TCU and Oklahoma, both one-loss top 10 teams, are set to battle it out on Saturday in a game that will likely serve as a playoff elimination game.
A 12-1 Big 12 champion will have a legitimate shot a making the College Football Playoff this winter. But even if the winner of TCU-Oklahoma runs the table after the game, the Big 12 still may not control its destiny.
Dallas Morning News columnist and ESPN contributor Tim Cowlishaw wrote that the outcome of the Notre Dame-Miami game on Saturday is even more vital to the Big 12’s playoff chances — for now — than that of TCU-Oklahoma.
Notre Dame, who enters the game at one-loss and No. 3 in the playoff rankings, would be all but eliminated from the playoff race if the Fighting Irish are dealt a second loss — putting the winner of the matchup between the No. 5 Sooners and the No. 6 Horned Frogs in prime playoff position should they finish the year 12-1 with a conference title.
A Notre Dame win on Saturday, however, could breed chaos — and potential for disgruntled Big 12 fans — on Dec. 3.
Too crowded at the top?
All of the top-four teams — Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson — sit at one-loss or better. Georgia and Alabama — the two undefeateds — are on a crash course to meet in the SEC Championship game on Dec. 2, likely with a perfect season on the line.
As it stands, a one-loss ACC champion Clemson and an undefeated SEC champion appear to be locks for the playoff. The same could be said for an undefeated Big 10 champion Wisconsin, should the Badgers run the table.
The winner of TCU-Oklahoma will have their resume further bolstered with another top-10 win. If both the winner and Notre Dame emerge with one loss on selection day, the Big 12 team will own the valuable 13th data point, as Notre Dame is not a member of a Power 5 conference.
But as Cowlishaw wrote, the playoff committee could be hard pressed with pushing out Notre Dame of the top-4 if they win the remainder of their games. A one-loss defending national champion (Clemson) would likely fill the second spot.
Then comes the Georiga-Alabama dilemma, if both enter the SEC title game undefeated:
“Let’s say Alabama wins a tight game, 27-24. Who knows, maybe it even goes to overtime. Georgia’s going to have a hell of a case for a trip to the CFP if that’s the Bulldogs’ only defeat and they won at South Bend and Notre Dame is getting in.
A loss might eliminate the Crimson Tide, but who can say for sure that the committee won’t look at all Alabama has done by that point and still determine that Nick Saban has one of the four best teams in the country? That’s not out of the question.” – Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas Morning News
The Big 12 boasted one-loss champions in each of the playoff’s first two seasons of existence. In 2014, it wasn’t enough to keep co-champion TCU from falling three spots in the final rankings. In 2015, Oklahoma squeezed their way in for the No. 4 spot.
It’s still likely that the winner of the TCU-Oklahoma will control its destiny going forward. But at the end of the day, that decision will ultimately be up to the playoff committee.
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