Week 7 Chaos Opens the Door for a College Football Playoff with 3 SEC Teams

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystOctober 14, 2018

LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron
LSU Head Coach Ed OrgeronMatthew Hinton/Associated Press

If you thought people were outraged when two SEC teams earned a spot in last year's College Football Playoff, just wait until they realize there's a realistic scenario in which three teams from the Southeastern Conference get a shot at the national championship.

Don't get out the torches and pitchforks just yet. The selection committee hasn't released its first Top 25 of the year, and a lot of things need to break the right wayor the wrong way, perhaps—for that to transpire.

But the chance it happens increased drastically in the aftermath of all the Week 7 drama.

With the exceptions of No. 1 Alabama (dominated its opponent, as per usual) and No. 4 Clemson (bye week), every AP Top 10 team either suffered a loss or narrowly survived a scare.

No. 10 UCF overcame a 13-point second-half deficit to beat Memphis by one. No. 9 Texas lost QB Sam Ehlinger to a shoulder injury in the first half and had to defend three last-second passes into the end zone to hang on for a six-point home win over Baylor.

No. 5 Notre Dame needed a late touchdown to avoid disaster in a poor offensive showing against Pittsburgh. And though No. 3 Ohio State won its game by 16, Minnesotaa 30-point underdoghad the ball in the red zone down by six late in the third quarter before it all came unraveled for the Golden Gophers.

Despite 412 passing yards from Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State had some trouble pulling away from Minnesota.
Despite 412 passing yards from Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State had some trouble pulling away from Minnesota.Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

Not impressive, to say the least.

And remember, those were the ones who survived the week.

In the opposite camp, No. 8 Penn State suffered its second consecutive home loss, this time against unranked Michigan State. No. 7 Washington missed a game-winning field-goal attempt at the end of regulation before losing to Oregon in overtime. No. 6 West Virginia finally met a defense it couldn't solve in a road loss to Iowa State. Andmost disturbing of allNo. 2 Georgia was annihilated by No. 13 LSU.

Add it all up, and you're only fooling yourself if you think any team other than Alabama is anything close to a lock to reach the College Football Playoff.

At this point, it's more of a process of elimination than a matter of teams playing their way into the mix.

For both Penn State and Washington, the dream is almost certainly over now. They entered the week as the highest-ranked one-loss teams, but they were already going to need some help to finish the year in the Top Four. At this point, they need a miracle.

Following its loss, West Virginia is at least temporarily out of the conversation, as well. The Mountaineers could play their way back in by winning out, which would include a road win over Texas, a home win over Oklahoma and a neutral-site win over one of those teams in the conference championship. But given how helpless they looked against the Cyclones, that's one mighty tall order.

And Georgia?

Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs still have a strong playoff pulse.
Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs still have a strong playoff pulse.Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Well, Georgia could be just fine if it recovers from that four-turnover mess in the bayou.

Jake Fromm played so poorly that the TV commentators spent most of the game questioning why consensus 5-star backup Justin Fields wasn't given a legitimate chance to stop the bleeding. Aside from a couple of grown-man, pile-moving rushes from Elijah Holyfield, UGA's running game wasn't able to do much of anything, either. And for the first time in several years, the Bulldogs defense had no answer for the opposing running game, allowing 275 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

It was an assault on the eye test that won't soon be forgotten.

But the Dawgs could undo that wrong by winning three straight against Florida, Kentucky and Auburn. Do so, and not only will they win the SEC East Division title, but we'll come to view this poor showing against LSU as a meaningless blip on the radar in a tough road environment.

Because of that, there's no question it was more of a meaningful win for LSU than a damning loss for Georgia, as it puts the Tigers right back into the playoff conversation.

LSU's early-season wins over Miami and Auburn seem to be losing value by the day. Both teams lost to unranked opponents this week and will likely not appear in the next edition of the AP Top 25. But Miami was No. 8 when LSU won that game. Auburn was No. 7 when it lost to LSU. And Georgia was No. 2.

Even with the one loss (at Florida), there's a strong case to be made that LSU has the best resume in the country. The Tigers will jump back into the Top 10 with big home games against Mississippi State and Alabama coming up in the next few weeks.

That brings us back to the SEC-loaded playoff possibility.

As summed up in one tweet by The Athletic's Aaron Torres, someone needs to defeat Alabama for the SEC to send multiple teams to the playoff:

But if LSU can pull off the Bama upset at home on Nov. 3, buckle up.

Should the Tigers win each of their five remaining regular-season games before losing the SEC Championship Game, the CFP selection committee is going to have an awful lot to think about.

Whether it's one-loss Georgia, one-loss Florida or one-loss Kentucky representing the SEC East and beating LSU, that team would be more than deserving of a spot in the playoff—likely the No. 1 seed unless Ohio State goes 13-0.

Meanwhile, LSU would have two losses, but it would have wins over Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Miami, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Good luck to any other power conference hoping to produce a one-loss champion with a better resume than that.

And for the second straight year, an 11-1 Alabama—assuming a respectable road loss to LSU and more blowout wins over everyone elsewould have one heck of a case for an invitation to the playoff, despite failing to qualify for its conference championship game.

Now, if Ohio State, Clemson and Notre Dame all remain undefeated, no, the SEC isn't getting two teams into the playoff, let alone threeeven though Clemson's best win of the season (Texas A&M) would be the fifth-best or sixth-best win by LSU. Michigan and Texas would also be next-to-impossible to deny if they continue their winning ways.

However, Ohio State and Michigan still have to play each other, so at least one of those Big Ten teams will fall out of the running. Clemson and Notre Dame have had more than their fair share of close calls, and 67 percent of Texas' wins have come by one-possession margins.

One needn't squint too hard or go too far out on a limb to find a loss on four of those five schedules, which is all it would take for the SEC to turn the playoff into its personal playground.

           

Point spreads via OddsShark. Kerry Miller covers college football and men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.

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