College Football Playoff: Three SEC Teams In CFP With Ohio State? It Could Happen

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Of the seven national championships that Alabama coach Nick Saban has won, including his first one at LSU in the 2003 season, five of them have come after he lost a regular season game.


Georgia won its first national championship since 1980 last season after losing the SEC title game by beating Alabama in the national title game.

Six times an SEC team – more than any other conference – has reached the College Football Playoff final four. It began in 2014 with one loss – Alabama in 2014, ’15, ’17 and ’21 and Georgia in 2017 and ’21.

Twice, two SEC teams have reached the same final four – Alabama and Georgia in 2017 and Alabama and Georgia in 2021, and threatened to put three in during other seasons. No other conference has put two in once.

KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 15: Head coach Josh Heupel of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates a 52-49 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide with a cigar at Neyland Stadium Saturday. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)

This season, the SEC could hit a 3-pointer two ways:

No. 3 Tennessee (6-0), which just knocked off previous No. 3 Alabama 52-49 last week, loses a close game at No. 1 Georgia (7-0) on Nov. 5, but wins out the regular season to finish 11-1. No. 6 Alabama (6-1) wins out with a close win over undefeated and still No. 1 Georgia in the SEC title game on Dec. 3. That would leave Tennessee (11-1), Alabama (12-1) and Georgia (12-1) all with one loss. It would be very difficult to leave one of those out of the College Football Playoff.

Ohio State And Clemson Paths to College Football Playoff

No. 2 Ohio State (6-0) of the Big Ten would likely be 13-0 at this time for the other one of the four spots, if it can get by No. 16 Penn State (5-1) at home on Oct. 29 and No. 4 Michigan (7-0) at home on Nov. 26. The key could be if a third one-loss SEC team can get by a second one-loss Big Ten team.

-Tennessee wins at Georgia and finishes the regular season at 12-0, but loses to an 11-1 Alabama in the SEC title game with each finishing 12-1 while Georgia is 11-1.

CLEMSON, SOUTH CAROLINA – OCTOBER 30: Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers and players celebrate a win. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

No. 5 Clemson (7-0) would have to lose somewhere for either of the above scenarios to work. The Tigers are a 13.5-point favorite against No. 14 Syracuse (6-0) at noon Saturday on ABC. The SEC needs Syracuse to win that game as the rest of Clemson’s schedule does not look difficult. There is a trip to Notre Dame (3-3) on Nov. 5 and home games against Louisville (3-3) on Nov. 12, Miami (3-3) on Nov. 19 and South Carolina (4-2) on Nov. 26 before the Atlantic Coast Conference title game on Dec. 3.

The Undefeated Teams Still In Contention

The other undefeated teams at the moment are No. 7 Ole Miss (7-0), No. 8 TCU (6-0) and No. 9 UCLA (6-0). Syracuse would be 7-0 if it beats Clemson.


After a trip to LSU (5-2) on Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS), Ole Miss is at Texas A&M on Oct. 29 (6:30 p.m., SEC Network) before hosting Alabama on Nov. 12 and finishing at Arkansas on Nov. 19 and at home against Mississippi State on Thanksgiving night.

TCU hosts No. 17 Kansas State (5-1) Saturday (7 p.m., FS1) and still has No. 20 Texas (5-2) on Nov. 12 and possibly the Big 12 title game on Dec. 3. UCLA is at No. 10 Oregon (5-1) on Oct. 22 (3:30 p.m., FOX) and hosts No. 12 USC (6-1) on Nov. 19.

After Clemson, Syracuse has Pittsburgh (4-2) on Nov. 5, Florida State (4-3) on Nov. 12 and No. 13 Wake Forest (5-1) on Nov. 19.

What Tennessee Must Do To Reach College Football Playoff

Meanwhile back in the SEC, Georgia is not Tennessee’s only remaining difficult game. The Vols host No. 19 Kentucky (5-2) on Oct. 29 the week before heading to Georgia. The Bulldogs, by the way, play No. 24 Mississippi State (5-2) and Kentucky back-to-back on the road after hosting Tennessee.

The way Alabama has been playing this season, Mississippi State may not be easy on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN) in Tuscaloosa, and the Tide has to go to an improving LSU the week before Ole Miss.

But Alabama under Saban has a tendency to right itself after a loss. In the four seasons that Alabama has recovered from a loss to win the national title (2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017), the Tide went 22-0 after the defeat. After Saban and LSU lost to Florida in 2003, the Tigers went 8-0 to win it all.

“I think it goes without saying that players know that we lost a game in the East,” Saban said Wednesday on the SEC teleconference. “I don’t think I have to say, ‘Playing in your division is really, really important.’ You can’t afford to lose games in your division and still have a chance to get into the SEC championship game.”

Actually, Saban has lost SEC West games in 2011 (LSU), 2012 (Texas A&M), 2015 (Ole Miss) and 2017 (Auburn) and still won the national title. And he did that without playing in the SEC title game in 2011 and ’17.

This could be the year for three from the SEC. The first College Football Playoff rankings will come out on Nov. 1.

Commissioners Trying To Expand To 12-Team CFP By 2024

In the meantime, 10 conference commissioners from around the nation are still trying to get the playoffs expanded from four to 12 teams for 2024. They met in Dallas on Thursday.

“Time is not on our side,” CFP director Bill Hancock said. “But we’re not finished.”

Prediction From Sept. 24 On Tennessee-Bama Tweets True

Saturday Predictions, DraftKings Spreads

No. 2 Ohio State (6-0, 30-point favorite) at Iowa (3-3), Noon, FOX … Ohio State 47, Iowa 10.

Tennessee-Martin at No. 3 Tennessee (6-0, 24.5 favorite), Noon, SEC Network … Tennessee 58, Tennessee-Martin 17.

No. 14 Syracuse (6-0) at No. 5 Clemson (7-0, 13.5 favorite), Noon, ABC … Clemson 27, Syracuse 20.

No. 24 Mississippi State (5-2) at No. 6 Alabama (6-1, 21 favorite), 7 p.m., ESPN … Alabama 38, Mississippi State 14.

No. 7 Ole Miss (7-0) at LSU (5-2, 2 favorite), 3:30 p.m., CBS … Ole Miss 31, LSU 24.

No. 17 Kansas State (5-1) at No. 8 TCU (6-0, 3.5 favorite), 8 p.m., FS1 … TCU 38, Kansas State 28.

No. 9 UCLA (6-0) at No. 10 Oregon (5-1, 6 favorite), 3:30 p.m., FOX … UCLA 27, Oregon 21.

No. 20 Texas (5-2, 6 favorite) at No. 11 Oklahoma State (5-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC … Oklahoma State 34, Texas 21.

Other SEC Games

Vanderbilt (3-4) at Missouri (2-4, 14 favorite), 4 p.m., SEC Network … Missouri 41, Vanderbilt 21.

Texas A&M (3-3, 3 favorite) at South Carolina (4-2), 7:30 p.m., SEC Network … Texas A&M 21, South Carolina 17.

SEC Rankings

1.Tennessee (6-0, 3-0). 2. Georgia (7-0, 4-0). 3. Ole Miss (7-0, 3-0). 4. Alabama (6-1, 3-1). 5. LSU (5-2, 3-1). 6. Kentucky (5-2, 2-2). 7. Mississippi State (5-2, 2-2). 8. South Carolina (4-2, 1-2). 9. Florida (4-3, 1-3). 10. Texas A&M (3-3, 1-2). 11. Arkansas (4-3, 1-3). 12. Auburn (3-4, 1-3). 13. Missouri (2-4, 0-3). 14. Vanderbilt (3-4, 0-3).

LSU 2021 Coaching Candidate Standings

Here are the 2022 standings based on Associated Press rankings of the coaches mentioned by media reports as possible candidates for the LSU job last year that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly got.

1.Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss … 7-0, 3-0 SEC. No. 7 A.P.

2.Lincoln Riley, USC … 6-1, 4-1 Pac-12. No. 12.

3.Mark Stoops, Kentucky … 5-2, 2-2 SEC. No. 19.

4. Brian Kelly, LSU … 5-2, 3-1 SEC. Not ranked, but 87 votes for A.P. poll.

5. Billy Napier, Florida … 4-3, 1-3 SEC.

6. Dave Aranda, Baylor … 3-3, 1-2 Big 12.

Stat Of the Week

Alabama drew its most penalties since Nick Saban became coach before the 2007 season in the Tide’s 52-49 loss at Tennessee last week with 17 for 130 yards. The Crimson Tide is last in the SEC and No. 129 in the nation out of 131 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in NCAA statistics in fewest penalties. Alabama has 66 penalties in seven games for 9.43 a game. The only two schools drawing more flags are Syracuse at 9.5 a game and Houston at 9.8.

Quote Of The Week

“I think we probably just had a lot of anxiety. We didn’t have the same intensity that we had a couple weeks ago. We most definitely needed that to carry over into this game, but, just the intensity was not where it needed to be.”

-Alabama outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. after then No. 3 Alabama’s 52-49 loss to No. 6 Tennessee. The question of the week is, “Why in the hell didn’t you have the same intensity as previously?” Only your season was on the line.

Quote Of The Week Part 2

“Why aren’t you guys chanting?”

-Alabama coach Nick Saban just before kickoff at Tennessess in front of a quiet bench that usually includes chanting.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests.

A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention.

Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.

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