by Daniel Olsen | Cougar fans are rising and shouting as the BYU football team won their biggest game in recent memory and did it convincingly too. After they beat Boise State 52-17, the question rages on: Can BYU make the College Football Playoff or is that just the Mitch Harper blue Kool-Aid talking? Let’s examine the teams in the mix and see what might have to happen for the Cougars to get in.
1. Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State: The familiar faces
It will be tough to see BYU pass any of these teams currently ranked in the top three of the AP Top 25. Between these three schools there have been 13 playoff appearances. Since they are powerhouses and in a Power 5 conference to boot, one of them would have to lose at least two games in order to get passed by BYU.
The best scenario is for either Clemson or Notre Dame to end the season with two losses. These two will likely meet again in the ACC championship. If they split the games, it would be hard to put BYU ahead of either school since they would each have a top five win on their resume.
Ohio State doesn’t seem to have too many obstacles. They have beaten Michigan every year and would be favorites even over their surprising Top 25 neighbor in Indiana this year. Ohio State would also have to have two losses before we put BYU ahead of them.
Alabama already has that top five win on their resume and it doesn’t seem like they have too many tests on their schedule. The Iron Bowl as always is the biggest test but even if they lost that they could still pick up a big win in the SEC championship. Auburn has already lost two conference games so Alabama would just need to win out. If the Crimson Tide lost both to Auburn and the SEC East champion then you could make a case for BYU to pass them.
Who takes the fourth spot?
Currently these teams are competing with BYU for that final spot: Notre Dame, Oregon, Oklahoma State and another SEC team. As stated previously, I think one win over Clemson is enough to get Notre Dame in, even if it’s over a team without Trevor Lawrence. Like it or not, it’s still a win over the then #1 team in the nation, albeit in overtime. I don’t know if Notre Dame is better than BYU but with that humongous win they now have a leg up in the playoff race.
I personally think BYU should make it over any Big 12 team. The best team they have is Oklahoma State who already has lost a game. If those Cowboys run the table, they might have a shot but I put an undefeated BYU over any team from the Big 12.
The PAC-12 is interesting. They only play six regular season games and the championship teams would get a seventh game. I think playing three more games is enough to get BYU ahead of the top teams in this conference as long as the Cougars finish the season strong. If Oregon or someone else goes undefeated then maybe we can talk. Utah just cancelled their first game vs Arizona due to COVID outbreaks on campus. The Utes better get ready to win the South and avenge their loss to Oregon if they don’t want their rival to make a Rose Bowl before them. They’d never hear the end of it. BYU gets in ahead of a one loss or maybe even undefeated PAC-12 champion.
Cincinnati is good but won’t get the respect since they are in a G5 conference. BYU isn’t in any conference but their dominance over the G5 teams they’ve played would give them a leg up on the Bearcats. We have already seen the treatment an unbeaten G5 in UCF got a couple years ago. Notre Dame has proven that an Independent can make the Playoff. BYU’s revised easier schedule does hurt them a bit but if Clemson can coast over the less-than-stellar ACC every year than why can’t BYU get in after dominating their underwhelming competition?
Alabama is currently the only undefeated SEC team. The current one-loss teams in the same conference are Florida and Texas A&M. Since Florida just beat a top ten team in Georgia, they will have the best shot but they’d have to upset Alabama in the championship game to get the bid. That doesn’t seem likely. Texas A&M already lost to Alabama and plays in their division so I think they’d already be blocked from the playoff unless Alabama somehow slips up twice. If Georgia can finally defeat the demons that Alabama has given them every year, they’d be the best shot for a one-loss SEC team to make it. We’ve already seen this happen before where two teams from the SEC made the College Football Playoff in the same year. I don’t think we see a two-loss team get in this year, especially in a shortened season for most conferences. A two-loss team has never made the semifinal in the short history of the playoff.
Best case scenario: Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame go undefeated. They would block out any chance for two bids from their conference. Oklahoma State loses two games and Oregon loses at least one en route to the PAC-12 championship. Cincinatti loses a game to remove any hope in a G5 bid to the playoff. BYU somehow sneaks into that fourth spot.
Worst case scenario: Oregon goes undefeated and Oklahoma State finishes with one loss. Alabama and Florida each finish with one loss. Clemson and Notre Dame finish with one loss, each being a top 5 loss to each other. Cincinnati goes undefeated. The committee gives BYU the cold shoulder and puts all of these teams, plus a one loss Texas A and M ahead of them. The Cougars finish the season at ranked 9th and still earn a chance to play Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Here is what the worst case CFP rankings would look like for BYU:
2. Ohio State
4. Notre Dame
7. Texas A&M
Most likely scenario: Count on Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State to make the playoff without a doubt. The fourth spot is tricky. Notre Dame did beat Clemson in overtime, handing the number 1 team in the nation their first regular season loss since 2017. There is no asterisk even though the Tigers were playing without their Heisman hopeful Trevor Lawrence.
Florida beat Georgia so they are the only one loss SEC team in the East division. They are the only SEC team I give a shot to once again be the second bid to the playoff but that is only if they get the monkey (or in this case the Crimson Tide Elephant) off their back and defeat Alabama in the championship. I don’t think that will happen.
As discussed previously, BYU will have a case over all teams for the fourth spot except for those two ACC teams. It feels weird to say but most years Notre Dame is usually not in the ACC in college football. They got the one-year invite to make it easy to create a respectable schedule. Now Notre Dame has to win the ACC championship to finally knock Clemson out of the top four for the first time since the inaugural year.
If the Tigers get back to business and beat the Fighting Irish, then both schools will have top 5 wins over each other. That’s one thing BYU can’t have unless a spot opens up on the schedule and they schedule a last minute game with at least a top 10 team like Cincinnati between the North Alabama and San Diego State game.
I think BYU handles their business and goes 10-0. They will control what is in their power and just win. The playoff process for college football is too political and we know it needs to be expanded. It’s sad that the path to a title is 100 times more possible in basketball than football although the football team is more than capable of winning. The BCS and College Football Playoff were constructed specifically to keep the little guys out.
BYU was one of those teams from the WAC that got the number 1 ranking in the 1984 and were thus awarded the national championship. Now voters, mainly from those big Power 5 conferences, abound in the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. Bias remains supreme.
I think Clemson will beat Notre Dame, Alabama will beat Florida, and Ohio State will win the Big 10. BYU will be the fifth team and thus named the “first team left out” of the college football playoff. I would probably put Florida in the sixth spot if they don’t lose any other games leading up to the championship. Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama and Notre Dame have been there before and their resume should get them in if they don’t have any unforeseen slip-ups.
I don’t mean to break hearts Cougar nation. If BYU is ranked this high they will get an at-large bid to a New Years Six bowl. A game like the Fiesta Bowl would be massive for the program as this game they are currently projected to play has a 17 million dollar payout. That deserves to all go back into the pocket of the BYU football team that worked to get it. They could then beat an overrated Power 5 team and still throw their own championship parade like Clemson did. I think it would be tough to expect the Cougars to advance to the national championship even if they somehow made the playoff as they would likely have to play the top seed in the Alabama Crimson Tide in the first round.
If you BYU fans want that last spot into the playoff, pray and fast for Florida to lose, Notre Dame to knock Clemson out again, and for Oregon to lose at least a game. Also flood Tom Holmoe’s inbox to plead with him to schedule one more game with a top program. He has already stated the team will take their much earned bye week before playing an FCS team in North Alabama. They already have a 10 game schedule which is more than several conferences can say. No matter what happens, this will be a special season for the Cougars as well as Heisman hopeful Zach Wilson.
Featured Image Courtesy Deseret News