Week 11

Clemson, Michigan, Washington Lose: Breaking Down The College Football Playoff


Clemson, Michigan, Washington lose. After all of the insanity of Saturday afternoon, and after all of the upsets, what does it all mean for the College Football Playoff?


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The College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday night will be …

What do all the crazy upsets this weekend mean for the College Football Playoff?

As if the last few weeks weren’t emotional and crazy enough, the college football world decided to throw its own curveball on Saturday with the No. 2 (Clemson), No. 3 (Michigan), No. 4 (Washington), No. 8 (Texas A&M), No. 9 (Auburn) and No. 14 (Virginia Tech) teams in the last College Football Playoff ranking all losing.

So what does it really all mean? How is this going to play out, and who are the winners and losers in the College Football Playoff chase?

Before getting started, this is all going under the assumption that 1) the committee will stick with the precedent and goals set from the first two seasons and 2) that means winning your conference championship breaks every possible philosophical tie-breaker.

But here’s what we don’t know, and what we won’t until the final rankings are announced – will the committee value a two-loss Power Five champion over an 11-1 team that doesn’t win its own division? That’s hardly a given, but until a new precedent is set, go by what the committee will always fall back on – winning a title.

With that in mind, here’s what you really need to know about what happened this crazy weekend.

As absolutely insane as this sounds, most of these upsets probably don’t matter a lick.

Oh sure, it was a whole bunch of fun seeing Clemson and Michigan go down to field goals in the final seconds, but neither loss does a thing to their College Football Playoff chances.

Considering all the other key losses this weekend, Clemson will absolutely make the playoff if it wins out. If it takes care of business against Wake Forest and South Carolina, win the ACC championship, it’s in.

The same goes for Michigan. In fact, losing to Iowa might have actually turned out to be a positive, at least if you hate Ohio State – more on that in a moment.

Assuming the Buckeyes got to the regular-season finale 10-1, the Wolverines would have to win that game no matter what. It wouldn’t matter if they had one loss, or were unbeaten, beating OSU is a must to get to the Big Ten Championship. Michigan, beat Indiana, win at Ohio State, beat Wisconsin or Nebraska in the B1G title game, and you’re in the College Football Playoff as no worse than the No. 2 seed.

And Washington? Yeah, throw the Huskies into that bucket, too.

Until the College Football Playoff committee actually goes against its own precedent, and its own stated belief system, it’s going to give preferential treatment to Power Five conference champions.

No way, no how, no chance will the CFPers put in a one-loss team that doesn’t win its own division – Ohio State, Louisville – over a 12-1 Power Five champ.

Not … a … chance.

Two-loss Power Five champ? Yeah, then all bets are off. One loss? No way.

So, even after all of this, Alabama, Michigan, Clemson and Washington are going to be your playoff teams if they all win out.

But here’s where this gets tricky …

Ohio State. What happens now?

Here’s the problem. Penn State closes out against Rutgers and Michigan State. If the Nittany Lions win those two games, Ohio State is out of the Big Ten title chase with Penn State getting in if the Buckeyes beat Michigan, and the Wolverines getting in if they’re 11-1.

Again, when it comes to the committee – conference championships, conference championships, conference championships.

Yes, Ohio State can be No. 2 in the next College Football Playoff rankings and STILL get bounced out at the end.

Remember, 2014 TCU was No. 3 at late as the final weekend, destroyed Iowa State, and was pushed out for an Ohio State team that won the Big Ten title.

That’s not to say Ohio State can’t get in, but at 11-1, it’ll almost certainly need at least two Power 5 champs outside of the Big Ten to finish with at least two losses to get in.

Is West Virginia alive? How about Oklahoma?

Absolutely, and not really.

West Virginia is now thrown in among the one-loss teams with a real shot. Win out against Oklahoma, at Iowa State and Baylor, take the One True Champion Big 12 title, and then hope for a two-plus loss Pac-12 champion. However, the Mountaineers need an Oklahoma State loss, or they’ll get 2014 TCUed. Baylor won the head-to-head matchup that year, and that turned out to matter in terms of the conference championship criteria.

Oklahoma has a tougher road. It’ll need to be amazing against at West Virginia, and Oklahoma State, and then hope for two of the three champs from the ACC, Pac-12 and SEC – not the Big Ten, because 11-1 Ohio State would get in over OU – to finish with two losses or more.

The under-the-radar losses … Auburn to Georgia, North Carolina to Duke, and Virginia Tech to Georgia Tech

Had Auburn won out – including a victory over Alabama – and taken the SEC championship at 11-2, it would’ve absolutely made it into the College Football Playoff. It would’ve been dicey if Virginia Tech or North Carolina had upset Clemson in the ACC title game, but there’s a shot a two-loss ACC champ might have made it in. That’s all gone now.

The door is still slightly open for an 11-2 Utah or Colorado – if one of them wins the Pac-12 championship – but not an 11-2 Washington State if it wins out, thanks to losses to an FCS team and Boise State.

Wisconsin? Absolutely.

Along with Penn State, the Badgers are the biggest overall winners this weekend, because LSU is looking stronger – that season-opening win will still resonate – Nebraska is solid again, and being the Big Ten champions this year will carry a whole ton of weight. It would probably be better to beat Michigan or Ohio State rather than Penn State in the eyes of the committee, but it might not matter.