With the USC Trojans falling short in the Pac-12 Championship Game, the College Football Playoff ranking is set up for potential chaos.
What is supposed to happen doesn’t usually end up happening.
Coming into Championship Weekend, it looked like the College Football Playoff picture was all but set. USC, hot off destructing Notre Dame, was set up to avenge its only loss against Utah and secure a seat at the table. TCU, the darling Cinderella of the season, could punch its ticket and hoist a Big 12 title at the same time. All of this would mean both Alabama and Ohio State would be left on the outside peering into the window of the house it’s used to living in this time of year.
Turns out both of those schools are still on the outside but are peering in like that Yes, Sickos meme.
USC not only lost to Utah — again — but got absolutely pantsed in the process. Caleb Williams headlined a line of important Trojan stars who physically broke down under the pressure of punching a ticket to the College Football Playoff. As injured as he was, Williams tried to will his team to victory but it wasn’t meant to be.
The loss now opens a door not only for Ohio State to sneak back in but for potential total chaos to reign down upon us this weekend.
Projected College Football Playoff after USC falls to Utah (again)
Let’s preface this by saying there’s no predicting what the College Football Playoff committee will think. As frustrating as the BCS was, this is quite literally down to a room full of people and what they think should happen.
How that plays out is a total crapshoot, even though the cases for teams seem to be clearly made. That being said, we’ve already experienced a microdose of chaos with USC losing and we could be in for some more.
Here’s how things likely stand after the Utes took a sledgehammer to the Trojan’s College Football Playoff hopes, assuming — perhaps foolishly — that everything else goes according to plan:
Note: Records reflect outcomes on Saturday that haven’t happened yet.
The biggest winner of the Pac-12 Championship Game isn’t even a school that plays in the conference. Once it became clear that Utah was going to upset USC, all eyes shifted to Ohio State. It appears the Buckeyes are going to slip into the College Football Playoff after all, but nothing is certain.
Not for nothing, but had the College Football Playoff already been expanded to 12 teams, this loss by USC would not have been as fatal as it otherwise is. That will be the beauty of the expanded playoff, as the Pac-12 Championship Game would have been about seeding rather than whether or not USC would get a shot at a national title.
How can USC still make the College Football Playoff
It would have been a lot easier to make a case for the Trojans had they not been totally manhandled by the Utes. If winning was never an option, the next best thing would have been to lose in a similar fashion to how USC lost the first time around to Utah.
Had that happened, the committee would likely feel more pressure to not penalize USC for having to play an extra game when Ohio State and Alabama got to sit the weekend out. Furthermore, a close loss to a very good Utah team would easily qualify as a quality loss and may still be viewed that way albeit the shadow of defeat is rather tremendous.
USC’s best chance for sneaking back into the playoff is if TCU loses. Should that happen, the committee will have to go to the drawing board to figure out what to do with the No. 4 seed since Ohio State would move up two spots thanks to a Kansas State upset victory.
That puts USC’s case up against Alabama’s, and the decision in the hands of a committee that might favor a Bama-Georgia matchup in the semifinals.
How can Ohio State make the College Football Playoff
While Ohio State is next in line to move into the playoff picture, there is both a case to be made for and a case to be made against the Buckeyes.
The case for Ohio State is actually a pretty easy one to make. The Buckeyes were ranked fifth in the latest College Football Playoff reveal, and naturally would move up a spot with USC losing. However, the Got Your Ass Kicked argument applies to Ohio State, as it didn’t merely lose to Michigan last Saturday so much as it was pulverized into a fine dust.
That being said, the tiebreaker between two teams that got their asses kicked goes to Ohio State by way of its single loss. Had USC played Utah closer, there could be a case to not penalize the Trojans for having to play an extra game, but it’s going to be hard to put a two-loss non-conference winner ahead of a school with just one loss.
It all depends on what the College Football Playoff committee ends up deciding on Sunday morning.
How can Alabama make College Football Playoff?
This is where total chaos would need to ensue. USC was always in danger of getting picked off in the Pac-12 title game, but TCU has been a hypnotic wild card ever since it made a dream run into the playoff picture.
Just look at the near-loss to Baylor a few weeks ago to see how close to the razor’s edge the Horned Frogs have been living. But the No. 3 spot belongs to Hypnotoad, unless Kansas State is able to pull off another Championship Game upset.
Should the Wildcats win, thus knocking off another College Football Playoff school in its title game, that opens the door for Alabama to sneak back in.
Of course, it’s still a very tough case to make. If TCU loses, the committee will be faced with a variety of potential paths to walk and one of those includes letting USC get back in. The extent of the Trojan’s destruction on Friday night works rather aggressively against them, and helps Alabama’s case — beyond the obvious of the committee wanting Alabama in the College Football Playoff.
The best case for Bama has nothing at all to do with actual on-field credentials: If Alabama gets in, it would face Georgia in the first game. Not only would we get an iconic SEC title fight, but it would guarantee that either Alabama or Georgia was in the National Championship Game this year.
TCU losing is the dream scenario for the committee for another reason. In addition to Bama-Georgia, the other matchup would be an Ohio State-Michigan rematch with a trip to the National Championship on the line.
There’s Must See TV and then there’s that lineup of College Football Playoff games.
A lot still needs to happen for that scenario to become a reality, but USC losing and TCU being hypnotically chaotic wild card means it’s very much on the table — and this weekend’s drama is only just beginning.
This content was originally published here.
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