Starting 11: Is Every Team Fatally Flawed This Year?

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We’re not through October yet and I think this is shaping up to be an incredibly difficult year for the committee to pick the four best teams. 

There are still 12 unbeaten FBS teams and many of the one loss teams have similar resumes to the unbeaten teams. 

Sure, it could fall perfect, Clemson, Michigan State, Iowa or Ohio State, LSU, and Baylor or TCU could all finish undefeated and there would be a line of clear demarcation with four major conference unbeatens and everyone else losing a game. In that sitation, any idiot could pick the playoff teams. If that happened then 12-1 Pac 12 champ Stanford could have a gripe, but I think most people would agree with the four unbeaten major conference champs in the playoff. 

So that’s the best case for the committee, but what if, as is usually the case, we get a messy conclusion to the season?

Let me illustrate the worst case scenario for you:

1. What if Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame, Clemson, FSU, Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa, Baylor, Utah, and TCU all finish with one loss and there are no undefeated FBS teams? 

It’s definitely possible that you end up with 11 one loss teams and no undefeated teams this year. 

So who gets in?

Good luck to the committee. 

If this happened, we would definitely need a coaches debate — hopefully moderated by me — where every coach has to make the case for why his team deserves to be in the playoff. Coaches could also attack opposing team resumes. Can you imagine watching this on television? Tell me it wouldn’t be television gold. 

2. The Big Ten East three-way 7-1 tie between Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan remains in play. 

The fifth tiebreak, is the playoff committee’s opinion of who is the best team. 

That’s a tough situation for the committee, but the craziest aspect of this is that the committee’s poll isn’t released until Tuesday night of that week. 

This means the Iowa Hawkeyes would have to prepare on Sunday and Monday for three potential opponents. And you’d have the incredibly strange situation of Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State all beginning practice for a Big Ten title game against Iowa while they waited on the committee’s poll to figure out whether they’d be playing in the title game or not. 

The most absurd of all the tie breaks, by the way, would be if the committee punted on picking the best Big Ten East team, ranked them all tied for (insert spot here), and the tie break continued. The seventh tie break is a random draw. 

Can you imagine televising that?

3. Want some SEC chaos: what if 10-2 Ole Miss wins the SEC West and 11-1 Florida wins the SEC East?

That’s not an absurd outcome at all, right? 

The Rebels finish the year at Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, and at Mississippi State and they figure to be favored in all four.

I feel like everyone has forgotten the Rebels own the tie break over Alabama, win out and they win the west.  

Alabama’s in a very tough spot then, even if the Tide wins out, which I’m not convinced they will, I’m not sure Alabama can get in the playoff without winning its division and then the SEC title. So let’s say Alabama does win out and finishes 11-1, if Ole Miss wins the SEC title and finishes 11-2, can you really leap Alabama over a team that beat them head-to-head on the road and won the SEC title? Even with one additional loss, I don’t think you can jump Alabama over Ole Miss, especially since Ole Miss would have one more win, the SEC title. That’s even more true if Ole Miss were to beat Florida, the SEC team that beat them earlier in the year, in the SEC title game.  

Meanwhile, everyone is sleeping on Florida, but the Gators are actually in great shape to potentially make the playoff this year too, even without Will Grier at quarterback.

All Florida has to do is beat Georgia, Vandy, at South Carolina, Florida Atlantic and FSU to finish 11-1. The Gators will be favored in all of these games. Then beat anyone they play in the SEC title game, potentially it’s Ole Miss again, and 12-1 Florida is a clear playoff team.  

4. What if Memphis or Temple finish 13-0 and no other FBS teams are undefeated?

Would the committee reward either team? Keep in mind that there are presently three top 25 AAC teams. That’s the same number of top 25 teams as the ACC. 

Temple would have wins over Penn State, Notre Dame, Memphis, and Houston. Memphis would have wins over Ole Miss, a potential SEC champ, and Temple and Houston. 

There’s no way that 11-2 Ole Miss could go to the playoff over 13-0 Memphis, is there? Moreover, how could you put Alabama in the college football playoff over Memphis if the Tigers beat the team that beat you head-to-head, Ole Miss, and Alabama doesn’t win its own division?

Make no mistake, I’m not saying that Memphis is better than Alabama, but how would the committee analyze this? This is a good analysis of the difference between best and most deserving.  

5. Don’t sleep on LSU pulling an Alabama and getting in the playoff without winning its division. 

Scenario: Alabama beats LSU head-to-head to win the SEC West tiebreak, but both teams finish with a lone loss on the season. Alabama loses to a Florida or Georgia team with two losses and 10-1 LSU has the best resume of any SEC team, particularly if Florida beats Alabama since LSU beat Florida head-to-head. 

Look out, LSU could get into the playoff without winning its division.

By the way, divisions make no sense in a college playoff era. Why in the world do the SEC East and the SEC West need to exist? I’d get the NCAA rule requiring divisions eliminated — right now divisions are required to play a conference title game — eliminate all divisions instead and take the top two teams from every conference.

It makes particular sense in the SEC, where you could eliminate the necessity of needing to play all five teams in your division and instead play three yearly rivals and rotate through the rest of the conference with five additional games every year. This way every team in the SEC would play every other team in the SEC every two years. This would also mean that every SEC team would play every other SEC team in home and homes every four years. So instead of, for instance, 12 years passing between Alabama going to Georgia or vice versa, you’d play every team home and away every four years.  

6. Stanford is the best team in the Pac 12. 

Remaining Pac 12 schedule: Washington State, Oregon, Colorado and Cal should all be wins. 

That means Notre Dame coming to Stanford could be a default playoff elimination game. (That’s assuming Notre Dame beats Temple, Wake Forest Pitt, and Boston College, which is no guarantee). 

With USC exposing Utah, the Pac 12 South is also wide open again. 

There’s even a decent chance the Pac 12 South is decided in the USC-UCLA game to finish the season. How wild would it be if, after all the absurd drama, USC ended up winning the Pac 12 South this year?

By the way, anyone doubting Vegas? USC was installed as a 3.5 point favorite, 82% of the bets rolled in on Utah — including yours truly — the line climbs to seven because the smart money is on USC, and the Trojans dominate. 

7. Alabama is good, not great. 

Tennessee went toe-to-toe with Alabama for sixty minutes on Saturday. Nothing was flukish about this game, the two teams posted almost equal total yardage, they each turned the ball over one time, oh, and the Vols missed three field goals. The simple fact is this, the gap between Alabama and Tennessee when it comes to talent isn’t very substantial.  

Alabama’s a good team, just not a great team. 

And I’m not sold on the Crimson Tide this year. Amazingly, Alabama doesn’t have a single win over a team presently ranked in the top 25. Obviously, LSU is huge on November 7th — and the Tide will be favored — but the only thing I know for sure in that game is that I’m taking the under. I don’t think there’s much difference between Alabama and LSU.  

Let’s talk about Tennessee for a minute, the Vols should be substantial favorites to run the table from this point forward. Kentucky, Missouri, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina are all bad football teams. If the Vols lose to any of these teams it counts as a really bad loss because there should be a substantial talent differential. Win out to finish 8-4, play well in a bowl game, and Tennessee will be a top ten team entering next season.  

I don’t have faith in Butch Jones on the sideline, but the Vol talent level is already good, and next year, with virtually everyone back, will be outstanding. 

By the way, you think USC winning the Pac 12 South is crazy, the wildest outcome of any college football division would be this: Tennessee wins the SEC East. Amazingly, it could still happen. Here’s how: Florida loses to Georgia next week and either South Carolina or Vandy to finish 5-3 in the SEC. Georgia beats Florida, but then loses to either Kentucky, or, more likely, Auburn on the road. Tennessee wins out to finish 5-3 in conference. Then you’re talking about a three-way 5-3 tie in the SEC East.

So who wins that three way 5-3 tie between Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia?

Incredibly, Tennessee. Florida would lose the three way tiebreak because the Gators, in this scenario, would have two SEC East losses, Georgia and either South Carolina or Vandy. That tosses it back to a two team tiebreak between Georgia and Tennessee and Tennessee would have the head-to-head tiebreak over Georgia. 

So the 3-4 Vols still aren’t eliminated from winning the SEC title. 

8. Baylor looked really bad against Iowa State.

I don’t know if it was the weather or getting up 35-0, but Seth Russell, even before his injury, was awful in this game. Baylor’s entire team looked like they were playing with the flu. There was no energy. There was no drive. 

This is the first time I haven’t been entirely sold on Baylor all year.  

With Ohio State finally making the change to J.T. Barrett, I really think the Buckeyes may finally start looking like a title team. 

9. What’s up #fsutwitter?

This play was glorious.  

For their part, the Tallahassee police department declined to call this a Seminole loss, stating that the video was inconclusive. 

10. Outkick’s Top Ten. 

Apologies for being late on posting this — it usually goes up late on Saturday night — but I went to a Halloween party instead of waiting on Stanford-Washington to finish so here’s my top ten:

1. Baylor

2. Clemson

3. LSU

4. Alabama

5. Stanford

6. Iowa

7. Michigan State

8. Ohio State

9. Florida

10. Notre Dame

11. SEC power rankings:

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Florida

4. Ole Miss

5. Tennessee

6. Georgia

7. Texas A&M

8. Mississippi State

9. Arkansas

10. Auburn

11. Kentucky

12. South Carolina

13. Vandy

14. Missouri

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.


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