Playoff Race Comes Down to College Football Championship Weekend
Another shakeup in the bowl-projections last week and the FBS playoff picture had two more top teams take a tumble heading into college football championship weekend. No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Miami were both upset on the road, while No. 8 Notre Dame also suffered another road defeat as those teams tough schedules appears to have taken it's toll at the end of the season.
Five teams are now in position to win their conference championship game to advance to the college football playoff. Oklahoma (11-1), Clemson (11-1), Wisconsin (12-0) are in if they win, while the winner of the SEC Championship game between Georgia (11-1) and Auburn (10-2) advances to the playoff with the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl serving as this years final four playoff game hosts.
Alabama (11-1) no longer controls their own destiny to the college football playoff, as the Crimson Tide suffered their first loss of the seaosn to Auburn Saturday. Alabama's best wins are vs. LSU and Mississippi State, and neither of those are elite quality teams. As we predicted, Auburn beat Alabama and the Tigers are now in position to become the first 2-loss team to make the BCS playoff with a victory over Georgia in the SEC championship game. A Georgia win sends the Bulldogs to the playoff.
All championship games Saturday, December 2nd.
SEC Championship - Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. 4:00 ET
The prevailing line early in the week is Auburn -2.5 at the leading offshore sportsbooks, but reduced-juice shop 5 Dimes has Auburn -2. The Auburn Tigers have beaten two No. 1 teams in November, both in the SEC in Alabama and Georgia, as the Bulldogs were No. 1 before the Tigers trounced them 40-17. Auburn is one of just two teams in the country to rank top-20 in both offense and defense along with Ohio State, but the Tigers special teams are terrible having allowed multiple big kickoff returns to Alabama in the Iron Bowl, and both a punt (30) and kickoff return (47) to Georgia electric return man Mecole Hardman. Replay, revenge, rematch and redemption for Georgia, who tries to rebound from their deep South's oldest rivalry loss to Auburn. This SEC championship showdown will be the biggest bet game of the weekend.
Big 12 Championship - AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. 12:30 ET
Oklahoma has wins on the road at Ohio State and Oklahoma State, and already beat TCU. But a loss to TCU in the rematch would send the Sooners spiraling out of the playoff picture. Leading into conference championship weekend, Oklahoma is the betting favorite at Bovada to capture the national title at 4-1 odds (+400), followed closely by Clemson (+425), Auburn (+425) and even Alabama (+425).
ACC Championship – Bank of American Stadium in Charlotte, NC. 8:00 ET
Miami, FL (+9.5)
Clemson has 8 wins over bowl eligible teams and 4 road wins over ranked teams. Clemson also beat Auburn. A win over Miami and they are in the CFB playoff, but a loss would leave the Tigers needing some help. In 2015, Clemson beat Miami 58-0; the worst loss in Miami history. That was before current head coach Mark Richt arrived. Miami's first loss of the season at Pittsburgh last week hurts, as a victory over Clemson leaves the Hurricane's at the mercy of the selection committee and does not ensure Miami's spot in the college football playoff. Many believe a Miami win over the national champion and strong Clemson contender gets them in, and so do I.
Big Ten Championship – Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. 8:15 ET
Ohio State (-7)
Wisconsin is the only undefeated Power 5 team, yet they are still more than a touchdown underdog in the Big Ten championship game. Where's the respect? Bucky Badger must win to make the college football playoff however, as their softer schedule compared to the other contenders would not cut it as a 1-loss team. Ohio State still has a glimmer of hope at the playoff, and the Buckeyes stats are strong with a top-20 offense and defense. But their resume is not, and the blowout loss at Iowa and home loss to Oklahoma are real troubling losses for a playoff contending team. Some still believe an Auburn win combined with an Ohio State victory could sneak the Buckeye's in again, just as they did in 2014-15 when Ohio State won the national title. The Buckeye's buried the Badgers in the Big Ten championship that year 59-0, then beat both Alabama and Oregon as underdogs of a touchdown or more. This year's Ohio State team is not as strong however, and putting them in over Alabama or even a 1-loss Miami team as the fourth playoff team would not be right.
So the playoff committee will be dealing with chaos if Oklahoma loses and/or Clemson loses and/or Wisconsin loses. A trio of losses would put Alabama back into the playoff and perhaps a second 2-loss team also in the playoff. No Pac-12 team in the playoff mix this year, but USC (-3.5) and Stanford clash in a rematch in the Pac-12 championship Friday night with the Trojans putting a beat down on the Cardinal 42-24 in week 2 with over 600 yards of balanced offense. Central Florida (11-0) fans are saying "what about our undefeated Knights" with UCF's explosive offense on display again in the AAC championship game as a 7-point favorite over Memphis and a rising total of 84.5.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay