Clay Travis’ Starting 11: Playoff Arguments Loom Edition

As we come up on the final weekend of October, we’ve almost reached playoff argument season in college football.

And unfortunately many of the playoff arguments remain predicated on the stupidity of divisions.

For example, Michigan and Ohio State, at least to this point, are clearly the two best teams in the Big Ten. But because they play in the same division, there’s a strong chance one team will go 12-0 and then play against a far lesser Big Ten West team in the Big Ten title game, leaving the other team 11-1. Now I know there is still the possibility that either Michigan or Ohio State could lose to someone else, but we’ll discuss that below.

My point is divisions are insanely dumb.

There should be no divisions in college football. The top two teams should play at the end of the year for the conference title. If that means Michigan and Ohio State play twice, so be it.

And it’s not just the Big Ten, of course, where divisions make no sense.

It’s also the SEC. There’s a definite scenario where Georgia goes 12-0, Tennessee goes 11-1 with its only loss on the road at Georgia and Alabama goes 11-1 as well. Georgia and Alabama would then play in the SEC title game even though Tennessee beat Alabama and would have finished in the second spot in the overall SEC standings.

Brock Bowers #19 of the Georgia Bulldogs (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images).

If Alabama beat Georgia in the SEC title game then the Crimson Tide would go to the playoff at 12-1 and Georgia would probably go to the playoff too at 12-1. And Tennessee, depending on how the rest of college football shook out, would be left out of the playoff at 11-1 even though they beat Alabama head-to-head.

Essentially the Alabama-Tennessee game would be rendered worthless based on the SEC having divisions.

So let me just hammer this home right at the beginning, all divisions should cease to exist in college football. This isn’t a new argument from me, by the way, I’ve been yelling it to the heavens for years now. I’ll discuss this below, but just keep it in mind for the incessant, “Well, you didn’t even win your division,” talking points that are coming down the playoff line here soon.

Sometimes the two best teams in the country can be from the same division.

It’s just arbitrary and absurd that we pretend otherwise.

Okay, let’s dive into the Starting 11.

1. LSU crushed Ole Miss, giving the Rebels their only loss of the season so far and spicing up the SEC West race.

LSU, which was left for dead after Tennessee crushed them two weeks ago, has now put up 45 on Florida and Ole Miss in back to back weeks. The Bayou Bengals hit their bye week now and have two weeks to get ready for Alabama down at LSU. Then SEC games at Arkansas, and at Texas A&M remain on the schedule.

Meanwhile Alabama closes with at LSU, at Ole Miss, and Auburn.

Ole Miss closes with at Texas A&M, Alabama, at Arkansas and Mississippi State.

There’s a scenario, maybe even a likely scenario, where we have multiple SEC West teams with two losses and someone gets the tiebreak here. And I’m going to be honest with you, I think Alabama will lose either at LSU or at Ole Miss. Which means LSU and Ole Miss, as we get ready to enter November, both still have pretty clear paths to Atlanta.

Harold Perkins Jr. #40 of the LSU Tigers reacts after sacking Jaxson Dart #2 of the Mississippi Rebels during the first half at Tiger Stadium on October 22, 2022 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images).

If either LSU or Ole Miss can beat Alabama at home, they knock the Tide out of the SEC West running, probably, and would give themselves a tremendous boost in the SEC West race. (Remember, Ole Miss along with Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M are the only four SEC teams to never play in the SEC title game. Sorry, for reminding you, Ole Miss fans, I’m not trying to pile on.)

This means that as disappointing as the Ole Miss loss to LSU was, there’s still quite a bit of drama left in the SEC West race and multiple teams in that drama, which doesn’t always happen.

None of this changes, by the way, the fact that divisions are stupid.

Given that Tennessee already has beaten Alabama and LSU this year, there’s a strong argument that the two best teams in the SEC, at least to this point in the season, are Georgia and Tennessee.

Speaking of which.

2. The SEC East race, barring something crazy, will come down to Tennessee at Georgia on November 5th.

But that doesn’t mean Kentucky can’t play national title spoiler for both Tennessee and Georgia. And, I know, I know, Wildcat fans, if Kentucky wins out they could still win the SEC East if Georgia and Tennessee both lost two conference games.

But that’s highly unlikely.

Most likely the team that wins Tennessee-Georgia will be in Atlanta.

Georgia closes with Florida, Tennessee, at Mississippi State, at Kentucky, and Georgia Tech.

Tennessee’s closing stretch is Kentucky, at Georgia, Missouri, at South Carolina, and at Vandy.

If both Tennessee and Georgia take care of business this coming weekend as double digit favorites then Tennessee at Georgia will be the biggest November game in the SEC East since, maybe, ever? It’s just rare in general to have two 8-0 teams play against each other in the SEC, period. And I can’t remember the last time this would have happened in the SEC East, if ever. (Historically Tennessee and Florida have played in September and Tennessee and Georgia have played in October so games like these wouldn’t have even been possible very often. The Vols and Gators played a December game in 2001 after their September game was moved for 9/11, but Tennessee had already lost a game. So Tennessee at Georgia would probably be the biggest SEC East game late in the season since then. Tennessee and Arkansas also played when both were 9-0, I believe, back in 1998, but that was cross-divisional. Anyway, my point here is if the Vols and Dawgs take care of business, we’re setting up an all time SEC battle of undefeated teams.)

And the losing team is likely boxed out of Atlanta since based on the tiebreak it’s worth 1.5 games and it’s unlikely either Georgia or Tennessee would go on and lose two conference games.

Hendon Hooker runs the ball during the game against Akron
Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker (5) runs the ball (Photo by Kevin Langley/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

3. Penn State gets a crack at Ohio State this coming weekend in Happy Valley.

But if the Buckeyes win that game, and I think they will, then it’s all systems go for Michigan at Ohio State to finish the season in Columbus.

Because after Penn State this weekend, here’s what Ohio State finishes with: at Northwestern, Indiana, at Maryland, then Michigan. I suppose you could maybe say the at Maryland game might have a bit of nervousness given it’s the week before Michigan, but beat the Nittany Lions and this schedule just doesn’t feel that overwhelming for the Buckeyes.

Meanwhile Michigan’s schedule is even easier going forward: Michigan State, at Rutgers, Nebraska, Illinois, and then the conclusion at Ohio State. I know Illinois is having a good season, but they aren’t going and winning at the Big House. Not even in the trap game scenario.

My point here is it’s highly likely we’re going to have a 12-0 Big Ten East champ and then a 11-1 runner up.

Which means the one loss team beauty pageant could get downright nasty.

COLUMBUS, OH – OCTOBER 22: Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau (44) sacks Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Alex Padilla (8) during the third quarter of the college football game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Ohio State Buckeyes on October 22, 2022, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

4. The Big 12 title game looks like it may well be a TCU and Oklahoma State rematch.

TCU, which remains undefeated, will be favored in every game the rest of the way except, perhaps, at Texas. But even then a one loss TCU would still be in the Big 12 title game.

And Oklahoma State, at least for the moment, looks like the team most likely to challenge them.

Now, granted, it’s the Big 12 so Kansas State could beat Oklahoma State next week and throw this scenario into a bit of an uproar, but it’s not too early to start thinking about the Big 12’s playoff chances given the potential one loss non-champs in the SEC and the Big Ten who could be on the outside looking in of the conference title games.

5. The best team in the Pac 12 appears to be Oregon.

Which has been absolutely wrecking people since being destroyed by Georgia in week one of the season.

In fact, I think it’s probably fair to say that Georgia’s win over Oregon and Tennessee’s win over Alabama are the two best wins that any undefeated team has so far this year. I’d say the four best undefeated team wins on the year, so far, are Michigan over Penn State and TCU over Oklahoma State.

And that’s why, as you’ll see below in a bit, I’ve put Georgia back as my second best team, this Oregon win just keeps looking better.

Oregon Ducks defensive end Brandon Dorlus (3) (Photo by Steve Conner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

But Oregon’s in a unique spot now because not only do they need to win out and go 12-1 to have a playoff heartbeat, they also need Georgia to win the SEC. Because what if, for instance, Georgia lost to Tennessee and then finished 11-1? There’s no way a 12-1 Oregon could get in the playoff over an 11-1 Georgia team, right?

Just keep this in mind.

But it’s also the Pac 12, they’re as likely to have a three loss champ as they are a one loss champ.

7. Clemson probably isn’t going to lose in the ACC.

Having come back from 14 down to beat Syracuse, Clemson finishes at Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami and South Carolina.

The Tigers would then likely face North Carolina in the ACC title game.

I’m not sure how good they are — and they haven’t been that impressive in many of their wins this year — but Clemson looks poised to grab a playoff berth for the ACC.

The only way I could see this getting derailed for Clemson is if South Carolina were to beat them at the end of the year and then I’ve got a scenario that would drive non-SEC fans insane.

8. What’s the playoff scenario that would drive people the most bonkers?

Oregon wins the Pac 12 with two losses, Clemson wins the ACC with one loss, but that one loss is to South Carolina, the Big 12 champ has two losses.

An undefeated Michigan or Ohio State wins the Big Ten.

Then Alabama goes 12-1 and beats 12-1 Georgia to win the SEC title. Tennessee wins out and only loses a close game at Georgia. Then you’ve got 11-1 Tennessee with a win over Alabama out there competing with a one loss Michigan or Ohio State, a one loss Clemson team who lost to South Carolina, Oregon with two losses, including an SEC whipping at the hands of Georgia, and a two loss Big 12 champ.

I think in this scenario you’d get three SEC teams in the playoff plus the Big Ten champ.

Because Tennessee’s 11-1 resume would be better than any other one loss team’s I think. (The same would be true if you flip Georgia and Tennessee and Georgia goes 11-1 with an only loss to Tennessee and then Alabama came back and beat undefeated Tennessee in the SEC title game.)

Again, there are still a ton of scenarios at play here and lots of games would have to break this way, but this is how you get three SEC teams in the playoff and break the rest of the country’s minds.

9. The Vegas National Title Odds

Vegas is essentially telling us there are six national title contenders at this point in the season.

Georgia +180
Ohio State +180
Alabama +350
Clemson +1600
Michigan +1600
Tennessee +1800

After these schools, we jump to the Pac 12 contenders

Oregon 40-1
USC 60-1

Then the Big 12 contenders

Oklahoma State 80-1
TCU 100-1

And the only other ACC contender

UNC 130-1

10. My Outkick National Top Ten

To give you my rationale here: I have Tennessee and Georgia ranked first and second because I think they have the two best wins on the season so far. But I have Tennessee first because their overall resume is better than Georgia’s right now. Ohio State and Michigan have both been dominant against their schedules so far and that’s why I have them up next at three and four. And I have Alabama fifth because I think the Tide would beat everyone else in my top ten.

1. Tennessee
2. Georgia
3. Ohio State
4. Michigan
5. Alabama
6. Clemson
7. TCU
8. Oregon
9. Oklahoma State
10. USC

11. SEC Power Rankings 1-14

I believe every team is ranked above teams they’ve beaten with the exception of South Carolina being ranked above Arkansas. But that’s an impossible putt to sink because South Carolina beat Texas A&M, which beat Arkansas so someone has to be ranked above a team they’ve beaten.

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

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.

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