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The College Football Playoff Hope-O-Meter: The final four

December 09, 2019
SEC Championship - Georgia v LSU

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...

And then there were four. After 14 uplifting, hope-smashing, therapist-bankrolling weeks of CFB chaos, the College Football Playoff field is finally set. Who’s made in the shade? Who's screwed? We consult the Hope-O-Meter genie one last time to find out.


Mortal Lock - LSU

Come Sunday morning, the only real remaining question was who—after weeks of trading paint—would be handed the coveted number-one overall seed. As it turned out, the answer was LSU, thanks in large part to Ohio State’s first-half no-show in the Big Ten Championship. This sets LSU up for a Peach Bowl showdown with Oklahoma—perhaps the least balanced CFP semifinalist since Michigan State (and we all remember how that turned out.) The Sooners might score enough to stick around, but LSU might also put up 60 on a defense that conceded 48 to Kansas State. It’s may not be a done deal, but it is our mortal lock.

Cautiously Optimistic - Clemson

Don’t look now but Clemson just completed the quietest undefeated season in Power Five history (yes, even if the AAC was stronger that ACC this year.) Now Dabo and co. draw Ohio State, a team they waxed in the 2016 Semi 31-0 and have never lost to full stop. With an experienced regime and recruits on their side—as opposed to Ohio State’s relatively green Ryan Day era—it’s hard to believe that Clemson didn’t get the draw they were secretly hoping for. No one would be surprised if the Buckeyes pull it out, in fact both the betmakers and FPI expect them to, albeit narrowly. But the Tigers are playing their best ball of the season right and Ohio State’s dominant D has looked mortal against better competition of late, so Clemson have to be feeling pretty good about a third straight trip to the CFP finale on January 14th.

Ever So Slightly Pessimistic - Ohio State

It speaks to the blindingly good season that Ohio State has had that finishing a close second in the final CFP rankings of the year constitutes the team’s first real loss. The one-seed provides a very competitive advantage this year, and the Buckeyes sat in the pole position before turning in a semi-interested performance against Wisconsin on Saturday night. Clemson should get their full attention—and the prospect of a Trevor Lawerence-Chase Young face-off is absolutely mouth-watering—but still, Buckeyes Nation can’t help but be feeling a little, er, blue heading into their bowl-season sabbatical.

Fuggedabouit – Oklahoma

First of all, let’s preface this by saying making the CFP at all is a big win for Oklahoma. Heading in to the weekend they needed both Utah and Georgia to lose and also beat Baylor in the Big 12 Championship, and somehow all those chips fell their way. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they drew LSU in the Peach Bowl and, on paper at least, it looks like a big mismatch. LSU boast the best offense in the nation, racking up over 554 yards a game. Oklahoma just about match them on that side of the ball, but it's the other side that is an issue. The Sooners are ranked 24th in the nation in total defense, just ahead of [drum roll please] Northwestern. Maybe Jalen Hurts redeems himself. Maybe Lincoln Riley says go win one for the Gipper, which is me, because I’m taking that Dallas job. Maybe through sheer force of will and the power of almighty narrative they pull it off. Man what a story that would be. But don’t hold your breath. Vegas has the spread at 13, and Vegas knows all.

Heartbreak of the Week, Maybe the Year – Baylor

If Oklahoma needed help to make the Final Four this weekend, then Baylor needed a miracle blessed by the Pope himself. The heartbreaking thing is how close they came to actually getting it. Utah absolutely choked on Friday. Georgia was outclassed. At halftime in the Big 12 Championship, Baylor was leading Oklahoma. 30 more minutes, that’s all they needed to make the unlikeliest final-day leap in CFP history. But then, just like three weeks ago, when Baylor lead Oklahoma 31-10 heading into the third quarter, the Sooners stormed back, eventually snuffing out the Bears CFP hopes in OT. They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never loved at all, but those idiots clearly never watched college football.