The Committee is going to have hard decisions to make when they choose the last two participants for the playoff. The first two will be easy. Undefeated Clemson will be in the playoff, and SEC Champion Alabama will be there. No one will argue with either of those. After that, there may be a sea of one loss teams with similar resumes. Distinguishing between them will be almost impossible, unless Notre Dame makes things easy and loses.
Ohio State. The Buckeyes only need to beat Michigan to finish 11-1. Their only loss will be a three point game to Michigan State. Assuming Penn State doesn’t upset the Spartans, Ohio State will not play for the Big Ten championship. Other than that game, this season’s resume is stronger than last year’s, and last year’s got the Bucks in the playoff.
Michigan State: The Spartans need two more wins to put themselves in the playoff. They aren’t guaranteed to be there, but they should be. If they win out they will have wins over Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa. That’s as many quality wins as anyone. Their fans will also remind you that their loss to Nebraska involved a controversial call that didn’t go their way.
Iowa. The Hawkeyes can win out, and they will be in. An undefeated, major conference champion will go to the playoffs. The Hawkeyes have avoided all three major teams from the Big Ten East, but they will face one in the conference championship game. That win would be enough. Any loss will knock them out.
Oklahoma. The Sooners can finish 11-1 with road wins against Oklahoma State and Baylor and a home win against TCU. They have a loss to Texas, but those three wins will be as good as anyone’s. Plus, they would be Big 12 champions and are playing well at the end of the season.
Oklahoma State. The Cowboys faltered last week, but they can still make the committee’s decision difficult. They have the potential to finish 11-1 with wins over TCU and Oklahoma. Their only loss is to Baylor. That is a strong resume.
Baylor. After losing their quarterback the Bears have taken a back seat in the playoff conversations, but they are sill in it. If they win out, they will finish 11-1 with wins on the road at Oklahoma State and TCU. Their loss to Oklahoma isn’t a bad loss, unless you’re trying to get in the playoff ahead of Oklahoma.
Notre Dame. The Irish have been in the Top 4 all season. Their best win is either Navy or Temple, but their only loss is to undefeated Clemson. They need another quality win, and they have an opportunity against Stanford. If they find a way to beat the Cardinal, they will be 11-1, and it will be hard for the committee to move them down.
The Notre Dame Problem
Some of these scenarios are mutually exclusive. All seven teams can’t finish with one loss, but five can. If Notre Dame is one of those teams, the playoff committee has put itself in an unsolvable quandary. They have to move Notre Dame down after their biggest win, or they have to leave out a one loss conference champion with more quality wins.
Consider this possibility. Ohio State, Michigan State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Notre Dame win out. Who do you pick for your two spots? You have to pick the two conference champions, right? That would be Oklahoma and Michigan State. Would the committee do that? Would Notre Dame, of all teams, be leap frogged?
What if the committee doesn’t want to move Notre Dame down? Do they go another route and punish the Big 12 for not having a conference championship game? They did last year. They could again. Then they’d be putting Notre Dame in ahead of Oklahoma. Can’t you see Jeff Long telling us how impressed they were with Notre Dame’s loss to Clemson and Oklahoma’s loss to Texas was bad? Would they penalize Oklahoma for playing in a conference without a conference championship game and overlook the fact that Notre Dame doesn’t play in a conference?
Notre Dame can make this all easy for the committee by losing. If they lose, things get very simple. Without Notre Dame, the four playoff teams are Clemson, Alabama and the two conference champions. With Notre Dame, you may end up with a mess.
This “mess” was created by the committee. Notre Dame was never one of the Four most deserving teams in the country. They are arguably one of the best, but you can make an argument for a dozen teams being one of the four best.
Now it doesn’t matter to the committee what they do. People will be arguing and debating. The amount of conversation about the playoff, the committee and the choices will sky rocket. People will tune in to be proven right, to see Notre Dame lose because they never belonged there. They will tune in to see Notre Dame win, to prove they’re one of the Top Four team (post hoc justification be damned). That’s what the committee really wants.