Top three in CFP appear set, but who is No. 4?
Every year when the College Football Playoffs end, some “expert analyst” declares that, see, the committee got it right. That is true.
In recent years, and this year is no exception, Alabama’s superiority makes it so easy to get the No. 1 seed right. Even a bunch of sleep-deprived sports writers could put the Crimson Tide at No. 1. Alabama could give a few NFL teams — Oakland, Buffalo and Arizona, we’re looking at you — a competitive game.
Clemson has gone from outstanding to being a “super” program. Until OPINION that changes, there’s your No. 2 and in some years No. 1 if Alabama shows human-esque tendencies and loses one or two games during the regular season.
Whether you love Notre Dame or stand with the ABND crowd — Anybody But Notre Dame — Notre Dame plays just about anyone anywhere. This year, the Fighting Irish are beating everyone everywhere.
Unless it loses to Southern California, Florida State or Syracuse, Notre Dame, with an undefeated record, is the clear No. 3.
But at No. 4? This is where the committee often gets things wrong. This would be less of an issue if the playoffs expanded to eight teams. But that is years away, if it ever occurs.
Michigan moved into No. 4 this week.
Michigan has just one loss, to Notre Dame in the season opener. History shows that if a playoff team is to lose, it’s best to do it early. Memories are short as we become fascinated with a new shiny object or whatever is streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu.
If Michigan wins out and no one ahead of it loses, it will remain No. 4.
But if Michigan loses to Ohio State, as it often does?
What if Michigan beats Ohio State but loses in the Big Ten championship game?
It’s not really fair to play an extra game, lose and be eliminated from the CFP while a team that isn’t in a championship game has a week off, avoids another loss and gets the love from the CFP committee. Unfortunately, that is not likely to change.
If Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC championship game and Michigan absorbs another loss, Georgia will get the No. 4 spot.
If Georgia loses, we have to look elsewhere, and the Big 12 is the place.
Specifically, watch the Oklahoma-West Virginia game on Nov. 23. Both teams should enter the game with one loss. Oklahoma currently is No. 6 in the CFP standings, West Virginia an underrated No. 9.
No matter who wins that game, both are likely to play in the Big 12 championship game. To get the fourth spot, if Michigan takes another loss or Notre Dame is upset, one team has to sweep those two games in the Big 12.
Split the games and Michigan and Georgia are back in the mix. Or maybe, just maybe, Central Florida finally gets a little respect and the No. 4 spot. Don’t count on that. West Virginia and Oklahoma can make this simple with no great debates about who did what and when during the season. Win two games, and you’re in ... if Michigan, or maybe Notre Dame, loses.
Someone is going to point out that Iowa State beat West Virginia, and the Cyclones are the hottest team in the Big 12. Iowa State also has three losses and has games left with Kansas State and Incarnate Word.
Yes, there is a University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio, and it plays in the Southland Conference. Beating Incarnate Word never should get a threeloss team into the playoffs.
But a team that can beat Oklahoma or West Virginia in back-to-back games? That’s a very good team, worthy of competing for the national championship.
And, by the way, West Virginia, we’re looking at you.