By: Rajan Nanavati
Barring any college football catastrophe in Tuscaloosa or Clemson, the University of Alabama and Clemson University look like they’re locked in to two of the four spots in college football’s playoffs.
With an 8-0 record and only one game left on their slate against a ranked opponent (Syracuse University is currently ranked #22), if the University of Notre Dame remains undefeated, they’re all but assured one of the aforementioned four spots.
But as we await college football’s first official playoff rankings for 2018, which are set to be released on Tuesday, October 30th, there’s plenty of room for debate as far as who’s the final team that should be invited to college football’s version of “the big dance.”
After all, LSU is currently the 4th-ranked team in the nation. But after this Saturday, either they or Alabama are going to pick up their first loss of the season, dealing a critical hit to either of their postseason aspirations. The fact that LSU is 14.5-point underdogs at home, the largest spread for a home underdog since 1999, is rather telling, in terms of who’s expected to win the Crimson Tide-Tigers matchup.
A loss by LSU would seemingly move Michigan into the proverbial driver’s seat for a playoff spot. But that, of course, presumes that Michigan gets through 14th-ranked Penn State on Saturday, and clinches the Big 10 East title, which would involve defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes on Thanksgiving weekend (something Jim Harbaugh has yet to accomplish during his time in Ann Arbor).
And if Michigan were to trip up between now and Thanksgiving, it’s going to turn the race for that last playoff spot into a complete mosh pit (especially if LSU somehow shocks the world and beats Alabama).
With a decisive win over the University of Georgia, the Bulldogs have set themselves up for a date with the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship game; beating an undefeated Alabama team on such a stage should assure them a spot in the postseason.
If Ohio State can recover from their ugly outing against Purdue University and not lose any of their remaining games, they would have a very strong case to be considered for the playoffs. By definition, someone has to win the Big 12 Conference, and if Oklahoma defeats West Virginia when the two of them meet on Thanksgiving weekend as well, a conference championship would put weight on their college football playoffs resume.
And all of this fails to mention the University of Central Florida, who’s currently riding a 20-game winning streak, and has every right to be invited to the table of schools competing for the title of best team in college football.
As we’re only a matter of hours away from the month of November, college football’s last few weeks of the regular season bear enormous intrigue. Saturday’s slate of games alone could greatly define or drastically alter the current playoff picture as we know it.
With all due respect to the holiday purists, that’s why – for college football fans – November might actually be the most wonderful time of the year.