Playoff Explanation: This post takes place in an alternate world where Division I-A college football holds a sixteen-team playoff where the eleven conference champions and five at-large bids (chosen by a committee) play in a tournament. The teams are placed in two "regions", seeded 1-8. The at-large teams are chosen on the basis of who they beat more than who they lost to with seeding working in the same way. Home games are held at the higher seed in each round until the championship, which this year is held in New Orleans. Undefeated teams automatically get at least one home game. Any bitching about whether there should be a playoff should go in any other thread, as this is all hypothetical and just for fun.
There is only one week until college football's version of Selection Sunday, and Championship Week will provide the final pieces of the bracket puzzle. But, in this version of Bracketology, we'll discuss the impact this week's championship games will and will NOT have on the at-large picture. Championship game losses don't necessarily not count. But, consideration is given to at-large hopefuls, especially if the loss is to a good team.
But first, the conference roundup.
ACC: Clemson (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (11-1) in the ACC Championship Game. As for at-large consideration, Clemson's consecutive losses to North Carolina State and South Carolina killed any hopes they had. As for Virginia Tech, despite the gaudy record, a loss would mean their best win would be either Georgia Tech or Virginia. And a mediocre schedule like that means that it's likely win or go home for both teams.
Big 12: It all comes down to Bedlam. Oklahoma (9-2) @ Oklahoma State (10-1), winner takes the Big 12 auto-bid. This isn't an official championship game, so a third loss pretty much dooms Oklahoma as far as an at-large bid. As for Oklahoma State, they have wins over Kansas State and Baylor that should hold up compared to other at-large hopefuls.
Big East: After a typically Big East weekend, Rutgers and Pittsburgh have been eliminated, leaving Louisville, West Virginia, and Cincinnati alive for the one bid the conference will get, and STILL no one controls their own destiny. Here are the scenarios heading into the final weekend:
B1G: Michigan State (10-2) vs. Wisconsin (10-2). This is a classic case of how Championship Games are treated. A third loss in the title game dooms neither team, but both have very different at-large cases. Michigan State looks good even with a loss due to their wins over ten-win teams Michigan and their opponent, Wisconsin. The Badgers, though, could be in trouble, as their best wins are over nine-win Nebraska and Penn State.
C-USA: Southern Mississippi (10-2) @ Houston (12-0). Neither team can afford a loss, not even the currently undefeated Houston. Their best win is either over Tulsa or UCLA, neither of which would be good enough to gain an at-large.
MAC: Ohio (9-3) vs. Northern Illinois (9-3). Obviously, neither team has any at-large hopes.
MWC: TCU has clinched the bid while Boise State holds onto slim hopes of an at-large bid.
Pac-12: UCLA (6-6) @ Oregon (10-2). UCLA obviously has no hope of an at-large. Oregon's own hopes are slim as well. UCLA would be a bad loss, and Oregon has exactly one good win, even if that win is over eleven-win Stanford.
SEC: Georgia (10-2) vs. LSU (12-0). Not only does LSU have no worries as far as at-large considerations are concerned, they'd likely still be a number one seed thanks to wins over Alabama, Oregon, Arkansas, and West Virginia, all teams with at least nine wins. Georgia pretty much has to win, as their best win is over Georgia Tech.
Sun Belt: Arkansas State has clinched the auto-bid.
WAC: With their shutout of New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech has clinched the WAC auto-bid.
And here are my auto-bid projections for this week:
ACC: Virginia Tech
Big 12: Oklahoma State
Big East: West Virginia
MAC: Northern Illinois
Sun Belt: Arkansas State
WAC: Louisiana Tech
NOTE: All selections are based only on games already played.
We go from five spots to three immediately as two of the at-large bids go to Alabama and Stanford. The Crimson Tide have wins over Arkansas and Penn State opposite an overtime loss to LSU. Stanford has a win over USC, to go with only the loss to Oregon. From there, it gets more complicated as some two-loss teams fell, but a big hog joins the party. First up, the pretenders and why they're gone.
Georgia's win over Georgia Tech is probably their best of the season. And that's nowhere near enough for an at-large bid.
Kansas State has pretty much just one solid win in Baylor. They also had their chances at the Oklahoma schools and blew it. No tournament for them.
Michigan may have ended a seven year losing streak to Ohio State, but the Wolverines' only impressive victory is Nebraska, which won't cut it.
Michigan State is again my pick for the best two-loss team, and as I alluded to, I think they have a bid locked up. Arkansas' loss to LSU was ugly, but the win over South Carolina is nice and they have no bad losses. Which means it comes down to Boise State, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. Boise State probably needs Georgia to win to add some luster to their season-opening victory over the Bulldogs to have a chance, but that isn't enough this week. Comparing Oklahoma and South Carolina yields some interesting similarities. Both have a good win over a conference opponent just outside the at-large discussion (Georgia, Kansas State). Both have a decent win over a non-conference opponent (Clemson, Florida State). Both have a bad loss (Auburn, Texas Tech). It's splitting hairs, but I think that the SEC gets a fourth team in South Carolina. Thankfully, this is all academic, as Oklahoma will decide its own fate against Oklahoma State.
Seeding: It's still a fluid situation, but the at-large disclaimer still applies.
1: LSU, Alabama (LSU has the top overall seed all but locked up. Alabama's win over Auburn means they stay here for now.)
2: Oklahoma State, Stanford (Oklahoma State still has a shot at a number one seed, as a win over Oklahoma would likely give them an impressive enough resume to leap Alabama. Stanford's win over Notre Dame keeps them here, again for now.)
3: Virginia Tech, Oregon (Virginia Tech could also leap up a seed line in the final week by finally getting a marquee victory over Clemson. Oregon has little chance of that, as UCLA would give no such boost.)
4: Michigan State, Houston (The Spartans would almost certainly get a home game with a win over Wisconsin. The Cougars would get one with a win over Southern Mississippi.)
5: Arkansas, Wisconsin (Arkansas is likely in, but will be on the road to start the tournament. Wisconsin also has a shot at a home game if they can beat Michigan State.)
6: South Carolina, TCU (South Carolina is rooting for chalk to win as the last at-large team. TCU is pretty much locked into a six-seed at this point)
7: West Virginia, Arkansas State (The Big East is locked into a seven-seed, yes, even if Louisville wins. Arkansas State can stay off the bottom line with a win over Troy.)
8: Northern Illinois, Louisiana Tech (MAC winner gets non-LSU one-seed, while the Louisiana Tech-LSU storylines can pretty much go to print.)
Games to Watch:
Only big ones listed this week:
West Virginia @ South Florida 8:00 PM (Either Cincinnati or West Virginia will be eliminated with a loss.)
Ohio vs. Northern Illinois 7:00 PM (All the MACtion comes down to this!)
UCLA @ Oregon 8:00 PM (Oregon needs this. Maybe they should see USC's 50-0 win as a challenge.)
Southern Mississippi @ Houston 12:00 PM (Case Keenum's career comes down to one game.)
Connecticut @ Cincinnati 12:00 PM (At the end of this, the Big East will be won.)
Georgia @ LSU 4:00 PM (Georgia hopes to do the unthinkable to secure a bid.)
Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State 8:00 PM (De facto Big 12 Title Game. Both teams with a ton to play for.)
Virginia Tech vs. Clemson 8:00 PM (Possible elimination game in the ACC Title game.)
Michigan State vs. Wisconsin 8:17 PM (It may start late, but likely won't be the last to finish. Wisconsin needs this to get in.)
That's it for this week. Tune in next week as I give you all the Selection Show next Sunday at Noon. For some value of noon.
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