College Football Playoff Notebook: Auburn Holds the Key to Creating a Giant Mess

Never before has a two-loss team reached the College Football Playoff. Auburn is looking to make some history.

The simple-easy-done scenario for the selection committee includes Alabama winning outthereby eliminating Auburn and Georgiawhile Oklahoma and Wisconsin do the same. The ACC championClemson or Miamiwould take the final spot.

But it won’t actually be that painless, right?

Following a 40-17 mauling of then-No. 1 Georgiaand aided by Stanford’s upset of Washington and Miami’s beatdown of Notre Damethe Tigers rose to No. 6 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings.

Yes, that was merely Step 1 of a challenging three-point plan. The yearly showdown with Alabama looms, and a victory there is required to even reach Step 3 of an SEC title. Nevertheless, the Week 11 triumph over Georgia added yet another twist to the playoff’s outlook.

Auburn can create the primary controversy of 2017 if, after navigating Louisiana-Monroe this weekend, the Tigers win the Iron Bowl. That would drop Alabama to 11-1 and keep the Crimson Tide out of the SEC Championship Game.

However, that doesn’t mean the committee wouldn’t consider Alabama one of the nation’s four best teams, particularly if the Tigers defeat Georgia once again for the SEC crown.

As a result, the 13-member panel could be caught decidingfor the sake of examplebetween a one-loss Alabama and one-loss Miami if the ‘Canes lose to Clemson in the ACC title game and either Wisconsin or Oklahoma trip up.

That’s not as simple a decision as it may seem. Not only do the Hurricanes own a higher strength of schedule, per Sports-Reference, they dismantled a Notre Dame squad the committee twice ranked No. 3 and was the primary reason Georgia initially held the No. 1 spot.

Conversely, Alabama’s best win would be Mississippi State or LSU, pending the final assessment of a win over a Florida State team when it featured quarterback Deondre Francois.

After all, we can’t expect everything to go perfectly, right? We’ve discussed that in previous weeks, and it keeps coming true. That’s also a good reminder that Auburn’s involvement in this conversation is only relevant if it keeps winning.

The Crimson Tide could render it useless if they celebrate an Iron Bowl victory for the fourth straight year. Then, we’d have to approach whether a loss to Georgia in the SEC championship further harms one-loss Oklahoma, whose road victory over Ohio State would be matched by Bama’s win at Auburn.

When the selection committee unveils its final rankings, there will be intrigue. Uncertainty will linger at its maximum level, however, if Auburn earns a spot and leaves Alabama on the doorstep.

     

No Seat at the Table for UCF

No matter what UCF accomplishes, it won’t satisfy the committee.

That’s the ugly truth of the situation, despite the program’s 9-0 record. UCF’s three CFP rankings this year have been 18th, 18th and 15th. Last year, Western Michigan climbed no higher than 15th while finishing its pre-bowl slate at 13-0.

It’s a shame, since the Knights are a seriously fun team. McKenzie Milton should be receiving more attention as a vote-getter for the Heisman Trophy. The sophomore quarterback has helped Scott Frost’s team register the highest scoring average (48.6) and fifth-most yards (538.0) per game in the FBS.

Plus, the defense is safely above average. One-handed Shaquem Griffin is the leader of the unit, which has notable ranks in several major categoriessuch as interceptions (18th), completion percentage (29th), scoring (29th), yards per pass attempt (38th) and yards per carry (51st).

But a 9-0 record isn’t enough. Seven victories by 25-plus points isn’t enough. A 40-13 beatdown of a ranked opponent (No. 21 Memphis) isn’t enough. No matter what happens against South Florida in two weeks, it won’t be enough.

Instead of being in the conversation for the College Football Playoff, the Knights are merely the favorite to earn the Group of Five’s berth in a New Year’s Six game. Presumably, that would be the Peach Bowl against an ACC or SEC opponent.

While it’s a tremendous opportunity to showcase the program, it’s certainly less than UCF would prefer.

     

Miami Shifting from National Underdog to Favorite

The Hurricanes embraced an “us against the world mentality” while they consistently side-stepped unranked foes. Over the last two weeks, Miami dominated its toughest opponents of the season and completely reversed the narrative surrounding the team.

Following a 41-8 obliteration of Notre Dame, however, there isn’t a major shortage of respect for the ‘Canes. They climbed to No. 2 in the AP poll and are No. 3 in the playoff rankings.

What happens next? The program hasn’t been a national championship contender in more than a decade, so these players haven’t enjoyed this type of legitimate praise while at The U.

“It’s uncharted territory for most of our guys,” offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said, according to Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post.

Miami has clinched the Coastal Division and will take on Clemson in an ACC Championship Game that figures to hold College Football Playoff implications. But now the Hurricanes are a respected national team. Virginia and Pitt would love to steal some of the spotlight when it’s shining brightest on Mark Richt‘s club.

Sure, an upset seems unlikely. Nevertheless, most of us suggested the same thing before Iowa State toppled Oklahoma. Or when Syracuse clipped Clemson, or Iowa hammered Ohio State. The most smallest spread of those three matchups was 20.5 points, per OddsShark.

Miami is currently a 19-point favorite against Virginia. The line shouldn’t be terribly different at Pitt. Crazier things, quite clearly, have happened this season.

Climbing to the top of the rankings is extremely difficult, but staying up there is even tougher. That’s a challenge these Hurricanes have never encountered in this manner.

     

The Pac-12 Is Almost Out; Ohio State Is Alive

Washington slipping at Stanford basically removed the Pac-12 from consideration. The conference’s only route to the periphery of the discussion is if Wisconsin loses to Michigan and Minnesota then defeats Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game while now-No. 11 USC ends its campaign at 11-2.

And that’s simply to have a voice heard.

No. 9 Ohio State, on the other hand, has a straightforward path to sneaking in at 11-2 as the No. 4 seed: Alabama, Oklahoma and Miami win out, and Wisconsin drops a game opposite either Michigan or Minnesota before falling in the Big Ten title.

Although that first loss by the Badgers might not be required, it would leave the Buckeyes in a delicate position if the championship game victory isn’t a blowout. Otherwise, Wisconsin would have one fewer loss, three matching Big Ten wins and an emphatic triumph over Iowa, which smashed Ohio State.

Urban Meyer‘s crew benefited from the committee penalizing 2016 Penn State for its 39-point loss to Michigan despite the Nittany Lions owning the head-to-head win over the Buckeyes and a conference championship. Consequently, Ohio State shouldn’t be shocked if a 31-point loss was its undoing in similar circumstances.

As with any hypothetical, it doesn’t matter unless the Buckeyes finish their schedule 3-0. Plus, straightforward doesn’t mean probable. The chances of those results aligning perfectly for Ohio State are slim.

Nevertheless, the Buckeyes should be thrilled they’re still in the picture, no matter how improbable an ascent may be.

     

Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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Source: Bleacher Report-CFB News

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