Win or go home: Championship week will determine college football’s final four
Championship week is here. This Saturday is the final week for the nation’s elite football programs to impress the selection committee and earn a spot in the playoffs. Oklahoma is already in. For Alabama, Clemson, Michigan State, and Iowa (the last two will be playing each other), the season comes down to one game. Win and advance, or lose and go home. If the Crimson Tide and Tigers both lose, college football will descend into chaos, and all bets are off on who will make the cut.
Here are our picks for the most likely teams to reach the second annual college football playoff:
One of only two power five teams to finish the regular season undefeated, the Clemson Tigers lived up to the pre-season hype. Last week’s game against South Carolina was a little too close for comfort, but rivalry games are always difficult. The Tiger’s offense never let off the gas and held on for the win. On Saturday night, Clemson and eighth ranked North Carolina will face off with a spot in the national playoff on the line. The Tigers are the more complete, talented, and deeper team. Clemson’s biggest challenge will be staying motivated. All season long the experts have praised Clemson and all but handed them a playoff spot. If the Tigers overlook the Tar Heels, they could fall flat on their face in the biggest game of the year.
The Crimson Tide rolled through Auburn last week in the Iron Bowl, winning 29-13. Saturday, they will face a Florida team that has looked less than impressive down the stretch. In the last month, the Gators needed overtime to beat Florida Atlantic, snuck past Vanderbilt by two points, and were absolutely dominated by in-state rival Florida State. ‘Bama should cruise past the Gators for the SEC title and a guaranteed spot in the playoff, but if they should lose, the unspeakable would happen: the SEC would not be represented in college football’s final four.
ICYMI: Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and Iowa are the top four in the College Football Playoff ranking. https://t.co/NRDI6a5i1P
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) December 2, 2015
- Michigan State
The Spartans made a statement with their 55-16 destruction of Penn State. Throughout the season, Michigan State has faced criticism on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Against Purdue and Michigan, the offense did not look like it was championship caliber. Against Nebraska and Rutgers, the defense did not live up to the reputation previous Spartan defenses have created. In the regular season finale, the Spartans were firing on all cylinders on both sides of the ball, and the result was scary. Michigan State should easily dispatch Iowa in the Big 10 championship game and book their trip to the college football playoff.
Bedlam was exciting as always, but the outcome was never really in doubt. The Sooners cruised to a 58-23 victory and are the only absolute lock for the playoffs. The Big 12 does not have a championship game, so this weekend the Sooners can kick back and watch their future competition do battle. Since many of the other contenders will beat ranked teams this weekend, Oklahoma may end up as the fourth seed. As great a season as the Big 12 had, its teams will always be at a disadvantage as long as the conference does not have an annual title game.
If Clemson and Alabama both lose who has the best shot at taking their places in the playoff? With teams ranked fourth, fifth, and sixth in the country, is the Big 10 college football’s best conference? Feel free to leave a comment or find me on Twitter @Andrew_Morse4