Clemson 42, Louisville 36: This top-5 clash between ACC Atlantic rivals certainly lived up to the hype, and then some. The Cardinals fell behind early and then made a furious comeback to take the lead before the Tigers made their own rally. The game came down to Louisville receiver James Quick’s bonehead decision to make a wrong cut inside the Clemson 5 that denied his team a chance for the winning touchdown.
Despite the loss, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson remains the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, with Clemson QB Deshaun Watson not far behind.
Player of the Week
Jourdan Lewis, Michigan: The Wolverines cornerback missed the season’s first three games because of injury but he returned just in time when his team really could use him. In a top-10 tussle against Wisconsin, Lewis was exactly the shutdown corner Michigan needed, recording four tackles and making this insane interception to seal the victory. The Wolverines held the Badgers to only 159 total yards and a single touchdown.
Brent Musburger, one of the best broadcasters to ever call college football, has been relegated to the SEC Network since 2014 because ESPN decided to promote its younger “talent.” So during the biggest games on Fall Saturdays, instead of Brent and his enthusiastic colorful calls, you get middling announcers such as Chris Fowler, Dave Fleming and Steve Levy instead.
It was no different on this past Saturday, when Musburger was assigned the awful blowout of LSU-Missouri while Fowler, who’s a good tennis anchor but ill-suited for college football, had the marquee matchup of Louisville-Clemson. This season, Musburger has been assigned to duds such as Arkansas State-Auburn, Georgia-Missouri and South Carolina-Kentucky. How ESPN is treating this broadcasting icon and Hall of Famer should be considered a crime against college football.
1. Clemson, 2. Alabama, 3. Michigan, 4. Ohio State, 5. Louisville, 6. Washington, 7. Houston, 8. Texas A&M, 9. Wisconsin, 10. Tennessee, 11. Nebraska, 12. Miami, 13. Baylor, 14. Stanford, 15. Ole Miss.