College Football Research


Week 13 Wrapup: What Now?

by Big Al

There are a lot of pixels being spilled right now on which teams are in or out of the playoffs, or whether some team should be or should not be in the playoffs for such and such a reason. Most of them could be summarized by the line "The team I root for should be in the playoffs!" The others are pretty much devil's-advocate arguments designed for no other purpose than to make a writer have a chance to brag about how awesome they on the very slim chance they are right, or just to troll for page reads by riling up some fanbase. Personally, I want to give an honest overview of the situation as it stands right now, with one more week of football to be played.

So, where are we now? Well, let's see.


They are in. Done. If you think otherwise, you're kidding yourself.

Ohio State

They are in. Done. If you think otherwise, you're a Penn State fan and you're kidding yourself.

The committee may punish the Buckeyes by dropping them to #3 (maybe) or #4 (doubtful) for the playoffs themselves, but there is no way they are putting a two-loss team ahead of a one-loss Ohio State.


Win and they're in. Lose and they're out.


I read a lot of concerns that people have about the committe having to make a hard decision between a one-loss Washington team, a two-loss Big Ten team, or a Big XII champion which has better wins. I don't put much stock in that. The way I am looking at things, Washington wins and Washington's in.

As poor as Washington's non-conference schedule was, they would still be a one-loss Pac-12 champion, with wins over Washington State, Colorado, Stanford, and Utah. Yes, they have an embarrassing loss (getting shelled at home by USC), but so does every viable two-loss team except Wisconsin. Washington may not clearly be one of the best four teams, but they would be a least-bad option: a one-loss Pac-12 champion that is something of a wildcard.

If Clemson, Washington, or Both Lose...

Well, that's where things get interesting, doesn't it?


Wisconsin is the best available option here. They lost two games by a total of 14 points to two top-5ish teams... one of them in overtime. They have a very good defense and a good-enough offense, and they have wins over LSU, Nebraska, and would have one over Penn State. They took care of their business, only dropping a pair of games that were anything but embarrassing, each in a manner that was anything but embarrassing. I have trouble imagining any of the other two-loss teams moving ahead of Wisconsin if they are available. And, as I am an Ohio State fan, I should say that I would not want Ohio State to have to play the Badgers again, if that gives you any idea of my opinion of whether they are deserving.

Penn State, Colorado, and Oklahoma

Here's where we get to the sticker: I'm not sure how to rate these teams. If Colorado, Penn State, and Oklahoma all win, then the committee has a tougher choice to make than if there are only one-loss teams available.

Penn State is clearly the next in line, but they have an embarrassing loss to Pitt, a loss to Michigan that happened in an embarrassing way, but a win over Ohio State. And, with the note that I am an Ohio State fan, Penn State was overwhelmingly lucky to beat Ohio State. I think Penn State is a very good team, having taken care of the majority of their business quite well, but I would not be sorry to see Ohio State get another shot at the Nittany Lions in the playoffs: I think the results would be quite different. In fact, I will be very surprised (make that flabbergasted) if there is even a chance for me to eat those words.

Colorado is the forgotten team here. They have wins over Utah, Stanford, Washington State, and would have a win over Washington. Their loss at Michigan is somewhat embarrassing for being 17 points, and their loss to USC was embarrassing, but became less and less embarrassing as the year went on. They have won high-scoring games, low-scoring games, and they took care of their business aside from two games. However, there is some question about whether they are even the best team in the Pac-12 South, what with USC's resurgence late in the season. I have trouble imagining them passing Penn State though. Colorado does not have a signature win in the same way Penn State does.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, has resurrected their season after two somewhat embarrassing losses in their first three games. Not a good way to kick things off. But they kept chugging along, and now they are a viable playoff option. However, they got manhandled at home by Ohio State, and that loss to Houston has become somewhat questionable. Their biggest problem is that they don't really have a signature win. Beating Oklahoma State would be a nice feather in the cap, but that's not exactly a win over Ohio State. I don't see them passing Penn State, but their name recognition might be enough to move them past Colorado if the Buffaloes beat Washington and Clemson loses. That is the most interesting scenario, but it is the one where I have the least idea of which way the committee would go.

Oklahoma State

Not going to happen. Even if they beat Oklahoma, their best case scenario is for both Penn State and Colorado to win. But Oklahoma State still would not pass either if Virginia Tech beats Clemson. They should look forward to the opportunity for a trip to someplace fun if they can beat the Sooners.


Michigan may very well be one of the best four teams in the country. But I don't know how they would shoehorn into the playoffs. It's bad enough that Ohio State is in without a conference championship. If a second Big Ten team makes it in, it would be the B1G champion: either Wisconsin or Penn State. There is no sensible situation where the committe would want a third team from one conference in the playoffs.


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