Playoff punditry: Will Washington spoil the Big Ten party?

FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2015, file photo, Washington State coach Mike Leach, left, is greeted by Washington coach Chris Petersen after an NCAA college football game in Seattle. Rarely have both teams entered the Apple Cup with so much at stake. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Washington State’s Mike Leach, Washington’s Chris Petersen. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Let’s assume No. 2 Ohio State beats No. 3 Michigan and No. 7 Penn State beats Michigan State. As mentioned earlier, and as underscored by the College Football Playoff committee’s next-to-next-to-last set of rankings, that would clear the way for the Big Ten to fill half the field of four.

If Penn State wins Saturday, Ohio State cannot play for the Big Ten title and would finish 11-1, with victories over Harbaugh, No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 8 Oklahoma. Even without a conference championship, that’d be a playoff resume. With its second loss, Michigan would drop from consideration. The Big Ten champ — Penn State or Wisconsin, provided the Badgers don’t stumble over Minnesota on Saturday — would be positioned to claim the second playoff spot, provided …

Washington doesn’t win the Pac-12.

The Big 12 champ — either Oklahoma or No. 10 Oklahoma State; the two meet in Norman on Dec. 3 — will have to jump somebody from the Big Ten to crack the final four. The Cowboys are a fascinating case: Their Sept. 10 loss to Central Michigan came on a final play that, by rule, shouldn’t have happened.

Big 12 lobbyists, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops among them, insist OSU’s record should be viewed as 10-1, not 9-2. Kirby Hocutt said his committee views the Cowboys as 9-2 but is “aware” of what happened in September, which is the double-talk you’d expect from a committee chair, but if that body really considered the Central Michigan game a Pokes win, those Pokes would be higher than No. 10.

The point being: The committee still isn’t crazy about anybody from the Big 12. Oklahoma beat nobody of consequence in non-league play. (On the contrary, it lost by double figures to Houston and Ohio State.) Oklahoma State’s best out-of-conference win was over Pittsburgh, which isn’t ranked. West Virginia’s best non-Big-12 win was over BYU, which is 7-4.

(Aside: Pitt has beaten both Penn State and No. 4 Clemson. It’s not easy to be unranked when you’ve played three top-10 teams and taken down two of them, but that’s what happens when you lose a one-point game to North Carolina, a three-pointer to Virginia Tech and then get routed by Miami.)

Of the three ranked Big 12 teams, none made a major out-of-conference splash. It also hasn’t helped that TCU is 5-4, Texas 5-6 and Baylor 6-4. If we check Jeff Sagarin’s power rankings, we find that the Big 12 in toto ranks behind the SEC West, the Big Ten East, the ACC Coastal (!!!) and both divisions of the Pac-12.

(Also note that the Coastal, which is home to Georgia Tech, ranks ahead of the ACC Atlantic, which is home to Clemson, Louisville and Florida State, and way ahead of the SEC East, which is home to Georgia and which ranks behind every Power Five division and also the American West. Did I mention that I’m picking Tech over Georgia?)

The SEC East hits an all-time low, which is saying something.

Sorry, I digress. Back to the Pac-12: If our above Big Ten scenarios play out — Ohio State over Michigan, Penn State over Michigan State, Wisconsin over Minnesota — and if Clemson doesn’t lose one of its two remaining games, the only team that keep a second Big Tenner from the CFP is Washington. It’s No. 5. It plays No. 23 Washington State on Friday. Should the Huskies win, they’ll face either No. 9 Colorado or No. 12 USC for the Pac-12 title.

If the Huskies win out, they’ll have victories over four ranked teams. (No. 22 Utah and No. 24 Stanford are U-Dub’s significant wins to date.) If Penn State wins out, it will have victories over Ohio State, Wisconsin and No. 16 Nebraska. If Wisconsin wins out, it will have victories over Penn State and Nebraska. (LSU’s loss to Florida hurts the Badgers; the Tigers are now unranked.)

Given that Washington’s three non-conference wins were over Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State, it wouldn’t surprise me if two-loss Penn State jumped the one-loss Huskies on Dec. 4. Two-loss Wisconsin would be a closer call, but the committee — by slotting four Big Ten teams into its top seven — clearly views the Big Ten as the conference with the most good teams. It would be hard to omit that conference’s champ from the playoff, would it not?

And it’s hard to shake the notion that Washington isn’t the Pac-12’s best team. The Huskies lost by 13 points at home to USC 10 days ago. The Trojans, who were 1-3 in September, have won seven in a row with a date at the Coliseum against Notre Dame upcoming. If you take away USC’s third loss, this would be a top 10 team, maybe even top five.

That loss came on a Friday night in Salt Lake City. The Trojans led Utah by 14 points. The Utes’ winning touchdown came with 16 seconds remaining after USC’s Clay Helton chose to punt on fourth-and-3 from the Utah 37. Know how Bill Hancock and his CFP folks like to say, “Every game counts?” Know how we media types sometimes mock that sentiment? Here’s one case where it applies.

Previous installments:

Week 3: For the rest of the regular season, it’s all about the Big Ten.

Week 2: Alabama – the one sure thing in a world where nothing’s certain.

Week 1: The Big 12 is cooked and Louisville’s sweating.

Reader Comments 0

22 comments
TideDawg
TideDawg

The last time I checked,... where a team is ranked doesn't give one team any advantage over another. Ole Miss is a good example. Not ranked, not even a footnote when mentioned in their conference......yet, no one would relish the idea of playing them.

TideDawg
TideDawg

All of the crystal balling that you can dream up about who makes the playoffs and who will win the NC doesn't change the fact that the game is played on a time limit with a ball shaped to take weird bounces. Then there's momentum....Old Mo can change sides in the blink of an eye.....a field goal returned 108 yds, a tipped pass by a double covered receiver that caught the tip and ran it in for a TD. Anything can happen.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Let the selection committee make it easy on the B1G, say that Ohio State beats Michigan and Penn State or Wisconsin wins the B1G. Let the Buckeyes play The B1G champ while Bammer and Clemson play in the other semi final. Guarantees the B1G plays for the title, and likely gets boat raced by either the Tide or the Tigers.

TOJacket
TOJacket

SEC Least, SEC Least....pathetic.

TOJacket
TOJacket

Read the article...SEC Least ranked 10. Lol

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket So what TO, it still comes down to the Dogs and the Jackets Saturday, winners get bragging rights, Or you can continue to ride the ACC Coastal's Coattails if it will make you feel better, Sport.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

But its most "underachieving" team (according to you) absolutely DOMINATES you year in and year out.

Now THAT is pathetic.

medicimark
medicimark

Full disclosure - I am an avid UW fan and Alum. Great read Mark. Here is the challenge. Is the committee and or the NCAA ready to leave out a one loss ACC or PAC-12 champion on behalf of a one loss BIG-10 school who didn't play in their own conference championship? I don't think so.

OSU is fantastic but flawed. While UW lost at home to SC and struggled to win their 1st road game of the year at Arizona they beat the tar out of everyone else they played including a win over then 7th ranked Stanford who will more than likely finish the year with 10 wins. This same Stanford team beat SC handily earlier in the season. OSU not only lost to Penn State but they have struggled to win 4 other games this year.

We also know that out of conference scheduling is a 3 to 4 to sometimes 5 year process and when you consider the PAC-12 plays the full slate of conference games the team can only play who is in front of them. I do also think the committee with consider the future change UW made earlier this year by scheduing Auburn to open the 2018 season. I know this is a future game but the committee brings a human element and god only knows what they discuss or consider. The SEC plays 4 non-conference games and the week 11 "bye game" is a total joke.

OSU lost the wrong game at the wrong time and I think they will be on the outside looking in. There is too much TV money at stake to leave the ACC or the PAC-12 out in the cold if Clemson or UW is sitting there with only one loss.

DawgNole
DawgNole

". . .the Coastal, which is home to Georgia Tech, ranks ahead of the ACC Atlantic, which is home to Clemson, Louisville and Florida State . . . ."

________________

And how in the hell is that?!

Am I missing something here?

GTBob
GTBob

@DawgNole He is citing Sagarin conference rankings. The link is in the previous paragraph. SEC East is at #10. Right behind the AAC West. lol.

TOJacket
TOJacket

You're always missing something sally...check the records of all the teams professor. More than half the teams in the Atlantic have losing records.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket No really good teams in the Coastal, they get credit for the mediocrity of the entire division. Most fittingly the fifth place Jackets at 7-4 .

TOJacket
TOJacket

7-4 and 5th place...tough division huh sport.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket Not really when two of your wins are against Mercer and a 4-7 Ga. Southern Team. and two more against Duke and UVa. Really except for the Jackets beating Va. Tech and SEC east powerhouse Vanderbilt ,they are just as I said ,MEDIOCRE.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket And upon further review TO, Tech has beaten only one FBS team this year with a winning record.

GTBob
GTBob

@Buschleaguer We also haven't lost to any FBS teams with less than 7 wins. Unlike some other programs I won't name.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@GTBob @Buschleaguer What a point of pride TO, just when You  could not get any funnier than bragging about beating Vandy, you bring up who you lose to. 

UGa lost to Vandy , not a 7 game winner by your scale. And also to Ole Miss another non 7 game winner. The real question ol'Sport is who will have 8 wins after this Saturday the Boastful from the Coastal or the Downtrodden Dogs from the Least. A trip to Shreveport in late December may be in store for the Losers.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@GTBob

I don't care what he's citing. No way the Coastal is better than the Atlantic.

Did I mention the woeful SEC East? Don't think so.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

The ACC's three best teams are in the Atlantic. I didn't miss that.