The Starting 11: Playoff Simplifies Edition

Videos by OutKick

Nov 29, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles speaks with Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes (5) after the game at AT&T Stadium. The Bears defeated the Red Raiders 48-46. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports Jerome Miron USA TODAY Sports

We’re one week from the playoff officially being unveiled and with Mississippi State’s loss and Ohio State’s quarterback injury suddenly the committee’s job has gotten much easier. There are only three teams contending for the fourth spot and if all three of those teams win then Baylor will be your number four team. 

I mean, it’s pretty simple. 

Let’s dive into the Starting 11 and I’ll explain why. 

1. This should be the committee’s ranking this week:

1. Alabama 2. Oregon 3. Florida State 4. TCU 5. Baylor 6. Ohio State 7. Arizona

I’d leap Baylor over Ohio State with the J.T. Barrett injury, but I would have had both Big 12 teams above Ohio State at the end of the season regardless. With the injury to Barrett I just don’t see this as a difficult call at all. It’s possible the committee will leave Baylor behind Ohio State this week given Baylor wasn’t impressive against Texas Tech once Bryce Petty was injured, but with the upcoming game against top ten Kansas State, if Baylor wins that one the Bears should be fourth. If Baylor loses to Kansas State then TCU — assuming they don’t post one of the greatest choke jobs in the history of college football by losing to Iowa State — should be fourth. 

I’ll explain why at number two below.  

2. Let’s look at the resumes of TCU, Baylor, and Ohio State

(I’m using the AP poll and counting all the teams receiving votes. So that means there are 38 “good wins” on the board).


Good wins: #9 Kansas State #18 Oklahoma, #27 Minnesota

Loss: at #5 Baylor


Good wins: #4 TCU, at #18 Oklahoma (#9 Kansas State potentially)

Loss: at #34 West Virginia

Ohio State

Good wins: at #7 Michigan State, #27 Minnesota #38 Cincinnati (#11 Wisconsin potentially)

Loss: Virginia Tech

Even if Ohio State beats Wisconsin — which I don’t think they will — both TCU and Baylor have better resumes than the Buckeyes. They’ll have three strong top 25-ish wins to Ohio State’s three — would Buckeye fans even argue that Cincinnati is a good win? — and both of their losses will be much better. TCU has the best loss of all, on the road at Baylor by three points. Baylor has the second best loss, a rough road outing at West Virginia. Ohio State’s loss to Virginia Tech is the single worst loss in the history of a college football title contender. No team has ever lost by 14 or more to a 6-6 or worse team and finished the regular season ranked in the top four.

So both Baylor and TCU have better wins and a better loss than Ohio State. And neither of them just loss their quarterback for the season.  

This is an easy call, it’s either Baylor or TCU for the fourth spot.    

3. Baylor vs. TCU is the only decision the committee will have to make.

And even that isn’t very difficult. 

If Baylor beats Kansas State then the Bears have the same 8-1 Big 12 record as TCU, only they beat the Horned Frogs head-to-head. The teams played nearly identical schedules, the 9 game Big 12 slate, both played SMU, and an FCS opponent. So 11 out of 12 of these games are the exact same. The only difference in the schedules at all is that TCU hosted 8-4 Minnesota and Baylor went on the road at 5-6 Buffalo.

In order to take TCU over Baylor you’d have to decide that a single out of conference game invalidates a head-to-head game.

That’s an untenable position.

If Baylor beats Kansas State then the Bears are in the playoff. If they don’t then, assuming TCU beats Iowa State, the Horned Frogs are in the playoff.

That’s it.


4. We should eliminate conference title games and expand the playoffs.

We have four conference title games this year. 

All of them are worthless. 

We already know that Alabama is the best SEC team, Oregon is the best Pac 12 team, Ohio State is the best Big Ten team, and Florida State is the best ACC team. That’s why we played eight or nine conference games, to prove this fact. So what do we gain by playing all these “title” games? We’re just requiring the teams that we already know are the best to play a game against an inferior opponent that could knock three of these teams out of the playoff. (Ohio State is not in the playoff regardless of the outcome, but it could take away their Big Ten title).

We already know who the best teams are in all four conferences, so why play these games at all?

I propose that we do away with conference title games and expand the playoff to eight teams next year. The conferences would make more money off an expanded playoff than they do off a title game and it clears up the calendar. Play the first round of the playoff when the conference title games are played now. Or bump them back one week and play all four quarterfinals on the second weekend of December. You could have one playoff game on Thursday night, one on Friday night and two on Saturday. It would be college football’s own Elite Eight weekend.

I’ll write a full column on this idea later in the week, but this would also allow you to eliminate divisions and play a more equitable schedule. Every SEC team, for instance, would play three traditional rivals and then play five rotating opponents. You’d play every team in the conference every two years and you’d complete a home and home with the entire conference every four years. If two teams finish with the same record and don’t play head-to-head then they split the conference title. That used to happen all the time. We split division titles now, big deal if we split conference titles. Assuming both teams were undefeated out of conference both would probably advance to the playoff too.

Winning a conference title is a great goal, but every single fan reading this right now would rather lose the conference title and make the playoff, right? The ultimate goal is to make the playoff and win a national title.

So why not do away with conference title games and expand the playoff to eight teams?  

5. What happens if several of the top four lose?

Let’s say a total disaster occurs and Alabama, Oregon, FSU, Baylor, and Ohio State all lose. (TCU is a thirty point home favorite over Iowa State. There’s no way they lose.)

Then what would your playoff look like?

1. TCU 2. Alabama 3. Arizona 4. Oregon

Yep, I still think Alabama and Oregon would get in even if they lost their title games. We’d be down to the two loss teams and Alabama, Arizona and Oregon would be the three top two loss teams. They’d be above Wisconsin, who would jump Michigan State with the Big Ten title, and Georgia Tech, who would also jump Michigan State with the ACC title. 

If only one of these teams loses then I think the Big 12 will get two teams in, I really do. Since FSU is the most likely to lose based on lines, if FSU lost your playoff would look like this: 1. Alabama 2. Oregon 3. Baylor 4. TCU

If two teams lost and Ohio State won then things could really get interesting. Would two-loss Alabama get in over Ohio State? How about two loss Oregon? Given Ohio State’s quarterback situation, that would turn into an interesting debate.  

6. Georgia Georgia’d like never before.  

You know what’s crazy, Georgia would actually have a chance to get into the playoff if they hadn’t Georgia’d against Georgia Tech. Georgia would be the top two loss team in the country right now, sitting at number seven. Instead, Georgia Georgia’s like never before and Georgia Tech won in Athens.

If Georgia just doesn’t Georgia away the game against Tech — two fumbles at the one yard line, a blocked field goal, allowing Tech to drive for a 53 yard field goal in 18 seconds after a disastrous squib kick, and an interception in overtime — then the Bulldogs would be the only team in the country with four wins over top 20 opponents — Auburn, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Missouri. Georgia would have the best two loss resume in the country. 

Hell, Georgia should be 12-0 right now. We’d be talking about how Alabama had to win in Atlanta and no matter what happened Georgia was in the playoff regardless.

Instead Georgia found a way to lose three football games this year to inferior opponents. I’d be sick to my stomach if I were a Bulldog fan.     

7. UCLA got crushed by Stanford.

UCLA might be the Georgia of the west coast. The Bruins would have been seventh in the country with a redemptive Pac 12 title game against Oregon on Friday. Beat the Ducks and UCLA would have had a really good shot at the playoff. My 200-1 bet would look stellar.   

All the Bruines had to do to give themselves this chance was beat 6-5 Stanford at home. 

Instead they lost by 21.


8. The ACC went 4-0 against the SEC this weekend — suck it!

This is such a stupid argument.

Congrats to Georgia Tech, the ACC’s second best team upset the SEC’s third best team, Georgia. That’s a good win.

The other three of these games were not good wins. They were the best teams from the ACC, the Vegas favorites, beating the worst teams from the SEC at home ACC stadiums. 


The ACC’s best team, Florida State, beat the SEC’s 10th best team, Florida, by five points.

The ACC’s third best team, Clemson, beat the SEC’s 12th best team, South Carolina.

The ACC’s fourth best team, Louisville, beat the SEC’s 13th best team, Kentucky, by four points.  

The 10th and 13th best teams in the SEC had the ball driving for the win on the road against the ACC’s best and fourth best teams. 

What ACC domination!

9. It’s dirty business right now in Birmingham.

Bear Bryant’s son has conspired to get UAB’s football program shut down because of a long-standing grudge against the program from decades ago. It’s stupid, petty, and brings up all the old backwoods Southern stereotypes, that a powerful man with rich business interests can do whatever he wants even if the public disagrees.

I’m told that in the offseason Nick Saban called Bryant’s son with Bill Clark, UAB’s coach, in his office and asked Bryant to talk with Clark on the phone about the future of the program. Bryant refused to speak with Clark. Yep, he shot down a request from Nick Saban.

Talk about petty.     

10. How exciting was that Iron Bowl?

Give Nick Saban credit, without Lane Kiffin the Tide loses that game. Saban recognized that he was going to have to open up his offense to continue winning in a full throttle SEC. Two years ago would you have ever believed that Alabama would give up 44 points to Auburn? And win?! While the sideline bickering has been outstanding to watch all season, essentially Saban has been fighting with himself, he can’t believe that he has to open up his offensive play calling like he does to win in today’s SEC. Saban’s at war with himself. 

After the third Blake Sims interception I thought Saban was going to strangle Kiffin on the sideline.

He should have just stayed as calm as nacho guy, who reacted to the third interception by eating a delectable nacho. (By the way, the old guy n the nacho background saying, “Run the ball,” is too perfect. Old guy saying “Run the ball,” is in every SEC stadium. Old Southern guys love to run the football.)  

By the way, if Hugh Freeze took the Florida job, would Ole Miss look at Lane Kiffin as its next head coach? Kiffin’s brother is already on the staff. Crazier things have happened. 

11. SEC power ratings:

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

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.