Starting 11: The Gus Bus Crashes the Playoff Edition

And then the sports God said, let there be college football playoff chaos.

And across the land there was a great tumult as voices rose up and screamed and rended their garments and shouted forth, “Why not us? Why are you forsaking us college football playoff committee? Why are you biased against mine favored team?”

Such was the weekend that was, when everything was torn asunder, including all preconceived notions as to who could make the playoff.

And when accusations of bias rained forth like a mighty downpour of frogs when all was said and done there were nine teams still fighting for four playoff spots.

Who are those teams and what’s going to happen from this point forward?

Let’s discuss:

But, first, let’s have some Krystals and a Coke.

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Okay, here we go.

1. What will the college football playoff committee’s top ten look like on Tuesday?

Chances are it will look different than mine.

Which looks like this right now.

1. Georgia

2. Clemson

3. Auburn

4. Oklahoma

5. Alabama

6. Wisconsin

7. Miami

8. Ohio State

9. Penn State

10. USC

The playoff committee’s rankings will be useful for speculation, but remember they CREATE AN ENTIRELY NEW RANKING EVERY WEEK.

That is, what happened the week before doesn’t matter. They aren’t bound by prior week polls when they come up with their new ones. So using them to predict rankings is virtually useless. Don’t believe me? Ask TCU in 2014.

2. There are nine teams still alive for a spot in the college football playoff. 

Those nine teams are: Alabama, Georgia and Auburn from the SEC. Wisconsin and Ohio State from the Big Ten. Oklahoma and TCU from the Big 12, and Clemson and Miami from the ACC.

Now let’s break down all the scenarios remaining.

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

Let’s start with the easiest decision: the winner of Georgia and Auburn in the SEC title game is in the playoff. The loser is out.

Now here is where things get complicated.

Alabama is still very much alive for a playoff spot as well. The Tide are 11-1 and would be favored over every team in college football on a neutral field. Yes, even Auburn.

I know, I know, Alabama played poorly at Auburn, losing their first game by double digits in seven years. But was Alabama any worse against Auburn than Ohio State was twice, losing by 15 at home at Oklahoma and by 31 to 7-5 Iowa?

I don’t think so.

Sometimes teams play poorly one week and look extraordinary the next week.

I think there is a very good chance that Alabama gets in the same way Ohio State did last year, as an 11-1 team that the committee believes is better than a two loss conference champion.

We’ll discuss this in greater detail below.

In the meantime the important point is this, the SEC is very much alive for two teams in the playoff.

4. The Big Ten has two teams alive for playoff berths.

Wisconsin has beaten three big five conference teams with winning records all season. (Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan.) If the Badgers beat Ohio State they will have two top 25 wins and will have only played two top 25 teams all year. (And one of those teams was Northwestern).

Compare that with Alabama who will have played six teams with winning FBS records and gone 5-1 in those games.

Wisconsin has the weakest resume of a 12-0 FBS team in the history of 12-0 FBS teams.

Having said all of this, if Wisconsin goes 13-0 I don’t think there’s any way the committee would leave them out of the playoff.

Yes, that’s even though I believe Alabama would be a double digit favorite over Wisconsin on a neutral site and that the committee is specifically charged with picking the four best teams, not the four most deserving or the four teams with the best records.

If Alabama played Wisconsin with a month to prepare I think the Tide would beat them like they beat Michigan State two years ago. It would be flat out ugly a talent mismatch.

But what if Ohio State wins? 

If the Buckeyes win the playoff committee won’t be able to put Ohio State in above the SEC champ, the ACC champ or 12-1 Oklahoma. I think all of you reading would agree with that statement. That leaves Ohio State as the potential fourth seed. Their top competition there? Alabama.

And I believe 11-1 Alabama has the better resume.

Now let’s talk 11-1 Alabama vs. 11-2 Ohio State. 

11-1 Alabama would have the same number of wins against teams with winning records as Ohio State and its single loss will be demonstrably better than Ohio State’s two losses. Bama lost on the road to Auburn, a bitter conference rival, who is a top five team and may well make the playoff. Ohio State lost to Oklahoma at home by 15 and lost by 31 on the road to 7-5 Iowa.

Presently Ohio State has four wins against teams with winning records: Army, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan. If the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game they would have five wins against teams with winning records, the same number as Alabama.

Alabama has five wins against teams with winning records right now: Fresno State, Colorado State, Mississippi State, LSU, and Texas A&M. (Florida State will likely end up 6-6 — they have a make-up game with Louisiana-Monroe next weekend — but what would the Seminole record have been without Francois’s injury? Since the committee considers quarterback injuries for Clemson, shouldn’t they also consider FSU with Francois? Remember, Alabama played FSU with Francois until late in the fourth quarter. FSU with Francois definitely finishes with a winning record, right? They lost games by 6, 4, and 3 this year with a true freshman quarterback. Plus, is it Alabama’s fault that a top five preseason FSU team ended up losing several tight games after their quarterback was injured? The Tide scheduled a challenging neutral site game, which the committee wants to encourage. So it’s not like Alabama dodged anyone on this schedule. In fact, they tried to challenge themselves, which is a clear directive from the committee)

So Alabama has the same number of wins against winning teams as Ohio State and fewer losses. Plus, their loss comes against a better team by fewer points.

Breaking down the numbers more fully, Alabama went 7-1 against FBS teams with .500 or better records while Ohio State, if it beats Wisconsin, will go 5-2 against these same FBS opponents with winning records.

How about FBS teams in big five conferences with .500 or better records? Alabama will have gone 5-1 against these opponents while Ohio State will have gone 4-2 even with a win over Wisconsin.

Okay, how about records against FBS teams from big five conferences with winning records? Bama went 3-1, Ohio State will go 4-2 even with a win over Wisconsin.

Finally, Ohio State lost by 15 to Oklahoma and 31 to 7-5 Wisconsin while Alabama lost by 12 at Auburn.

Put simply, Alabama’s record at the top is better and its record at the bottom isn’t as bad as Ohio State’s.

But Alabama didn’t even win its own division or its conference!

Good luck trying this argument, Ohio State fans. Last year you argued the committee should take the better team in this exact same situation.

And the committee agreed with you.

Passing over a two loss Penn State team WITH A HEAD TO HEAD WIN over your Buckeyes. The committee neglected to take the team that won Ohio State’s division and Ohio State’s conference, 11-2 Penn State, in favor of 11-1 Ohio State.

Why did the committee do that? Because they believed 11-1 Ohio State was better than a two loss conference champion, that, may I remind you, had beaten Ohio State head to head.

The same logic should apply here.

11-1 Alabama would be favored over every team in college football. If the committee’s charge is to take the four best teams — which it is — then Alabama would have to be selected over Ohio State.

5. The ACC has two teams alive — Clemson and Miami.

The ACC champ will be in the playoff. The loser will not.


At least that’s something simple.

6. The Big 12 is playing an entirely unnecessary title game. 

Oklahoma is the undisputed Big 12 champion.

They played all nine teams in the conference and they went 8-1 with a head-to-head double digit win over second place TCU.

If the season were ending today Oklahoma would be in the playoff. And if Oklahoma finishes 12-1 they’ll be in the playoff too.

But what happens if TCU wins the Big 12 title game?

If TCU wins then I think 11-1 Alabama is 100% in the playoff over 11-2 TCU and 11-2 Oklahoma.

But the real challenge would come in deciding who gets in the playoff if Ohio State beats Wisconsin and TCU beats Oklahoma. Because then there’s one spot left after the SEC champ, the ACC champ, and 11-1 Alabama.

Does the committee take 11-2 TCU, 11-2 Oklahoma or 11-2 Ohio State?

My best guess here is that TCU is the compromise pick because it avoids the committee having to take Ohio State over an 11-2 team Oklahoma team that it lost to by 15 in a head to head game.

Confused yet?

God, I love college football.

Because all we do is argue!

7. The Pac 12 is eliminated no matter what happens in the Pac 12 title game.

Sorry, guys, but how about Chip Kelly to UCLA?

Major credit to the Bruins for firing Jim Mora and getting a new hire made in the space of a week.

This is an absolute grand slam hire.

I can’t wait to see what Chip Kelly can do at UCLA.

8. So rank the playoff candidates for me right now and put them in order to make sense of all this mess.


1. SEC champ — either Georgia or Auburn.

2. ACC champ — either Clemson or Miami

3. 12-1 Big 12 champ Oklahoma, which could end up number one overall if Auburn and Miami both win titles.

4. 13-0 Wisconsin

5. 11-1 Alabama

6. 11-2 Big 12 champ TCU

7. 11-2 Big Ten champ Ohio State

8. Two loss ACC runner up.

Put simply, I don’t see Ohio State able to climb higher than number five.

9. So who gets the jobs at Florida, Tennessee, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Arkansas?

Man, I’ve got no idea.

I mean, seriously, no idea.

Anyone who tells you they have a good idea what’s going on with all these jobs open is lying. No one knows, not even the best connected agents in college sports.

Chip Kelly to UCLA threw everything into an uproar.

I’ll be writing more and more on this all week long, but here’s my best guess right now:

Florida: Scott Frost

Tennessee: Dan Mullen

Nebraska: Mike Leach

Texas A&M: Jimbo Fisher

Arkansas: Mike Norvell (If Gus Malzahn loses the SEC title game, Arkansas could still make a play here, but I think it’s much less likely now that Auburn is convinced Malzahn is a coaching genius again.)

But I don’t feel very comfortable about any of these because if FSU opens up, which I think there’s a good chance it will, it throws everything into an uproar all over again.

10. Baker Mayfield will win the Heisman Trophy and it won’t be close.

And I actually find myself rooting for Mayfield because the media coverage of his crotch grab has been so indefensibly absurd.

It reminds me of the way the media covered Johnny Manziel like he was a serial killer in his final season at Texas A&M.

I may end up doing an entire column on this, but how about South Florida’s quarterback scoring and doing the jerk off motion and cumming on the entire crowd and no one in the sports media even talking about it.

What an insane double standard.

We’re talking about a game that was airing for a national audience on ABC Friday night too. It’s not like this wasn’t being broadcast for the masses. Remember that Baker Mayfield’s dick grab came in the second half of a blowout against Kansas, in a game no one was watching.

The only reason anyone saw Baker Mayfield’s dick grab was because the media covered his dick grab like it was the goddamn Kennedy assassination tape. The sports media Zaprudered the fuck out of his dick grab. Back and to the right, back and to the right.

My favorite part was the decision to blur out the dick grab.

He’s wearing pants, is it obscene to grab your dick in your pants now? If so, don’t we have to blur out every baseball game since 14% of every baseball broadcast is guys readjusting their cock and balls?

As if that weren’t enough, how about this dog peeing on the field celebration from Ole Miss-Mississippi State on Thursday night on ESPN?

That also happened in a national ESPN broadcast with millions watching on Thanksgiving night.

The coverage?


Look, I don’t have an issue with penis-related touchdown celebrations — in fact, I welcome them — but isn’t it crazy that Baker Mayfield grabbing his dick got a thousand times more coverage than both of these gestures did? Hell, isn’t it even more insane that Baker Mayfield’s gesture got way more media attention than Jameis Winston’s alleged sexual assault?!

Oh, and if you want to argue the reason Mayfield got all the coverage was because he’s a famous college football player and these other two guys weren’t, how about defending Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson starting a brawl this weekend against Kentucky. That’s pretty big news, right?

The resulting sports media coverage?

Absolute crickets.

Baker Mayfield grabbed his cock and balls on the sideline, guys.

I’m pretty sure I’ve readjusted my cock and balls three or four times while writing this column. Most of you reading this column just noticed your cock and balls need readjusting too when you read that and did it too. (Adjusting your cock and balls is like yawing, when you see someone do it, you have to do it too.)

Grabbing your cock and balls is the functional equivalent of shooting a bird at someone. I’m not saying Baker Mayfield is a saint or I’d want my team leader doing this on a regular basis, but isn’t it absolutely insane to compare the amount of coverage his dick grab got with all of these more egregious on field incidents from this weekend that aren’t receiving an iota of media attention?

I’ve got a crazy idea, I think the sports media should treat similar situations similarly.

And here that didn’t happen.

At all.

Baker Mayfield got the Grayson Allen and Johnny Manziel treatment from ESPN. The simple truth of the matter is this — if you’re a good white athlete who is cocky and plays with swagger you get held to a different, tougher standard than anyone else in sports.

And that shouldn’t be the case. We should treat all athletes — and people — the same regardless of what they look like, where they’re from, who they sleep with, or what religion they support.

And that’s what I do at Outkick.

Which is why everyone loves me so much.

11. SEC power rankings 1-14

All season long, the Starting 11 and SEC rankings are sponsored by Krystal.  Krystal burgers are only 79 cents each – only 79 cents! – all day, every day.

Krystal is hooking up the Outkick family again this season – text OUTKICK to ‘37793’ right now for some free Krystals and a soda.  Enjoy!

1. Georgia

2. Auburn

3. Alabama

4. Mississippi State

5. LSU

6. Texas A&M

7. Kentucky

8. South Carolina

9. Missouri

10. Ole Miss

11. Arkansas

12. Florida

13. Vanderbilt

14. Tennessee

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.