POWER 5 ON ALERT
In the 7 years of the College Football Playoff (CFP) only teams from the Power 5 conferences have made the playoffs. The Power 5 is made up of the ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 12 conferences. There have been no schools from any conference outside of these 5 that have made the playoffs. The only Independent team to make it was Notre Dame. Over the weekend the Power 5 conferences were put on alert as #7 Cincinnati beat Notre Dame, 24-17 and #13 BYU beat Utah State 34-20. Both teams are undefeated, neither is in a Power 5 Conference. Cincinnati is in the American Athletic Conference and BYU is Independent, meaning no conference affiliation. #3 Oregon lost yesterday, so Cincinnati should move up at least 1 spot. Of the teams ahead of BYU, #8 Arkansas, #9 Notre Dame, #11 Florida and #12 Ole Miss all lost. The Cougars should make the jump into the top 10 in the upcoming poll. The CFP has been exclusively Power 5 teams and Notre Dame, but this season that may change. And it is very possible that 2 non-Power 5 teams can make the CFP this season. The top 6 teams ahead of Cincinnati are Alabama, Georgia, Oregon, Oklahoma, Iowa and Penn State, but Oregon will drop down in the rankings. If Alabama and Georgia win out they will meet in the SEC Championship Game and one of them will have 1 loss at the end of the season. The other will be guaranteed one of the 4 CFP spots. If Oklahoma wins out they will be undefeated and will have one of the 4 CFP spots. In the Big 10 undefeated Iowa is in the west division and the other 3 undefeated teams are in the east, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State. Only one of the east teams can possibly finish undefeated as they all play each other. Then that team would play an undefeated Iowa and one would lose and the other would have one of the 4 CFP spots. In the ACC Wake Forest is the only undefeated team at 5-0. They are currently ranked #25 in the Coaches poll, which is one of the factors for the CFP poll. Of Wake’s remaining games only 1 is against a team ranked in the Coaches Poll, #19 Clemson. That schedule isn’t strong enough to jump Cincy or BYU if those teams run the table. Oregon’s loss yesterday leaves the Pac 12 with no undefeated teams.
To recap, the 4 spots should be: 1. Alabama/Georgia 2. Oklahoma 3. Big 10 undefeated champ. 4.? This scenario leaves 1 spot open and I think if Cincy runs the table, they deserve to get this spot. While Oregon’s win at Ohio State was huge, I don’t think it will be enough to jump an undefeated Cincy or BYU. But now comes the what if game! What if Penn State beats Iowa this week, then at some point this season suffers a loss? What if Michigan beats Michigan State but loses, yet again, to Ohio State. That leaves the Big 10 with no undefeated teams. (and a logjam of 1 loss teams with big names) What if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State but loses to Baylor or Iowa State? The Big 12 will have no undefeated teams. If the season plays out as most of the experts say, #1 Alabama and #2 Georgia will meet in the SEC Championship game. Whoever loses that game will fall in the rankings. But the argument from SEC honks will be that their only loss was to the #1 or #2 team in the country, which is better than an undefeated Cincy or BYU. At this rate, using this example, Alabama will be #1 after defeating Georgia in the SEC Championship game. If the other scenarios play out there will be at least 2 undefeated teams from the non-Power 5, Cincinnati and BYU. Right now, Coastal Carolina is undefeated, but their schedule is not strong, and I highly doubt they will even crack the top 10. SMU is also undefeated, and they have a date at Cincy in late November where they can play spoiler. However, even if they beat Cincy, SMU is not currently ranked in the Coaches poll and that would be a monster climb needed to get one of the 4 CFP spots. As an Independent school, BYU is not restricted by a conference schedule. So far this season they have beaten 3 Pac 12 schools, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah. Of their remaining 7 games, 4 are against Power 5 Conference schools, Baylor, Washington State, Virginia and USC. If the Cougars run that gauntlet, it will be VERY difficult to argue they don’t belong in the CFP. Cincinnati has beaten both Power 5 schools they’ve played, Indiana and Notre Dame. Their remaining schedule is their conference schedule, but it includes games against UCF and SMU. When the Bearcats meet SMU, the Mustangs may be undefeated, further enhancing Cincy’s resume. With the schedules of both Cincinnati and BYU I can’t see any Power 5 team with 1 loss being given priority over the Bearcats and Cougars. There will be arguments, but I think if Cincy and BYU run the table they belong to in the CFP. Unfortunately, because of TV ratings and historical “names”, a 1 loss Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan or maybe even Oregon will probably get preference over Cincy or BYU. One of the reasons this season has been so great is because of the losses by Ohio State and Clemson and the struggles of Oklahoma. This means there will be new teams in the CFP. Unless you’re a fan of Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State or Georgia you’d like to see someone else make the playoffs. Oklahoma has struggled on offense so a loss this season isn’t a stretch. The Big 10 may knock themselves out of the playoffs since each of the undefeated teams will meet at some point this season. There’s still plenty of games to be played and there are more chances for these undefeated teams to lose, including Cincinnati and BYU. But it will be a crime if an undefeated Cincy or BYU gets left out of the CFP in favor of a 1 loss Power 5 school.