This year, as much as any other in the past, the College Football Playoff selection committee figures to have a fairly easy decision on its hands come Sunday when conference championship games are over.
Notre Dame is a lock, having completed an undefeated season and currently sitting in the No. 3 spot. The winner of the SEC Championship game is a lock, although a Georgia win would certainly create drama with regards to whether Alabama would remain in the top 4 or drop out of the playoff. Clemson is a four touchdown favorite over Pitt, so they are as close to a lock as a team can be with a conference title game remaining.
Pending an expected Alabama win, Oklahoma is in if they beat Texas, as they’re in fifth, ahead of Ohio State. The Buckeyes play a mediocre Northwestern team (somehow ranked 21st), so they need to win and have Texas beat the Sooners to get in. Pretty much, all the paths to the playoff are fairly clear, with one major (and unlikely) exception.
Each year we talk about disaster scenarios for the Playoff, and they typically involve someone deserving being left out (see: TCU). That possibility somewhat exists in the Georgia beating Alabama scenario, but it’d be hard to argue against the Tide being worthy of a selection if their one loss was to another playoff team, giving them the best loss of anyone in the hunt — that said, if OSU jumps OU with both winning somehow, Sooners fans and the Big 12 will rightfully riot.
This year, the disaster scenario is, truly, just that: an awful situation for the committee where there isn’t a right answer. It’s unlikely, but not impossible that this happens and if it does, it’s a no-win situation for the committee.
The first part of this is the most likely, which is Georgia losing handily to Alabama, giving them two losses to good teams, but in neither of them were they especially competitive. Then, UCF beats Memphis in the AAC title game without McKenzie Milton, and Washington beats Utah in the Pac-12 title game. Next, you have Texas beating Oklahoma for a second time, giving Oklahoma two losses (both to the same team) and a three-loss Big 12 champ. Finally, and least likely based on how Vegas sees it, Northwestern shocks the Buckeyes in Indianapolis, giving Ohio State a second bad loss and leaving you with a four-loss Big Ten champ.
Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame are all locked in to their seeds at this point, but what to do with the fourth spot is an almost impossible decision to make. The committee’s options at that point would be (with their current rankings):