For the final time before the bowl selections on December 4th, I will highlight the least convoluted path a team can take to get into the playoff.
Alabama: Playoff lock.
Ohio State: Playoff lock.
Clemson: Win ACC championship, otherwise out.
Washington: Win PAC12 CG, otherwise out.
Penn State: Win Big Ten CG AND either Clemson or Washington loses.
Wisconsin: Win Big Ten CG AND either Clemson or Washington loses.
Oklahoma: Beat Oklahoma State AND Clemson loses AND Washington loses.
Colorado: Win PAC12 CG AND Clemson loses AND Oklahoma loses.
Two spots are already clinched (barring a spectacular change of heart from the committee), and six teams are fighting over the final two spots. The Big Ten still has a shot at two teams in (and according to this guy, has a shot at three teams in), and the Big XII is once again on the outside looking in.
I am fascinated by Nick’s scenario for three Big Ten teams, and even though it absolutely makes sense on the surface it is extremely difficult to see two teams that didn’t win their division make the field of four over three conference champions. Ohio State is in a unique spot as one of four Power 5 teams with fewer than 2 losses; they also have wins over two teams vying for a playoff bid, a narrow loss to another contender, and a recent win over the next team outside the contenders listed above. Their resume is flat out better than everybody save Alabama, so the committee has no choice but to include them.
Even though Michigan has wins over three of the teams above, and a last-play-of-the-game loss on the road to a fourth, their two losses and lack of conference championship game appearance are just a bit too much to overlook. Had Michigan beaten Iowa their case would be every bit as strong as Ohio State’s, plus they’d be playing for a championship this week to solidify their spot in the playoff. Michigan is a lock for a NY6 bowl, but would need the committee to move really far from their stance that conference championships are a primary factor. Having fewer losses than a conference champion can justify a bid, but having the same number of losses very likely cannot.