It was a rough weekend for College Football Playoff contenders.
No. 2 Georgia lost.
No. 6 West Virginia lost.
No. 7 Washington lost.
No. 8 Penn State lost.
No. 15 Wisconsin lost.
No. 16 Miami lost.
No. 19 Colorado lost.
But there were also a few winners, and none were bigger than Michigan and Notre Dame.
Notre Dame is now one of the teams being chased
To say Notre Dame has looked shaky at times this season would be an understatement. They let Vanderbilt and Ball State make things interesting in the fourth quarter before holding on for one-score wins against both. And this weekend, the Irish needed a late touchdown to squeak past Pitt.
But at the same time, Notre Dame is undefeated and has impressive wins over both Michigan and Stanford; a resume few teams can match.
Notre Dame also got some help this weekend with losses by both Washington and West Virginia. A one-loss conference champion Washington and an undefeated conference champion WVU would have stirred some debate against an occasionally shaky Notre Dame team. That is not happening now unless the Irish stumble in one of their final five games.
ESPN’s College Football Playoff predictor gives Notre Dame a 65% chance to make the playoff, the fourth-highest percentage, but well ahead of the next school, Georgia at 27%.
Plain and simple, if the season ended today, Notre Dame would be in the playoff, and there wouldn’t be much debate.
Michigan now controls their destiny
Michigan has been fighting an uphill battle for respect since their opening-week loss to Notre Dame, and after pounding No. 15 Wisconsin, 38-13, they finally have it. If they win out, they are in the playoff.
Other schools outside the top four also control their destiny, like LSU, Georgia, Florida, and maybe North Carolina State. But we already knew that if those teams ran the table — including games against teams in the top 3 — they would likely be in the playoff. That was not as clear with Michigan.
With Michigan’s resounding win, suddenly their 1-loss resume stacks up well against the other 1-loss teams. And that resume keeps getting better the longer Notre Dame stays undefeated.
If the Wolverines can beat Ohio State and possibly a one-loss, top 15 Iowa team in the Big Ten championship game, they are going to be in the playoff.
The big loser is the Big 12
With Notre Dame and Michigan taking big steps forward, the playoff picture looks pretty clear. As things stand now, the four teams would almost certainly be:
- The SEC champion — Likely Alabama
- Notre Dame
- The Big Ten champion — Likely the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game
- The ACC champion — If Clemson goes undefeated
That leaves out the Pac-12 (no surprise), Georgia (the SEC is going to have a hard time getting in two teams this year), and a potential one-loss Big 12 champion if Texas, Oklahoma, or West Virginia can win their remaining games and the conference title game.
At this point, the SEC’s second team and the Big 12 champ need more chaos. The good news for them is that there is plenty of time to find some more.