Starting 11: Michigan and Ohio State Wobble Into Big Game Edition

Barring absolute chaos in the final week of the regular season and in the conference title games there are now eight teams alive to capture the four playoff spots.

Those eight teams, in the order I believe they should be presently ranked, are: Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma, Washington State and Ohio State.

Remember back when some people tried to argue the playoff would kill the regular season?

Boy, were those people idiots.

The playoff race has made college football even better.

So here we go with all the analysis.

1. Alabama got a "scare" from Citadel and Georgia crushed UMASS. 

The result?

Nothing really changed in the SEC.

Assuming both Alabama beats Auburn and Georgia beats Georgia Tech then 12-0 Alabama will play 11-1 Georgia in the SEC title game.

I remain convinced that if 11-1 Georgia were to upset 12-0 Alabama then the Crimson Tide, who thus far has beaten every team by 22 or more points, would still make the college football playoff because how can you argue Alabama isn't one of the four best teams in college football?

So if you are one of these teams on the outside looking in of the playoff then you want Alabama to beat Georgia in the title game.

Because I believe 12-1 SEC champ Georgia would be in and I also believe 12-1 SEC title game loser Alabama would be in the playoff also.

By the way, I also think the "scare" from Citadel is the best thing that could have happened to Alabama. The Tide still won by 33 and now Saban can rip his team for the rest of the season about how they lost focus and didn't perform as well as they should have because they believed everything the media was telling them.

It's been nearly impossible for Saban to be angry this year at this team. Well, he's finally got a reason.

That ain't good for the rest of college football.

2. Michigan and Ohio State both survived weak performances.

Ohio State, in particular, was insanely fortunate to win.

Here's a wild stat for you -- Ohio State has given up 49 or more points in three of their last six road games in the Big Ten -- 55 to Iowa, 49 to Purdue and now 51 to Maryland. Remember when the national media was outraged Tennessee fans didn't want Greg Schiano? Now Ohio State might fire him as their defensive coordinator at the end of the year.

As for Urban Meyer, here's the deal either you're healthy enough to coach or you aren't. If you are healthy enough to coach then stop with the histrionics on the sideline. Because on Saturday Meyer's sideline antics were absurd.

Even LeBron James thought Urban was overacting.

When the defense couldn't get a stop Urban was near death, but as soon as his offense was moving the football he was miraculously healed.

Here's what I think is happening, Urban Meyer is setting up an excuse for why he leaves Ohio State in the offseason. This is Florida all over again. As soon as the foundation of his program begins to crumble -- witness giving up 49+ in three of the past six Big Ten road games and narrowly avoiding three other conference losses this season -- rather than ride the program back down to mediocrity Meyer bails.

We saw it at Florida where Meyer was near death and then took a year off and miraculously became healed and took the job with Ohio State.

I think history is about to repeat itself at Ohio State.

Honestly, I think there's a good chance Michigan goes into Ohio State and steamrolls the Buckeyes, but I'm also kind of hoping Ohio State sneaks past Michigan and then survives Northwestern in the Big Ten title game so Nick Saban and Alabama can obliterate them in the playoff.

I think Saban wants payback for 2014 and judging by the sideline antics of Meyer, Saban may Nedd Stark Meyer once and for all for the entire world to see.

All of this presumes, by the way, that 12-1 Ohio State would get in over 12-1 Oklahoma, which I'm not necessarily sure would happen at all.

3. The Big 12's playoff hopes are down to Oklahoma. 

The Sooners go on the road at West Virginia this Friday night.

If Oklahoma wins -- and Texas beats Kansas -- then the Sooners would advance for a Big 12 title game rematch with Texas. Win that game and Oklahoma would have a very strong case for playoff inclusion since they would have effectively erased their only loss and finished 12-1.

If Oklahoma loses and Texas wins then the Big 12 title game would be West Virginia against Texas.

But the Big 12 title game will only matter for playoff purposes if Oklahoma wins against West Virginia.

Assuming that happens, we could be in for a hell of a decision to make between 12-1 Big 12 champ Oklahoma and 12-1 Michigan or 12-1 Ohio State as Big Ten champ.

That's particularly the case because the Big 12 title game would offer Oklahoma an opportunity to effectively erase their only loss of the season. Whereas both Michigan and Ohio State will have a game against Northwestern, which isn't going to impress the committee very much.

I tend to think Oklahoma would get in over Ohio State, but that 12-1 Michigan with a road loss to Notre Dame might sneak in over Oklahoma.

But, man, this would be very, very close.

Of course it's the Big 12 though so I totally expect for West Virginia to pull off a 56-55 upset over Oklahoma and knock the Sooners out of the playoff and conference title race in one fell swoop on Friday night.

4. What needs to happen for Washington State to make the playoff?

Beat Washington in the Apple Cup and then beat Utah in the Pac 12 title game to finish 12-1.

Then have Oklahoma, Michigan and, probably, Ohio State lose. That sounds like a tall order, but it really isn't. We know either Michigan or Ohio State will be eliminated from the playoff come Saturday. Oklahoma could easily lose at West Virginia or in the Big 12 title game.

That would leave Northwestern needing to pull off the upset over either Michigan or Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

And, honestly, is 12-1 Ohio State's resume really better than 12-1 Washington State's? Particularly if you consider Washington State would probably be undefeated if Pac 12 refs hadn't screwed up their three point loss to USC. Washington State would be 12-1 with a close loss to USC and Ohio State would be 12-1 with a blowout loss to Purdue.

I'd love to see Washington State in the playoff matched up against Alabama because I think Mike Leach might drive Nick Saban insane in the run up to this game.

Seriously, it would be incredible to see.

5. If Notre Dame beats USC the Irish are in the playoff, but what if they lose to USC?

Oh boy.

That could potentially set up our hypothetical, do you take 11-1 Notre Dame or 12-1 Michigan, which lost a head-to-head game to Notre Dame to begin the season?

Personally, I think you have to value the head-to-head over anything else, but this would be a really difficult call for the committee.

Of course, Notre Dame can eliminate all doubt and whip USC on Saturday just like they whipped Syracuse on Saturday. (By the way, this was an outstanding performance by the Irish. They blew me away with how well they played in this game.)

Speaking of USC, who are the Trojans going to hire to replace Clay Helton? Would they consider Mike Leach? Is there a big name coach who would make this move? Remember USC hasn't been able to pry anyone away from a super successful situation the past several times they've had an opening.

This will be fascinating to watch play out.

6. Clemson's in the playoff with a win over South Carolina and a win over Pittsburgh in the ACC title game.

But what would happen if Clemson lost one of these games?

The Tigers really don't have a signature win remaining on their schedule and with Syracuse's whipping at the hands of Notre Dame and Boston College's loss to Florida State they may not have a single top 20 win on the season.

Would 12-1 Clemson with a loss to either South Carolina or Pittsburgh make the playoff?

I'm not so sure at all.

7. Does UCF have a chance to make the playoff?


By the way, rather than just have a one word section here, props to Laura Rutledge for taking this hit and bouncing up immediately like a champ.

Zero doubt LeBron James would still be on the ground in Athens if this had happened to him.

Bounce back performance part two?

How about Michelle Herman, Tom Herman's wife, selling "Okay, hook 'em" tshirts for charity? If you missed it this is the response from Tom Herman when Zach Smith told him he was going to out him for cheating on his wife.

I thought Tom Herman's response was next level badass, but then his wife went and took it to another level entirely.

I absolutely love this.

8. What's the most difficult potential decision for the playoff committee to face?

What if all of these teams are 12-1: Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Clemson, Michigan, and Washington State, and Notre Dame is 11-1?

Which four teams do you take out of these seven resumes?


My best guess: Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson.

Why do I pick these four? First, it avoids the decision having to be made between Michigan and Notre Dame and the committee would be able to argue Oklahoma, unlike Michigan, effectively erased their loss by coming back to beat Texas in the Big 12 title game.

Second, you avoid an Alabama-Georgia rematch, but reward Georgia for the SEC title by giving them a one seed, thereby preserving the potential for an Alabama-Clemson title game.

But could the committee pick a different four? Certainly. And could many of you reading this right now disagree with my four? Certainly.

This is, I believe, the most difficult possible scenario the committee could face.

Now this year could also be the easiest decision the committee has ever had as well. If Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame all win out and then Michigan is the only 12-1 major conference champ -- meaning Oklahoma and Washington State both lose over the next two weeks -- this would be the easiest playoff decision the committee has ever had.

We'll see what happens, but if you're a college football fan, it seems like chaos always beckons down the stretch.

9. This was a catch in overtime of Ole Miss-Vandy. 

That's four feet, a knee, and an ass all down in the end zone with possession before the ball is knocked away as Ole Miss's AJ Brown holds out the ball in one hand.

It was ruled a touchdown on the field.

After review it was held to be an incomplete pass and then Vanderbilt broke up a fourth down pass attempt to win the game in overtime. (To be fair to Vanderbilt they got hosed for a celebration call after a touchdown on their opening possession, but I don't see how this touchdown catch gets overturned on replay.)

Ole Miss fans are convinced the SEC did it to ensure that next week's Vanderbilt-Tennessee game guarantees the league a bowl bid. Thanks to the Vandy win the game will feature a match up of two 5-6 teams meaning the winner gets a bowl game. Whereas if Vandy lost then both Tennessee and Vandy would finish 5-7 if the Commodores triumphed.

But I don't buy into that conspiracy theory because the money isn't significant enough to make that matter.

I just think the league got the call wrong.

And I'm still not sure exactly what the rule is when it comes to college touchdown catches. Because the SEC has previously said that this Jabar Gaffney "catch" was correctly ruled a touchdown based on college catch rules. (Sorry, Tennessee fans.)

We need a detailed explanation from the league on this call and what the current rule is.

Because while the Ole Miss-Vandy game isn't that important in the grand scheme of things, can you imagine if the Georgia-Alabama game had come down to this play in overtime of the SEC title game?

Finally, we had the over in this game with the Outkick picks and this call caused us to miss the over by one point. Aside from the money it cost us, which I'm guessing was pretty substantial, it also may end up costing me a third straight week of wearing the "Lock It In" crown.

I may have to wear the crown in protest if this is the difference maker.

10. The Outkick Top Ten

1. Alabama

2. Clemson

3. Notre Dame

4. Michigan

5. Georgia

6. Oklahoma

7. Washington State

8. Ohio State

9. LSU

10. UCF

11. SEC Power Rankings 1-14

Worth noting: the SEC East will finish with more head-to-head wins than the SEC West for the first time in what feels like forever. Once the final tally is complete and Missouri lobotomizes Arkansas, in fact, it won't even be close. So I gave the SEC East teams a bit of a bump when we considered overall rankings.

As for Mizzou at four, which will drive some of you insane, the Tigers lost to Kentucky and South Carolina on the final plays of games they should have won. Given what they did on the road at Florida and Tennessee and the fact that their other two losses were to Alabama and Georgia, I'm confident they are the fourth best team in the SEC this year.

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. LSU

4. Missouri

5. Florida

6. Texas A&M

7. Kentucky

8. Mississippi State

9. Auburn

10. South Carolina

11. Tennessee

12. Vanderbilt

13. Ole Miss

14. Arkansas

Written by
Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021. One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines. Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide. Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports. Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.