The College Football Playoff Hope-O-Meter: Penultimate pandemonium
Kevin C. Cox
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, to the unveiling of perhaps the greatest technological innovation of our time: THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF HOPE-O-METER! Over the course of the 2019 season, we will put our ultra-violet spectrum of college football emotion to the test, processing each weekend's scoreboard—and its array of hopes, dreams, and delusions—to determine the state of the all-important CFP push. Here's where things stand as of today...
The penultimate week of the College Football Playoff rankings is here, and despite the pyrotechnics and “Crazy Train” blasting over the loudspeaker, it’s boring old business as usual at the top. Following easy regular-season-finale wins for Ohio State, LSU, Clemson, and Georgia, there was precious little movin’ and very little shakin’, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a glut of storylines, implications, and drama to dissect in excruciating, hand-wringing fashion. So without further ado, let’s fire up the Hope-O-Meter!
Mortal Lock – Clemson
Yes, OK, sure. After a 56-27 blowout of Michigan on Big House turf, Ohio State is the easy answer here, but a Big Ten Championship game loss to a Wisconsin team who already got tape on them earlier this year could make things somewhat interesting come Sunday. Heading into this weekend’s championship tilts, there is no safer team than #3 Clemson. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. In recent weeks, Dabo Swinney has made a lot of the Committee’s apparent disrespect of Clemson, telling reporters “they don’t want us there anyway” after last week’s win over South Carolina. But the reality is if Clemson beats Virginia on Saturday—the softest championship opposition on the slate this weekend—then they’re in. Spoiler Alert: Clemson will beat Virginia on Saturday. Dabo can say what he wants, but Clemson are in clear air.
Cautiously Optimistic – Utah
Two essential things happened to Utah this weekend. 1. Alabama lost to Auburn, their second L of the season and 2. The committee chose to keep Utah ahead of Oklahoma in the not-hotly-contested race to be The Next Team In. There will be a lot of talk in the coming days about the Committee wanting a sexier TV draw than the defense-first Utes, but if Georgia loses to LSU on Saturday, collecting their second loss, and Utah and Oklahoma both win, it’s hard to imagine the CFP coming up with a legitimate reason for the Sooners to leapfrog Utah. Utah faces #13 Oregon, while Oklahoma gets a rematch with #7 Baylor. Is there enough difference between top-10 opposition and top-15 opposition for the Committee to hose the PAC-12 once again? Honestly—although maybe this is my desire to see some fresh, weird blood in the CFP talking—I don’t think so.
Nervously Pessimistic – LSU
Don’t get it twisted. LSU are in. But the way things are shaking out, there’s potentially a seismic difference between the level of competition the #1 and #2 ranked teams will face in the Semifinal. As it stands, #1 is likely to get Georgia or one of Utah/Oklahoma, while #2 gets [gulp] a motivated Clemson. And while LSU-Clemson sounds like a rip-roaring good time from the neutral perspective, for the LSU fan it’s a nightmare, a dream killer. Because of those stakes, there’s already been a lot of debate over who rightfully deserves to be top dog—LSU’s strength of schedule vs. Ohio State’s game control—but if both win this weekend, conventional wisdom suggests the Committee will stand pat and LSU’s incredible climb could end a rung earlier than anticipated this season.
Fuggedaboutit – Alabama
The writing has been on the wall since the Tua injury, and maybe before for readers of SEC tea leaves, but this weekend’s Egg Bowl loss confirmed it: This will be the first College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014 not including Nick Saban’s Alabama. Unless you’re an Alabama fan, you truly love to see it. The void has opened the door for potential first-timers LSU, Utah, and, yes, perhaps even Baylor in a final-weekend chaos scenario, making up for the potential ratings hit with the added bonus of getting to watch Nick Saban grimace through the Outback Bowl. If you can get odds on it now though, go ahead and put money Alabama returning to the Final Four fold in 2020, because there’s no way in frozen-over hell the Crimson Tide miss this dance two years in a row.
Gotta Give It Up For – Auburn
Is Auburn any good? Honestly, we have no idea! But they played almost literally everybody, took down Alabama, and have a quarterback named Bo freakin’ Nix. So let’s hear it for Auburn, the most vital, lovable three-loss team in college football history.