During the BCS Era, the nightmare scenario was always 3 undefeated teams remaining for two spots. In mid-October people would begin to speculate what was going to happen with all the undefeated teams. Some people rooted for an unsolvable problem to hasten the demise of the BCS, while others hoped for a clean resolution. Inevitably most all undefeateds would lose a game or two and things would sort themselves out.
The lesson every year was the same: things will look different in December than they do in October. This year will be no different. Right now Ohio State, Alabama, and Florida State, 75% of last year’s playoff, seem to be in strong position to make repeat appearances, but it’s October. A lot can, and will happen. What will happen? Of course we don’t know, but here are a few very possible scenarios that aren’t getting much attention.
Florida wins the SEC.
A number of strong candidates could emerge from the SEC West, but it is the winner of the East that could shake things up. Florida might not lose another game, but they really only need to beat Georgia to assure their place in the SEC championship game. They’re not going to lose to Vanderbilt or South Carolina, so a Cocktail Party win should put them in Atlanta. Once they get there one upset would send the Gators to the playoff.
Iowa represents the B1G.
The Hawkeyes are the Gators of the Big Ten. They play in the weaker of the two divisions and will probably win all of their games going forward. They’ll then face off against a team from the stronger side who will probably have a stronger resume. They will be underdogs in the championship game, but anyone can win one game. Why not the Hawkeyes?
UNC emerges from ACC.
Amazingly the same blueprint exists in the ACC. On the Atlantic Coast, there is Florida State, there is Clemson and there are some also-rans. No other team looks like a legitimate threat to compete in a playoff, but the Tar Heels could get the chance to find out on the field. The Coastal is certainly the weaker half, and UNC is moving through it with ease. A week from Thursday they play Pitt, and the winner of that game is going to Charlotte.
No teams from the Pac-12 or Big 12.
Other conferences may beat up on themselves and leave the decision at the mercy of the committee. The Big 12 did this last year. Without a championship game to crown a champion, two very deserving teams were left out. Could TCU and Baylor have a repeat performance this season. Would one of the Oklahoma schools like to play spoiler again? Last season TCU and Baylor gave the committee no clear way to choose one over the other, so the committee chose Ohio State. The same could happen again.
What about the Pac-12? Oregon was the early favorite, then UCLA looked like a contender; now Utah is the class of the conference. Will the Utes fall back to the field? Could the depth at the top of the conference end up costing the league a spot.
A mid major steps forward with 3! candidates.
Houston, Temple and Memphis are all undefeated. If one of those teams can separate itself from the other two, there could be an AAC team in the playoff. But, for that to happen someone has to differentiate themselves. Simply beating the other two teams won’t be enough; someone has to show they are an elite team who belongs in the playoff. That won’t be easy, but if it does, the mid majors could have their first playoff participant this year.