What is life without a little chaos? Chaos causes things to be more exciting and people to be intrigued. The epic Batman thriller The Dark Knight was chaos, the Donald Trump presidency has been nothing but chaos and the College Football Playoff picture is in a current state of chaos. If this chaos continues, it will be nuclear. As we approach conference championship week, seemingly one of the four CFP spots are a lock.
After a shocking loss by title favorite Alabama last weekend, there is an opportunity that four of the five power five conference champions could have two losses. Never in the history of the playoff has the committee selected a team with two losses, but they've only ever allowed a non-conference champion into the elite group just once. Now we have a situation where an unstoppable force meets an immovable object and something has got to give.
What will the committee do if all the two-loss conference champions strike gold this weekend and win their games? Of the four two-loss conference champions, who will fill what many experts are predicting to be the final three spots? Let's take a look at the potential two-loss champions, examine their resumes, make a case for why and why not, and then you can decide who should be in.
The integral stats that the CFP committee looks at are strength of schedule (SOS), record versus the Top 25, and they take a look at key wins and losses.
Ohio State (Big Ten, 10-2)
- SOS: 50
- Record vs. Top 25: 2-1
- Key Wins:
- vs No. 2 Penn State 39-38
- vs No. 12 Michigan State 48-3
- Key Losses:
- vs No. 5 Oklahoma 31-16
- @ Iowa 55-24
Ohio State seems to be the media darling of the two-loss teams. The first ever playoff champion, a powerhouse in the sport and Urban Meyer as head coach, they are always going to be a favorite among the committee. The Buckeyes had high expectations coming into the season and many considered them to be the team to beat in college football, but after falling short of those lofty goals, the Buckeyes have two losses and are on the outside looking in. However, some pundits still think they could sneak their way into the final four.
Why Ohio State Deserves to Be In
Let's begin with this, if Ohio State wins their title game, it will mean they have just beaten an undefeated Wisconsin team. That is the first step to making its into that coveted four team bracket. Looking at the games Ohio State has won, they have beaten some solid teams.
They pulled out a huge win at home against then-ranked No. 2 Penn State and were ranked behind Michigan State when they throttled the Spartans in the Horseshoe 48-3. The rest of their conference schedule was seemingly a cake walk for the Buckeyes. Ohio State has the 5th highest scoring offense in the country and quarterback JT Barrett has led the charge throughout the arduous season with 2,728 total passing yards and 33 touchdowns.
Their defense is equally as talented. The Buckeyes D is allowing just 291.8 yards per game which is third in the conference behind Michigan and their opponent Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are loaded with talent every year and with a coach like Meyer you can never count them out.
Let us not forget the Buckeyes were "allowed" in the playoff in 2014. How did that turn out for them? A national title for Urban and his boys.
Why Ohio State Does Not Deserve to Be In
Ohio State is loved by everyone in the media and as fan of the other two-loss teams, this can be frustrating. Ohio State is a team that is always praised and given the benefit of the doubt because they are in the Big Ten. But let’s look at the facts. Of all the teams that are going to be analyzed in this, Ohio State has the worst strength of schedule sitting at 50th in the country.
Sure they play in the Big Ten, but look at the teams they have played this season. UNLV, Rutgers, and Illinois, just to name a few, have a combined record of 11-25. Sure the Buckeyes beat Penn State in a marquee match up on national television, but the Nittany Lions fell again after that and are out of playoff contention. The Buckeyes had a couple of big tests along the way this season.
One of them being Oklahoma at home in the beginning of the season. The Buckeyes were torched by Baker Mayfield and the Sooners in a 31-16 loss. This is a loss that is somewhat excusable given the recent success of Oklahoma; however, there is one game in particular that happens to be the worst loss of all the two-loss potential conference champions.
The Buckeyes were absolutely embarrassed by the Iowa Hawkeyes 55-24 on the road. A game like this is inexcusable for a team that has as much talent as Ohio State. The Hawkeyes were unranked and enforced their will the entire game. For the Buckeyes, the bad losses outweigh the good wins. Ohio State, you are not in.
TCU (Big 12, 10-2)
- SOS: 41
- Record vs. Top 25: 2-2
- Key Wins:
- @ No. 6 Oklahoma St. 44-31
- vs No. 23 West Virginia 31-24
- Key Losses:
- @ #25 Iowa State 14-7
- @ #5 Oklahoma 38-20
TCU came onto the scene in 2009 and miraculously went from a small Texas program to Mountain West Cinderella to a serious national title contender. While some thought that this was just a flash in the pan, it is clear now that the Horned Frogs are here to stay. Gary Patterson's squad will have another shot at Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game this Saturday. TCU has been one of the surprises this season and find themselves in the mix heading into this final week.
Why TCU Deserves to Be In
TCU has been nothing shy of impressive this season. Picked to finish third in the conference behind Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Horned Frogs have surpassed expectations and this is thanks to the stellar play of quarterback Kenny Hill. Hill has been throwing the ball surprisingly well this season with over 2,600 yards through the air and a passer rating of 150.5, which is 22nd in the country.
The rest of the TCU offense has stepped up as well allowing the Frogs to have the 34.5 points per game; however, the story of this TCU season has been their stellar defense. Patterson has always been known for his impressive defensive schemes and even had the best defense in the country three years in a row back in 2009-2011.
This year, the stingy TCU defense has been no different. TCU has the 8th best scoring defense in the country only allowing 15.7 points per game this season. The Horned Frogs have impressive wins including a stomping of the high powered Oklahoma State Cowboys on the road and a home win against the air-raid West Virginia Mountaineers the following week.
As for the weaker opponents on their schedule, TCU handled them with ease with the closest margin of victory against an unranked opponent being 17 points. Finally, if TCU is able to knock of No. 4 Oklahoma in the title game it will give three wins over top-25 opponents.
Why TCU Does Not Deserve to Be In
Inconsistency is something that comes back to haunt teams who are sniffing at those playoff spots. While TCU has not necessarily been inconsistent, they have not been consistent when they need to be. They were in a dog fight against the one-win Baylor Bears for most of their game last weekend until pulling away late. The Texas Longhorns gave their offense some trouble as well. But what bothers me the most about TCU are the two losses they have on their resume.
The first being to Iowa State, who at the time was on the rise and making a run at a Big 12 title appearance, in a 14-7 loss. It was this game that will give the committee the most concern because it was by far the worst game of Hill's season. Clearly seen in the lack of scoring, the TCU offense was abysmal and it starts with Hill. Hill was 12-25 for 135 passing yards and had two interceptions.
The TCU defense did their job but the offense could not find anything going for them and if they had trouble against an Iowa State defense that is actually decently ranked at 29th in scoring defense, how do they expect to score on the playoff defenses that all sit in the top ten.
The second loss of the season against Oklahoma was just as bad. Baker Mayfield threw all over the Frogs in Norman that night and once again Kenny Hill was held to a poor showing. Overall, while their losses are not as bad as the other two-loss teams, their wins are just not as strong either.
Auburn (SEC, 10-2)
- SOS: 24
- Record vs. Top 25: 3-1
- Key Wins:
- vs No. 1 Georgia 40-17
- vs No. 1 Alabama 26-14
- Key Losses:
- @ No. 3 Clemson 14-6
- @ LSU 27-23
Auburn has been one of the year's best stories. Their starting quarterback, Jarrett Stidham, is a transfer from Baylor and is coming back from a serious neck injury and running back Kerryon Johnson has been electrifying all year. Auburn seemingly snuck up out of nowhere in this decision but when you look at their resume it is hard to argue against the Tigers making the playoff if they win the SEC title.
Why Auburn Deserves to Be In
Auburn may have the strongest case of any team to be in the CFP. They are hitting their stride at the right time and, in my opinion, they have the strongest resume of all the potential two-loss conference champions. The Tigers are 3-1 against Top 25 opponents this season, but it is the actual ranks of those opponents they defeated that is far more impressive.
The Auburn Tigers destroyed then-ranked No. 1 Georgia, a team who at the time were thought to run the table, by a score of 40-17 at home. The Tigers followed that performance with an equally as impressive game in the Iron Bowl against Alabama. With the whole world watching the Tigers, being the underdogs, Auburn pulled off the upset in convincing fashion 26-14.
That has been the most impressive thing to me. Auburn did not barely beat these teams on game winning field goals or in overtime, the Tigers controlled both of those games from start to finish and won each of them with ease. Head Coach Gus Malzahn, has his team rolling right on time and, statistically, the offense and defense have been great.
The Auburn defense allows just 16.4 points per game, which is 9th in the country, and the offense is putting teams away by scoring 36.7 points per game, which is tied for 19th. Their strength of schedule is second best among the teams in this discussion and how can you not let in the team who beat two No. 1 teams in a season and potentially beat Georgia again in the SEC championship game.
Why Auburn Does Not Deserve to Be In
There is not any reason Auburn does not deserve to be in the playoff. Sure you can point at the LSU or Clemson losses as a reason but Clemson may very well be the ACC champion and one of the four teams in the playoff.
This is easy, if Auburn wins the SEC title game this Saturday they will be in the playoff; if not, they won't be. Beating two top-ranked teams in two out of three weeks is far too impressive for the committee to just overlook. Unlike the other two-loss teams, Auburn is in full control of their destiny.
USC (PAC 12, 10-2)
- SOS: 16
- Record vs. Top 25: 2-2
- Key Wins:
- No. 14 Stanford 42-24
- No. 22 Arizona 49-35
- Key Losses:
- @ No. 16 Washington State 30-27
- @ No. 13 Notre Dame 49-35
USC is located in Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world. A place where the spotlight is everywhere but ironically enough, USC. The Trojans are seemingly shunned from the college football spotlight these days. After having high expectations to start the year, the Trojans find themselves among the half-living, half-dead. But why of all the two-loss teams are they the one immediately shooed away from contention in the playoff? Why of all the teams are they the one no one seems to take seriously?
Why USC Deserves to Be In
USC has not lived up to the expectations the nation set upon them this season. Sam Darnold was the Heisman favorite and he most likely will not be invited to New York for the ceremony. However the Trojans have had more road blocks on their path to a playoff birth than any other two-loss team on this list.
For starters, USC did not have a single bye on their schedule until after their game against UCLA. The Trojans played 12 straight games that required going from home to road or vice versa and one game played on a short week of rest after a road game. As a result of this scheduling, USC became seriously banged up losing some of their key players in key games, namely against Washington State.
The Trojans fell to the Cougars in a Friday night matchup on the road 30-27, but they were missing three of their starting offensive linemen. The Trojans subbed in two true freshmen and still had a shot to win this game in a tough road environment. USC also man handled a Stanford team who is now on the rise. Granted, we will see if the Trojans are able to beat the Cardinal again this Friday in the Pac-12 title game.
USC's defense also proved to the country that they could stop even the most explosive offensive players. USC beat Arizona 49-35 and shut down Khalil Tate. Last year, USC got hot at the right time and this could be the case again this year. USC has now won four straight games and Darnold may have found his rhythm yet again. The Trojans are now coming off of a bye week at nearly full strength and now the committee will see how they play when finally having a week off to rest.
Lastly, USC has the toughest strength of schedule of any of the four teams here at 16th. USC has not had it easy this year and the injuries have not helped but here they are, 10-2 and a shot to win their conference. If the Trojans can beat Stanford convincingly, there is no reason they should not be given consideration.
Why USC Does Not Deserve to Be In
USC fell in the rankings fast after their horrendous loss to rival Notre Dame on the road. USC looked bad that game. They were held to 14 points and Notre Dame's Josh Adams and Brandon Winbush toyed with Trojans all game long. Immediately from this loss, which was an embarrassing one on national television, should eliminate the Trojans from contention.
A loss of that magnitude should clearly keep a team out of the playoff, so that also means Ohio State should be out of contention as well given their loss to an unranked Iowa. USC has been up and down all season long and one of the biggest concerns everyone has with them is which USC team will show up.
Will Sam Darnold turn the ball over? Will the defense be able to stop the run? The most important aspect of the Trojans' resume that prevents them from being in the playoff is their lack of quality wins. The best win on their schedule was against Stanford, but aside from that, the rest do not stand out.
USC needed a miraculous drive to force overtime in their win against Texas who finished the season 6-6. They needed a stop on a two-point conversion to beat Utah at home and they struggled immensely against their rival UCLA in a 28-23 win. USC has the talent to win games and could surprise some people if given the opportunity to make the playoff, but the lack of quality wins will be the one big thing that will hold the Trojans from making the playoff yet again.