As someone who cheers for a Group of 5 team (UAB), cussing and discussing the College Football Playoff is pointless.
Under its current format, the chances of a team from the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West or Sun Belt conferences making the field are next to impossible.
Still, it’s kinda fun to sit back and watch the big reveal each Tuesday and see which Power 5 program will whine about being disrespected.
And what was revealed in the last rankings before Selection Sunday is that, in reality, only two spots are up for grabs.
No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Notre Dame are already in – count on it.
The Crimson Tide, which has been atop the CFP poll since it was first released on October 23, will earn a semifinal spot even if it loses to No. 4 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. I seriously doubt that’ll happen, but if the Bulldogs somehow pull off the upset, Alabama will fall no further than No. 4.
Those who were enraged that Nick Saban’s team got in last year despite finishing second in the SEC West can embrace that emotion all over again if UA is runner-up on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
As for the Irish, they’re 12-0 and, as an independent, have no work left to do before the semifinals.
And since Alabama and Notre Dame are (arguably) the bluest of college football’s bluebloods, having both teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision Final Four has to give those who love tradition a warm, tingling sensation in their sensitive regions.
So that leaves two spots open, although, I don’t see any scenario where Pittsburgh beats No. 2 Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.
The Panthers are 7-5, lost to a mediocre Miami team by three touchdowns last Saturday, and simply don’t have the horsepower to hang with the unbeaten Tigers.
Dabo Swinney’s squad is head and shoulders above every other team in the ACC and should have this game wrapped up by halftime.
The worst-case scenario for CFP executive director Bill Hancock and the selection committee – from a public relations standpoint – is a Georgia upset. Should that happen, the playoffs will have two SEC teams for the second year in a row. With Notre Dame taking a Power 5 spot, that means the champions of the Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac 12 will be locked out.
Of course, the Pac 12 is locked out anyway. Washington and Utah enter their clash with three losses apiece, so the winner will have to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl as a consolation prize.
Thus, the last berth (assuming Alabama and Clemson win their conference crowns) will come down to No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Ohio State. If both are victorious Saturday the Sooners are probably in, especially since they will have avenged their only regular season loss.
What if the Sooners lose to Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game and the Buckeyes fall to Northwestern in the Big Ten title clash?
Would that open the door for undefeated Central Florida?
The Longhorns wouldn’t get in with three losses and the Wildcats most certainly would not secure a berth with four.
That would leave UCF sitting at 13-0, assuming it beats Memphis Saturday in the AAC Championship Game in Orlando.
The CFP would have to give the Knights the fourth spot, right?
Michigan, despite being destroyed by Ohio State last Saturday, is No. 7 in the CFP poll and UCF is No. 8.
There is some speculation that those rankings might’ve been flipped had the Orlando school not lost quarterback McKenzie Milton for the season due to a stomach-turning leg injury.
But remember Georgia?
If the Dawgs fall to the Tide, especially by a respectable margin, they would most likely be ranked ahead of the Wolverines on Selection Sunday.
UCF and its fans would raise holy hell if a two-loss Georgia or Michigan team broke in line in front of the Knights, but Hancock and company don’t care about that.
The CFP doesn’t have enough spots to accommodate the Power 5 conferences, so why should we believe a Group of 5 team would be allowed to crash the party?
Now this could change since it’s almost a certainty the playoff will grow to eight teams in a few years.
When that happens, there might be a bone tossed to allow an unbeaten Group of 5 team to enter as the No. 8 seed.
But that time hasn’t come yet, so a team like Central Florida will remain on the outside looking in.
That being said, I fully expect 14-0 Alabama and 14-0 Clemson to meet in the CFP National Championship Game on January 7.
This won’t mean the system suddenly got “fair,” but it will mean major college football will have a 15-0 team for the first time in history.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, that’s impressive.
Meanwhile, UCF’s winning streak now stands at 24.
That’s impressive, too.