Playoff Picture – 2020
We are less than a week away from the playoff selection show on Sunday, December 20th at 12pm EST on ESPN. 2020 has been anything but a normal season, and the records of the teams in the hunt for the playoff reflect that. The three Power 5 Conferences (ACC, Big 12, and SEC) that stayed the course and built in open weeks were able to complete nearly 85% of the schedule, and most teams were able to play 8-11 games. The Big 10 and PAC 12, who started later in the season to start based on testing requirements to feel comfortable with competing have a mixed bag of results, and the remaining undefeated teams in those conferences both have a 5-0 record, with a chance to go 6-0. It might be a year or longer to see if the complications with COVID will reflect who approached the season in the best way, but in true 2020 form, nothing was equal, and that is ok for this season.
As it stands, from the results of the last regular season weekend, there are 7 teams that are truly in the mix for the 4 playoff spots, and this Championship weekend will come down to 4 of the Power 5 Championship games (ACC, Big 10, PAC 12, and SEC) and probably none bigger than what happens in the ACC Championship game, which might impact the number of spots in the final rankings. The Big 12 is guaranteed to have a 2 loss champions, which doesn’t mean they have played themselves out, but with the brief history of the playoff to this point, no 2 loss team has ever made the playoff.
Here are the 7 teams who are in the mix for the Playoff rankings (Based on the CFP rankings as of 12/14/2020):
- Alabama – Baring a complete blowout, they are in the playoff no matter if they win or lose. Florida losing to LSU this last weekend made the Crimson Tide a near guaranteed lock for the playoff. Win or lose will just determine their seeding.
- Notre Dame – The are also a near guaranteed lock for the playoff, with wins against Clemson and North Carolina, they have looked sharp since beating Clemson, and with a win, they might be in a position for the #1 seed. With a loss, the might fall to the 3rd or 4th seed depending on the results on the other outcomes.
- Clemson – Their path is a little more straightforward, no matter how much Dabo is trying to politic for his team. Win, and they are in as a 2 seed, at worst 3 seed. Lose, and they are eliminated.
- Ohio State – Like Clemson, they just need to win and they are in. They are more than a 3 touchdown favorite against Northwestern, and can play for their second straight appearance. Their ceiling is most likely the 3 seed.
- Texas A&M – They are going to be big Alabama and Notre Dame fans this weekend. If both of those teams win, there is a chance that the Aggies can get in as the 4th seed and compete for their first CFP.
- USC – The PAC-12 is the one that needs the most help or love from the committee, but they also will be rooting for Alabama and Notre Dame this weekend. They are current the lowest ranked of the Power 5 conference leaders, but a 6-0 record would match most likely Ohio State’s.
- Cincinnati – They have been off for almost 3 weeks now, but will be playing for the AAC Championship. The AAC has gained some national love with what UCF and now Cincinnati has been able to do the past few seasons. They will need to hope to be the highest rated Group of 5 team. and need a little bit of chaos above them. They would need Alabama, Notre Dame, Northwestern, and Oregon to win this weekend, but there is a very very slim chance of that happening.
With this being an Ohio State fansite, we dont want to think about the Buckeyes losing, which is a chance, but they have done well against Northwestern recently, including a 52-3 victory last year in Evanston, and will have a rematch of the 2018 Big Ten Championship game. With the games this weekend, we wanted to project the 4 scenarios (in which Ohio State wins) in how the final rankings would shake out based on the results of the 4 Power 5 Conference Championship games play out.
In this scenario, the higher rated teams win with Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and USC winning. Alabama and Notre Dame would be locks, with Clemson being eliminated, and Ohio State taking the third spot. The real conversation will be around the 5th spot between Texas A&M and USC, and how the committee looks at a repeat game in the playoff, which the Crimson Tide beat Texas A&M 52-24.
In this scenario, the projected winners win, with Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and USC winning. I anticipated the avoid a 3rd match up to start, the committee would move Notre Dame to 4th place, and move Ohio State to 3rd place, and this seems to be the most predicted scenario amongst media outlets. Texas A&M and USC would be left out, but will play for a NY6 bowl game.
In this scenario, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC win. Florida would still be left out, with 2 losses, but I think all that does for Alabama is flip flop them with Notre Dame in the current standings. Alabama seems to impress the committee and their amount of games would keep them above Ohio State, who would fall into the 3rd spot, and then it will be the committee to debate whether or not it comes down again to Texas A&M or USC. If USC were to lose in any of these scenarios, I would anticipate A&M would be the lock for the 4th spot.
In this scenario, Florida, Clemson, Ohio State and USC win. With the Clemson and Notre Dame split, there they will block anyone else below the current 4 teams for making it, and with Clemson avenging their only loss, and Alabama losing, I see them moving to the top spot, but Notre Dame’s resume might be slightly better than Alabama’s with having the better loss. If they are 2 or 3, it doesn’t matter other than who is wearing the home uniform. I anticipate the Buckeyes staying in the 4th spot in this scenario, but should be on the road to face Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.