Are you ready?
It’s November, the best time of year to be a college football fan. The month when college football separates the pretenders from the contenders and weekly conference matchups are, for the most part, considered elimination games on the way to crowning conference champions.
In the case of the College Football Playoff landscape, November games will go a long way to deciding who’s in and who’s out come selection day. As things stand now, the path to the playoff seems fairly simple for the Top 3 teams in the poll — Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame. Win out and the three unbeatens will be in the playoff, no questions asked.
The fourth and final spot, however, is much more intriguing.
Michigan and Georgia both sit with one loss and have nearly identical marquee wins. Both teams also have massive tests slated for the final weeks of the season. For the Wolverines, they have a date in Columbus with Ohio State circled on their calendar to end the regular season. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, clinched the SEC East last Saturday and already know they will face No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. Win out, and both teams have every right to state their claim for that fourth spot.
After Alabama handled LSU on Saturday night, surging Michigan is expected to take over the fourth spot in the rankings. The Wolverines are on a roll, having dismantled three ranked opponents in a row on what they are dubbing the “Revenge Tour.”. Not only has U of M showcased to the world that it has the best defense in the country under defensive coordinator Don Brown, but the Wolverines have also displayed a balanced offensive attack. Behind the consistent play of quarterback Shea Patterson and running back Karan Higdon, who has posted 8-straight 100-yard rushing games, U-m appears to be the most complete team in the Big Ten and is a serious threat to hold on to the 4th spot in the playoff, should all three teams ahead of them remain unbeaten.
Georgia, the National Championship runner-up from a year ago, has re-tooled and is back as a national title contender in 2018 after back-to-back wins over ranked teams, Florida and Kentucky, respectively. Kirby Smart’s squad is the youngest team in the SEC — with 68 percent of players being either freshmen or sophomores. One of those sophomores is quarterback Jake Fromm, who has quickly emerged as one of the best signal callers in the country. Plain and simple, if the Bulldogs win out and beat No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game, they are almost a guaranteed lock to get into the playoff.
Sounds simple, right?
But as we know, nothing is ever simple when it comes to college football. A Georgia loss to Alabama in the SEC title game, or a loss by Michigan to rival Ohio State — or in the Big Ten Championship Game — would knock either out of the equation, as the playoff committee would not take a two-loss team with so many quality one-loss schools right behind them in the rankings. Either of those scenarios would open the door to three teams: Big 12 offensive juggernauts Oklahoma and West Virginia, and one-loss Ohio State. The Buckeyes have looked far from an impressive as of late, but a winning streak down the stretch that includes a victory over arch-rival Michigan would have Urban Meyer’s squad in position for the fourth and final spot.
As always, stay tuned.