The College Football Playoff Picture As Saturday Dawns

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As we enter the final Saturday of college football you guys are drowning me in hypotheticals on social media and email. I could literally have spent all day yesterday responding to your wacky playoff scenarios.

So here we go with a Saturday morning primer for all of you on where the playoff picture is right now.

There are still 11 teams alive for the playoff. (And just to stop you Notre Dame fans from jumping up and down screaming what about us, what about us, I’m going to tell you exactly why Notre Dame has no chance to make the playoff.)

Here we go by conference.

1. The SEC has three teams still alive for the playoff.

Alabama makes the playoff as the number one overall seed if the Tide go 13-0, but Alabama might make the playoff if the Tide beats Auburn and advances to the SEC title game where it loses to Georgia or if Bama loses to Auburn today. Yes, an 11-1 or certainly 12-1 Alabama can still make the playoff.

It would really put the playoff committee in a bind if Auburn beats Alabama. Because how far down do you drop the Crimson Tide for losing what would likely be a close rivalry game — remember Alabama hasn’t lost a regular season game by more than a touchdown since 2010 — on the road at Auburn? The committee dropped Georgia from first to seventh for a loss at Auburn, which I think was excessive. But the committee would likely justify that by pointing out the margin of victory.

So let’s say Alabama loses by three at Auburn.

Are you really telling me losing by three on the road against your bitter rival, the number six team in the country, is a bad loss? Put simply, I don’t see how Alabama’s resume at 11-1 is worse than a two loss Big Ten or Pac 12 champion. Especially when you consider the precedent set last year when Ohio State was given a playoff spot at 11-1 over Penn State in almost the exact same scenario. (I do think 11-1 Alabama would probably be left out if, say, 12-1 Clemson wins the ACC, 12-1 Oklahoma wins the Big 12, and 13-0 Wisconsin wins the Big Ten. Then the SEC champ gets in over Alabama and the Tide probably finishes in fifth place.)

I think 12-1 Alabama which lost to 12-1 Georgia in the SEC title game is a no brainer, the Tide would be in the playoff there and so would Georgia. Yes, I think you’d get a conference champ bumped out then.

So if you are a team on the border for the playoff you should be rooting for Alabama to go 13-0 because I think 11-1 or 12-1 Alabama would be in the playoff mix too.

Georgia is in the playoff with a win over Georgia Tech today and a SEC title game win. Georgia would also be in the playoff, I think, with a loss to Georgia Tech and a win in the SEC title game. There are also really wacky playoff scenarios where 11-2 Georgia could still end up in the playoff too.

Auburn is only in the playoff with a win over Alabama and then a win over Georgia in the SEC title game.

By the way, would the state of Alabama burn to the ground if the committee left out SEC champ Auburn, at 11-2, and put in 11-1 Alabama, just like it did last year to Penn State?

I think the state would burn. I’m not even joking.

Put simply, the SEC is very much alive for two playoff spots as we enter the final Saturday of the regular season.

2. The Big Ten has two teams alive for the playoff. 

Wisconsin is in the playoff at 13-0 or, potentially, at 12-1 with a loss to Minnesota and a win in the Big Ten title game depending on what else happens.

Ohio State will be in the mix for the playoff if the following happens: the Buckeyes beat Michigan and then beat Wisconsin to finish 11-2 and win the Big Ten. Then what else has to happen? Alabama needs to finish 13-0 and win the SEC, Clemson needs to finish 12-1 and win the ACC, and Oklahoma needs to finish 12-1 and win the Big 12. Then Ohio State at 11-2 would find itself being compared to 10-2 Notre Dame, 11-2 Georgia, 10-2 Miami and, potentially, 11-2 Pac 12 champ USC or 11-2 Pac 12 champ Washington State.

I know Buckeye fans believe they will be impossible to resist here, but I just don’t see why Ohio State’s resume is significantly better than any of these other teams.

But that’s a debate we can have for tomorrow morning in the Starting 11 if this scenario appears more likely in the wake of Saturday’s results.

3. The ACC will get a team in the playoff. 

I don’t see any way the ACC champ is left out of the playoff.

So the Miami loss to Pittsburgh isn’t likely to matter very much.

But what if Clemson loses at South Carolina today, many of you are asking? Well, I still think 11-2 Clemson or 11-1 Miami winning the ACC title would get them in the playoff. The only way I can see the ACC getting left out here is if, say, 12-1 Alabama lost to 12-1 Georgia in the SEC title game. Then could you make the argument that 12-1 Alabama was better than 11-2 Clemson? Yes, potentially.

But the biggest takeaway here is I think the ACC champ is pretty squarely in the playoff.

4. The Big 12 has two teams alive: Oklahoma and TCU.

We all know 12-1 Oklahoma would be in the playoff. And I actually think Oklahoma could lose today’s game against West Virginia and still be in the playoff with a win over TCU to finish 11-2.

But here’s an interesting question, what happens if TCU upsets Oklahoma to finish 11-2 and win the Big 12 title? Could the Big 12 get two teams then? Because you’d have a real dilemma here. How can you leave TCU out of the playoff? I don’t think you can. But then how could you put 11-2 Big Ten champ Ohio State, who would be finishing with the same record as Oklahoma, in the playoff despite the fact that Oklahoma beat them by 15 on the road? I don’t think you could do that either.

So watch out for this mess.

The Big 12 is playing a totally unnecessary rematch title game next week — Oklahoma is the undisputed champ and has already beaten TCU by a ton just a couple of weeks ago — which can only screw up the playoff picture.

Nothing, to be honest, is more Big 12 than this.

5. The Pac 12 has two teams alive for the playoff: USC and, potentially, Washington State.

What’s USC’s route to the playoff?

The Trojans need to get to 11-2 and they would 100% be in the playoff if the following happened: Alabama wins out, Clemson wins out, Oklahoma wins out, Stanford beats Notre Dame, Michigan beats Ohio State and then the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin.

Then the Trojans would be the last team standing and would definitely make the playoff.

I think the same scenario could also get 11-2 Washington State in the playoff. But Washington State also has to beat Washington today.

6. What about Notre Dame?!

Okay, for all you Fighting Irish fans out there who won’t stop Tweeting or emailing me about 10-2 Notre Dame.

I get that at 10-2 your resume is as good, or better, than 11-2 Ohio State, 11-2 USC, who you beat, 10-2 Miami or 11-2 Georgia.

But I still don’t think it’s possible for you guys to make the playoff.

Having said that, here’s what would need to happen to get the Irish into the legitimate playoff discussion.

First, you guys beat Stanford today.

Then Alabama goes 13-0, Clemson goes 12-1, Oklahoma goes 12-1, all to win their respective conferences, and Michigan beats Ohio State, which then beats Wisconsin. Then Stanford beats USC in the Pac 12 title game. This would leave the Pac 12 and the Big Ten with three loss champions and leave a playoff spot open.

Then, on top of that, Georgia loses to Georgia Tech and Wisconsin loses to Minnesota this weekend.

Then your playoff picture would theoretically come down to 10-2 Miami vs. 10-2 Notre Dame vs. 11-2 Wisconsin vs. 10-3 Big Ten champ Ohio State vs. 9-4 Pac 12 champ Stanford.

That’s the absolute best case scenario for Notre Dame.

But here’s the problem, don’t you have to take 10-2 Miami here because they won the head-to-head over Notre Dame and would have the best resume over all?

I just don’t see a single scenario where 10-2 Notre Dame gets in the playoff.

Okay, does all of this make sense this morning?

Good, because starting in a couple of hours everything will change.

Written by Clay Travis

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.