Auburn Making Late Push for NCAA Football Playoff History as Two-Loss Team
Another week of upsets sent more teams tumbling out of the college football playoff picture, with Georgia, Notre Dame and Washington the latest teams to fall out. Auburn put a beat down of previously undefeated and No. 1-ranked Georgia (9-1) in the Deep South's oldest rivalry. The Tigers dominated the Bulldogs on the Plains, 40-17. Auburn used a strong, balanced offense to both run and pass for more than 235 yards with a 488-230 total yards edge while burying the Bulldogs at the point of attach with a 237-46 overland assault. Georgia entered the contest rushing for more than 275 yards per game but were shut down, and the Bulldogs fell to No. 7 in this week's college football playoff (CFP) rankings.
Alabama (10-0) moved back to No. 1 following their last-minute 26-yard touchdown to beat Mississippi State 31-24. The surprising Miami Hurricanes (9-0) moved to No. 2 and surged into the playoff picture with a dismantling of Notre Dame 41-8. Miami extended the nation's longest winning streak to 14 games and secured the ACC Coastal Division title. That win over Notre Dame essentially eliminated the Irish from playoff hopes, and gave Notre Dame something to consider in becoming an Atlantic Coast Conference participant. Oklahoma (9-1) is now No. 3 with last year's national champion Clemson (9-1) No. 4 in the CFP rankings. Wisconsin (10-0) remains undefeated and moved up to No. 5, while two-loss Auburn (8-2) is up to No. 6.
So as the college football playoff picture shakes out and the chaos continues, can Auburn crash the playoff party and become the first-ever 2-loss team to make the 4-team playoff? The answer is yes, and it's going to happen when Auburn beats Alabama in next week's Iron Bowl and follows with a SEC title game victory over Georgia.
The Tide are fighting significant injuries and more vulnerable on defense with a decimated linebacker core, while the Tigers are on the prowl and have the type of strong, balanced offense that can create more than enough offense to upend Alabama. The Tigers have moved into the elite group of teams that both run and pass for more than 200 yards per game, as Auburn rushes for 246 ypg and passes for 217 ypg. And if you're paying attention, you see Auburn's defense is now top-8 in the country in yards against and yards per play, allowing 305 yards per game at 4.3 yards per play.
The Iron Bowl will be one of college football's most important games next weekend with huge betting action at the sports books, and Alabama is a down to a 3-point road favorite on the advance line with both teams expected to roll over weaker non-conference opponents this Saturday.
Alabama could potentially make the playoff if they lose to Auburn should the Tigers then beat Georgia again in the SEC championship game. The SEC champion is going to make the playoffs, so if Auburn wins out . . . they are in. Alabama has less than a 50% chance to make the CFP if they lose to Auburn, but are obviously in as the top-seed if they beat the Tigers in a most-anticipated Iron Bowl.
The Pac-12 is out of the playoff picture after Washington's loss to Stanford last week. Three Pac-12 teams have two losses including USC (9-2), but the Apple Cup game will still be a big one Sat., Nov. 25 when Washington (8-2) hosts rival Washington State (9-2). A road win by the Cougars sends them to the Pac-12 championship game against USC, while a Stanford win over Cal this Saturday would put the Cardinal in position to take on USC, should Washington beat Washington State.
Clemson and Miami will meet in the ACC championship for a 'win and you're in' play-in game to the final four college football playoff.
Even with the softest rated schedule of the playoff contenders, I believe Wisconsin makes the playoff if they win out. But the Badgers are expected to get a stiff challenge from Michigan this week and then have to likely beat Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. The Badgers will not make the field if they lose one game to finish 12-1.
But, Oklahoma will make the college football playoff as a 1-loss team should the Sooners win out. Recall Oklahoma beat Ohio State as well in Columbus. A loss by Oklahoma to West Virginia or potentially TCU in the Big 12 title game leaves the Big 12 out of the playoffs.
Ohio State is not making the CFP field even if they win the Big Ten championship. Of course, the Buckeye's still have to beat Michigan in the huge rivalry game in Ann Arbor next week.
The conference championship games will clearly decide this year's four playoff participants, and I think the Auburn Tigers will become the first 2-loss team to make the FBS playoffs with a 3-0 sweep to finish the season. You can bet on it.
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