The victory all but ensures that Ohio State (11-1) will be earn a spot in the College Football Playoff (CFP). If so, they would become the first non-conference champion invited since the system began in 2014.
As for Michigan, they’ve fallen to No. 5 in the latest CFP rankings, sitting behind both Clemson and Washington. Wisconsin (No. 6) and Penn State (No. 8) are both knocking on the door as they’ll play in the Big Ten conference championship.
Does Michigan have a chance to still get in? Is there any way that No. 1 Alabama could fall out of the top four? Let’s answer these questions and more by looking at the predicted top four teams as well as a scenario where Michigan still get ins.
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide; would face No. 4 in Peach Bowl
Given that CFP Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt told CBS “we always have a focus on who are the best football teams,” Alabama (12-0) is an absolute lock in the top 4.
Even if Alabama were to lose to Florida in the SEC Championship, it’s hard to see any scenario where they A) don’t get in, and B) drop from the No. 1 spot. It might take a 60-0 nothing skunking by Florida to end the Tide’s season.
We all know that’s not going to happen, though, considering that Alabama has won 11 of its 12 games by double digits. They’ve trailed in the second half for a total of nine and a half minutes, which is less than a point per game.
Either this is Nick Saban’s most-dominant squad ever, or the rest of the SEC is off its game. We could argue a little of both, but there’s no question that the Tide look better than anybody else right now.
No. 2 Ohio State; would face No. 3 in Fiesta Bowl
Ohio State almost benefits from not qualifying for the Big Ten Championship. They are the only other team that seems a lock right now, with the lone blemish on their schedule being a 24-21 loss to Penn State in Happy Valley.
The Michigan game — where Ohio State was mostly outplayed — showed that the Bucks have trouble scoring on a tough defense. But they got just enough magic, and 3 turnovers from Michigan QB Wilson Speight, to win the game.
A 45-24 win at Oklahoma, 30-23 victory at Wisconsin, 62-3 drubbing of Nebraska, and 30-27 win over Michigan give Ohio State the nation’s most impressive schedule. Something crazy would have to happen in the conference championship week for them not to get into the CFP.
No. 3 Clemson; would play No. 2 in Fiesta Bowl
Clemson has a couple of nice wins on its schedule, including beating Louisville 42-36 and defeating Florida State 37-34. A late-season stumble against Pittsburgh, which also beat Penn State, remains their lone loss.
They’ve since made a statement, destroying rival South Carolina 56-7. They can guarantee themselves a spot in the College Football Playoff by beating Virginia Tech (9-3) in the ACC Championship.
If Clemson were to lose, though, they’d likely be out of the picture. After all, they haven’t beaten one top-10 CFP team, and their wins over Florida State, Louisville, and Auburn were by a combined 15 points.
No. 4 Washington; would play No. 1 in Peach Bowl
Washington (11-1) presents the ultimate question of if a great record and conference championship trump a relatively weak schedule. The Pac-12 being weak has hurt Washington’s standing, but the USC loss didn’t help the situation.
None of this will matter, though, if the Huskies can win against 10th-ranked Colorado (10-2) in the Pac-12 championship game.
Making the Case for No. 5 Michigan (10-2)
The one team that’s currently still in the debate with Washington for the No. 4 spot is the Wolverines. What’s currently preventing Michigan from being in the CFP is that they’re a two-loss team that won’t win their conference.
This is likely enough to keep them out of the playoff unless Clemson or Washington loses and opens up a spot. Assuming either of these teams lose, then Michigan has an excellent case based on their schedule, and the fact that non-conference-winner Ohio State looks to qualify.
As for Michigan’s schedule, they beat Colorado 45-28, Penn State 49-10, and Wisconsin 14-7. If not for a late 14-13 loss against Iowa, the Wolverines would likely be the second Big Ten team making it without a conference championship.
If we look at the Big Ten’s top four teams and margin of victory against each other, it goes: Michigan 90-47 (2-1 record), Ohio State 81-74 (2-1 record), Penn State 34-70 (1-1), and Wisconsin 30-44 (0-2 record).
If Colorado, another victim of a Michigan beatdown, beats Washington, the Wolverines have their strongest case yet.
Other Teams on the Fringe
Wisconsin (10-2) – Nothing about Wisconsin’s schedule jumps out, but they have a chance for a quality win against Penn State. Their pair of one-touchdown losses to Ohio State and Michigan show that this team can compete against anybody.
Oklahoma (9-2) – After a rocky 1-2 start that included losses to Houston and Ohio State, the Sooners have reeled off eight straight victories. If they beat Oklahoma State, a nine-game winning streak combined with the Big-12 championship could catapult Oklahoma into the CFP.
Penn State (10-2) – The Nittany Lions took two early season losses to Pittsburgh and Michigan. Losing to Michigan by a score of 49-10 really hurts Penn State’s chances. But their victory over Ohio State impresses the selection committee.
Oklahoma State (9-2) – The Cowboys have the two-worst losses of anybody on this list, losing to Central Michigan and Baylor. They’ve since won seven straight, but they’d need a blowout win against the Sooners for serious consideration.
Colorado (10-2) – The Buffaloes have one of the tougher schedules in the nation, beating Stanford 10-5, but losing to Michigan 45-28 and to USC 21-17. If Colorado can win big against the Huskies, they have an outside chance at the CFP. But they would need help in other spots too, such as Clemson losing.