The new AP College Football Poll came out yesterday and TCU, after a bye week and still sitting undefeated, has fallen to the #5 spot, and out of the “magical” top four. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s what happened to the Frogs last year after their season ending 55-3 whipping of Iowa State. The difference? This time it was only two teams that did the jumping – Clemson and LSU. Last year it was three – Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor. Oh, and this time…it really doesn’t matter.
Things will take care of themselves for the Frogs and all the other untarnished squads pursuing a position in the final four as we work our way through the next month of football. And, after all, it was only the completely superfluous AP Poll that we’re talking about, not the almighty Committee rankings, still eight days away from their first release date.
TCU, sitting at 7-0 with remaining games, among others, against #12 Oklahoma State, #14 Oklahoma, and #2 Baylor, controls their own destiny. Win out and there is no doubt they’ll be one of the four teams playing for a National Championship. But who else sits in this enviable position as we approach November?
Let’s start with the defending champs and current top-ranked team, The Ohio State Buckeyes. If they run the table, which would ultimately include wins against the currently 6th-ranked Michigan State Spartans and arch-rival Michigan (currently #15), and then win the Big 10 Championship game against, lets say still-undefeated Iowa (currently #10), there is no question they’ll be in.
Then there’s 7-0 Clemson, who jumped up to #3 after this weekend’s 58-0 thrashing of Miami. The Tigers, who have been looking every bit like a top-four squad, also have the easiest road ahead of them. The only tests ahead are now 17th-ranked Florida State, who saw their chances of playing in the big game go out the window on Saturday with a 22-16 loss to Georgia Tech, and a ACC Conference Championship game against let’s say #22 Duke or #23 Pitt.
Undefeated LSU is next, currently 7-0 and ranked #4. If they win out, which would then include a victory over a one-loss Alabama team (currently ranked #7), and a SEC Championship game victory over perhaps an 11th-ranked Florida team, they’re in without question. So that’s three in with one spot remaining.
In the Big 12 the trio of #5 TCU, #2 Baylor and #12 Oklahoma State all still have the opportunity to finish the season with a clean slate, but no more than one will come out the other side unblemished as they still all have to play each other (and all still have #14 Oklahoma looming ahead as well). But if one can run that gauntlet, they’ll be in too.
Michigan State and Iowa are the other two teams that still control their own destiny and have the chance to win out, and if either come out the other side of the Big 10 Championship game with a spotless record, they’ll be in and the Buckeyes, who would then be sitting with a loss, would be on the outside looking in.
But only one team can emerge from each of those four power conferences (the Pac 12 is already eliminated since no undefeated teams remain) with a perfect record. And when that happens, and we have four perfectly clean, undefeated power conference teams, we’ll all see how nice and simple all this is, with no controversy and no need to expand from the current four-team playoff system.
But wait…..what if nobody runs the table, or only one or two teams do, then who’s in? Or what if all conference champions end up with one loss, including the Pac 12? And so does Notre Dame? Then who gets kicked in the groin like Baylor and TCU did last year? Oh but surely that won’t happen again. It’s the perfect system….just ask those in charge.