CFB Playoff Scenarios + Conference Championship Game Predictions
By: Daniel Stettin
It’s Championship week in college football, with every conference having their championship game except for the Sun Belt. With that, no team is set in stone for the College Football Playoffs and this week’s slate of games brings a set of numerous possibilities. I see 8 teams having an opportunity to make the playoffs: Auburn, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Miami, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. Sorry to Pac-12 fans, you are going to be the conference that is held out this year, as they were in the 2015 season.
ACC – #1 Clemson vs #7 Miami 8 PM ABC:
The ACC champion is in, regardless of what happens in this game. Many believe that Clemson still would have an opportunity to make the playoff if they lose a close game here, but I don’t see how that would happen. The Winner of this game is going to the playoff, the loser is going to the Orange Bowl plain and simple. I see Miami’s loss to Pittsburgh as equivalent to Clemson’s loss to Syracuse. If you switched the date of both teams loss, you can make the argument that Miami would be #1 and Clemson would be #7. The committee says they don’t have recency bias but it appears they did just that dropping Miami from #2 to #7. In terms of the actual game, Clemson should have massive home field advantage with Charlotte being driving distance from Campus compared to three states away for the Hurricanes. Clemson QB Kelly Bryant has had a good year, but nothing special. He’s a much better player than his stats say he is but it says something when he only has 12 passing touchdowns all year. Miami QB Malik Rosier is going to need a bounce back game after getting benched against Pittsburgh. If Rosier plays up to his potential, I don’t see how Miami loses this game. Miami: 27 Clemson: 21
Big Ten – #4 Wisconsin vs #8 Ohio State 8 PM Fox:
For Wisconsin, its fairly simple: Win and you are in. As much as the committee doesn’t want to put Wisconsin in the playoff, they are an undefeated power conference school. Their best win may be over Lane Kiffin’s FAU team, but again they are an undefeated power conference school. No matter what anyone says, if the Badgers win, they are in. Ohio State, on the other hand, will need some help. Ohio State will need to win this game and Oklahoma would need to lose. It would also need to be a big win over Wisconsin as they would need to jump Alabama and thats only going to happen with a big win (two scores or more). It is really hard to ignore that 55-24 loss at Iowa where JT Barrett threw 4 interceptions and fumbled the ball once which I think will make the committee struggle to put Ohio State in the field. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, their strength is one of Ohio States biggest strength’s as well, so freshman RB Jonathan Taylor will have a lot to handle against Ohio State’s top 15 run defense. Wisconsin is the national leader in rushing defense so Mike Weber and JK Dobbins will have a lot to handle as well. The real difference in this game is Ohio State QB JT Barrett, who rebounded from a slow start to have an unreal senior season. 6 of his 7 interceptions came in back to back weeks and he has otherwise been perfect. I don’t believe in Wisconsin to get the win in their toughest matchup of the season. Ohio State: 41 Wisconsin: 24
Big 12 – #3 Oklahoma vs #11 TCU 12:30 PM Fox
For TCU, they aren’t making the playoff no matter what else happens. They are playing for the possibility of playing in a News Years Six Bowl. Oklahoma on the other hand is in a win and they are in scenario. A loss and they are most likely going to a New Years Six Bowl. With Heisman trophy favorite Baker Mayfield under center for the Sooners, they have been unstoppable. Although Mayfield has had his fair share of childish antics, he is downright the best player in College Football. The astounding part of this Sooners offense is that they don’t have an 1000 yard rusher or receiver this year. These two teams faced off a few weeks ago in Norman and Oklahoma walked away with a 38-20 victory. Similar to Kelly Bryant, TCU QB Kenny Hill is much better in person than from stats but doesn’t offer as much of a running threat. This game means nothing to TCU in terms of their postseason destination so I see them firing out of the gate but ultimately losing a close one. Oklahoma: 34 TCU: 31
Pac 12 – #10 USC vs #12 Stanford 8 PM Friday ESPN
There aren’t any playoff indications here, unless you think USC could jump both Alabama and Ohio State. The reality is the winner of this game is gonna play in a New Years Six Bowl and the loser isn’t. The real story in this game is really whether Bryce Love can make a great final impression on the Heisman voters. For as good as Christian McCaffrey was for Stanford, Love has been even better. Coming off a big win vs Notre Dame, Stanford will need Love at his best. He didn’t score a TD for the first time all season vs Notre Dame but don’t expect that scoreless streak to last long. USC has a much more balanced offense with future Top 5 draft pick Sam Darnold under center. This may be the least important Power 5 championship game, but it sure will be entertaining. USC: 27 Stanford: 17
SEC – #2 Auburn vs #6 Georgia 3:30 PM CBS
Just like the ACC, this is a win and you are in game. Many are discounting Auburn since they have two losses but they happen to be both on the road against LSU and Clemson. But they also have wins against two #1 ranked teams (Alabama and Georgia). Add in a blowout win vs a top 25 Mississippi State squad which makes it hard top Auburn’s resume. Georgia has a pretty great resume as well, with wins over Notre Dame and Mississippi State and winning seven games by at least four scores. Freshman QB Jake Fromm has been phenomenal considering he’s an 18 year old. The two headed attack at RB of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb have combined for 2001 yards and 26 TD’s. In the loss to Auburn, the two combined for 20 carries for 48 yards. If Georgia can’t improve those numbers, Auburn might run away with this. Jarrett Stidham, whose two worst games of the year came in the two losses, was great in the win over Georgia throwing for 3 TD’s. The former 5-star recruit has lived up to all expectations after transferring from Baylor. Kerryon Johnson also was dominant in the win over Auburn, having over 230 total yards and a one TD. With a more neutral crowd, the score will be closer but Auburn’s heading to the playoffs. Auburn: 27 Georgia:16
It is important to note that #5 Alabama will most likely find their way into the playoff with either a Oklahoma or Wisconsin loss.
American: #14 UCF vs #20 Memphis 12 PM ABC
UCF is criminally underrated by the playoff committee but they aren’t a top 4 team so it really doesn’t matter. If they beat Memphis, a team they beat by 27 in October, they will be the highest rated Group of 5 team and will play in the Peach Bowl. If Memphis was to win, they would most likely take the Group of 5’s spot in a News Years Six Bowl. UCF has been dominant all year under Scott Frost, who has been tied to a number of high profile jobs recently. McKenzie Milton, a 5-11 Sophomore from Hawaii has taken major strides in his second year in the system, upping his completion percentage 12 points, total yards by over 1700 yards, and 23 more touchdowns. Memphis has only one loss all year to UCF and NFL Prospect Riley Ferguson has been great in his two years after transferring from Tennessee. Look out for sophomore RB Darrell Henderson, he’s got over 1000 yards rushing on 9 YPC. I expect this to be closer than the original matchup and with a score resembling the UCF-USF game last weekend. UCF: 52 Memphis: 42
Conference USA – FAU vs North Texas 12 PM ESPN2
You can’t deny the unreal work Lane Tiffin did with FAU this year, taking a team that went 3-9 three years in a row to a 9-3 records and one on a 8 game winning streak. FAU rolled over North Texas 69-31. Running Back Devin Singletary might be the most under appreciated player in the country after he ran for 1600 yards an 26 touchdowns this year. The passing game may be suspect but Singletary makes up for it. Sophomore Mason Fine made big strides from his freshman to sophomore year and he actually was not horrible in the blowout loss to FAU. Unfortunately for the Mean Green, this game is in Boca so FAU will be able to take this home crowd to their first ever 10 win season. FAU: 49 North Texas: 17
MAC – Akron vs Toledo 12 PM ESPN
We got some MACtion in Detroit as Akron takes on Toledo. This game is fairly similar the Conference USA championship game with Toledo having beaten Akron 48-21. Logan Woodside is a future NFL QB and he carved up a Miami team in September. Akron at just 7-5 hasn’t done anything significant on offense or defense and will likely have a true Freshman in Kato Nelson being under center. Toledo is a three score favorite in this one and they should cover in a blowout win. Toledo: 41 Akron: 10
Mountain West – #25 Fresno State vs Boise State 7:45 PM ESPN
People go wild over the job that Lane Kiffin did at FAU, but how about Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford, the former Cal coach. They went 1-11 in 2016 and he got them to 9-3 in his first season. While not doing anything special on offense, they rode a dominant defense to an appearance in the championship game. This isn’t the Boise State team’s we’ve seen in the past but they still have been solid this year. Despite constantly rotating QB’s, they managed a 9-3 record. Fresno State took this one at home last week but this one is in Boise which will give them the edge. Boise State: 24 Fresno State: 13
Sun Belt – Various Games
The Sun Belt won’t add a championship game until next season which will leave two teams most likely sharing the Sun Belt title this season. Arkansas State and Troy, who famously upset LSU in Death Valley, will face-off in Jonesboro with both sitting at 6-1 in conference. Arkansas State’s offense has been rolling all year with former Oklahoma QB Justice Hansen under center. Troy has had a great defense all year but I don’t see it being enough to stop this Arkansas State defense. Meanwhile, Appalachian State is 6-1 in conference and they face off against a Louisiana team that is looking to get bowl eligible. The Mountaineers had high expectations this year with the return of Taylor Lamb, Jalin Moore, and Terence Upshaw but they suffered from numerous injuries and are sitting at 7-4, but 6-1 in the conference. With a win over Louisiana, they would clinch a share of the Sun Belt title. App State should be able to easily take this one with the Rock most likely rocking in the home finale. At the end of the day, App State and Arkansas State will split the Sun Belt Title.
If the Championship games go as I have predicted, the final four will most likely look like:
The committee has already said they are not gonna change up seeding to avoid a rematch. With that, I think that Alabama will get into the playoff as the #4 seed as the the Committee will want to reward a Miami team that won their conference. Choosing who to send to the Rose Bowl would be extremely difficult as Geography does go into who gets sent to which Semifinal location. None of the teams are located anywhere near Pasadena so it’ll be interesting to see who gets sent out there. The bias in me would have Miami winning this final four but we shall see with some great games left over the next few weeks.