How many SEC teams will be in the inaugural College Football Playoff? One? Two?
How about zero?
After Saturday, that prospect is becoming a possibility. To be sure, it's a long shot, but that scenario can no longer be ruled out completely.
Georgia's shocking blowout loss to Florida at the annual Cocktail Party brings home the stark reality that the SEC East is filled with second-rate also-rans. For all the talk that the SEC West might be the best division in football, the SEC can't be credibly called the best conference when half of it is but a sad clown show.
And the clowns might very well make more mess of it if they pull out a miracle win under the big top of the Georgia Dome. Missouri, a loser to Big Ten bottom feeder Indiana at home, now leads the SEC East. What if the Tigers shock a one-loss SEC West champ in the conference title game?
Or a two-loss SEC West champ. With Ole Miss' gut-wrenching loss to Auburn, a plausible scenario exists for a five-way tie in the SEC West with each team tagged with two losses. All that takes is this: Mississippi State loses to Alabama and Ole Miss, plus Alabama loses to LSU but beats Auburn—if all five teams involved here win their other remaining games.
That being the case, Ole Miss and LSU are still alive in the playoff chase, along with 11 other one-loss teams and, of course, undefeated Mississippi State and Florida State.
|Playoff Contenders by Conference|
|ACC||Florida State (0)|
|Big Ten||Michigan State (1), Nebraska (1), Ohio State (1)|
|Big 12||TCU (1), Kansas State (1), Baylor (1)|
|Pac-12||Oregon (1), Arizona State (1)|
|SEC||Miss State (0), Auburn (1), Alabama (1), LSU (2), Ole Miss (2)|
|* Notre Dame (Independent) also has 1 loss|
Teams That Moved Up
Jaden Oberkrom's 37-yard field goal as time expired gave the Horned Frogs a 31-30 win at West Virginia and kept them in the playoff chase. As of now, TCU should be in the four-team playoff field if it can win its remaining games, beginning with next week's showdown against Kansas State.
Auburn's dramatic win over Ole Miss was good for the Tigers, but great for their cross-state rival Alabama. The Crimson Tide now control their own fate in the SEC West as they will claim the division title if they win out. But they should take nothing for granted as they'll visit Death Valley for a dreaded night game next Saturday.
The Ducks got their cathartic win over the kryptonite that kept them from the Pac-12 title game the past two seasons. Oregon's pasting of Stanford put it another step closer to the Pac-12 North title and kept it on track for a playoff berth.
The Seminoles' furious comeback win Thursday night against Louisville will be good enough to keep them at No. 2. Now that we know how the committee operates, the defending national champs just need to win out and should be no worse than the No. 2 seed. Style points are now irrelevant for FSU.
Teams That Moved Down
Georgia's loss not only finished the Bulldogs' hopes of landing a surprise playoff spot, it completely discredited the entire division. Missouri is now the division leader, but it still needs to beat two SEC West teams—even if they're bottom feeders Texas A&M and Arkansas—to repeat as the SEC East champion.
The Irish did hold on to beat Navy after giving up 24 consecutive points to fall behind briefly. But with the committee already not holding it in the highest esteem, Notre Dame's close win will not help its cause much. Given what's left on their schedule, the Irish need quite a bit of help to get into the playoff field.
In the span of two early-afternoon games, the American played itself right out of contention for a spot in a New Year's Six bowl game. East Carolina was dismal in its loss to Temple and then Central Florida was beaten by a UConn team that had one win entering the game. Now neither team is in the hunt.
There were six Pac-12 games on Saturday, three started after 10 p.m. ET, when most of the East Coast fans have gone to bed. Two others were televised on the Pac-12 Network, which is available to scant few people outside of the Pac-12 footprint (and not carried by DirecTV three years running). For a conference constantly griping about lack of respect, its TV deal is not helping its teams' cause.
Group-of-Five Team in the Best Position
East Carolina's loss now puts two teams vying for a spot in the committee's next rankings. Marshall is one of three undefeated teams, but its weak schedule isn't impressing the selection committee. Colorado State has two wins over power-five opponents (Boston College and Colorado) but doesn't control its own fate in the Mountain West race.
The only other team currently in the conversation is Boise State, which has beaten Colorado State and can claim the Mountain Division by winning out. The Broncos have a far better strength of schedule than the other two contenders, but they're being held back by having two losses (to Ole Miss and Air Force).
Projected Conference Championship Matchups
ACC: Florida State vs. Duke
Big Ten: Michigan State vs. Wisconsin
Pac-12: Oregon vs. Arizona State
SEC: Mississippi State vs. Missouri
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