Utah rocked USC 47-24 to win the Pac-12 Championship. What does this all mean for the College Football Playoff?
Utah 47, USC 24: What This Means For The College Football Playoff
5. USC is out of the College Football Playoff
There’s a chance the College Football Playoff committee really did do its homework on USC. Maybe it decides it’s not fair to punish a team for playing a conference championship, while some other team that finished its season getting rocked by its rival got to spend its Saturday holiday shopping.
The committee can’t complain about the USC defense. It gave up 562 yards to Utah in the first meeting – a 43-42 Ute win – and gave up 400 yards or more six times in the final seven games. The bad D cake was baked when USC was ranked fourth in the penultimate rankings.
Maybe the committee figures that out, and maybe it goes a step further and projects that USC really is one of the four best teams in college football once Caleb Williams’ leg heals a month from now.
Nah. Going off of past CFP ranking precedent, USC will likely drop below Utah, who could rise up as high as 6 but will probably settle in at 7.
4. Utah is going to the Rose Bowl
That’s two years in a row for Utah going to the Rose Bowl as the Pac-12 Champion. Don’t discount what a massive deal that is for a program that’s still the new guy on the block after moving over from the Mountain West in 2011.
That sets off a chain of major bowl things.
The win almost certainly puts Ohio State in the College Football Playoff. It also pushed out Washington, who likely would’ve gone to Pasadena with a USC Pac-12 Championship win. That means Penn State will almost certainly slide on into the open spot as the best available Big Ten team.
That all means USC will probably go to the Cotton to face the Tulane/UCF winner.
All of that means Ohio State won’t go to the Orange Bowl, which means Tennessee – or possibly Alabama – will end up playing the ACC champion. With an SEC team in and a Big Ten team out, that pushes down Notre Dame in the bowl chain thanks to a slew of procedural things.
Got all of that? It’s all spelled out easier here … Bowl Projections: Updated After Utah’s Pac-12 Championship Win
3. TCU is almost certainly locked into the College Football Playoff no matter what
This could all change if Kansas State beats TCU 55-3 – or just dominates in the win – but according to College Football Playoff tradition and precedent, it’s going to be hard to kick out a 12-1 team for a two-loss team that didn’t win its conference championship – like Alabama or USC.
Utah would be more in the discussion if it lost twice, but it’s not getting in with three losses. Clemson might have a shot of getting a whole lot closer than you think in the final rankings – like 5 – with an ACC Championship win over North Carolina, but the two losses are too much to overcome.
Had USC won, it would’ve been in no matter what as a 12-1 Power Five conference champion. If TCU loses and gets destroyed, then the debate would’ve been with Ohio State for that fourth spot. With USC losing, that solves the problem.
Could two-loss Alabama get in over as 12-1 TCU that loses the Big 12 Championship? Nah, because …
2. Remember, no two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff
2017 Auburn would’ve had the best shot of breaking through this ceiling.
It lost two games, but it beat Alabama. Had it beaten Georgia for the SEC Championship, it would’ve been a tough theoretical lift to put in the Dawgs and Tide over the Tigers – Georgia was 3, Alabama 4 in the final rankings after Auburn lost the SEC Championship.
That year Ohio State had a beef, too. It was 11-2 with a Big Ten championship, closing out with a win over a previously unbeaten Wisconsin. However, an 11-1 Alabama team that didn’t win its own division got in.
In 2016, Penn State beat Ohio State 24-21, but it lost two games earlier in the season. It went on to win the Big Ten Championship to finish 11-2 with a Power Five championship. 11-1 Ohio State not only got in instead, it was the 3 seed.
Eight years, 32 College Football Playoff spots. Not one team has ever been in with more than one loss.
This year? No matter what, there will be four teams with no more than one loss. That means …
1. Ohio State, your table is ready
Everyone will be dogging the idea of Ohio State getting in without playing that one tough extra game that USC did – and everyone might be right.
However, Ohio State is still the only team in college football to start 11-0 winning every game by double-digits.
It beat Notre Dame. It hung 77 on a Toledo team playing in the MAC Championship. It put up 54 on Iowa, 44 on Penn State, and ended up scoring 43 points against nine of those first 11 games except for the 21-10 win over the Irish and a 21-7 win over Northwestern in crazy weather conditions.
It’s one sin was a 45-23 pasting at home by Michigan.
If Michigan had been 9-3 – like Utah was going into the Pac-12 Championship – that might be a deathblow.
If Clemson hadn’t blown it against South Carolina and could pull off an ACC Championship at 12-1, it would’ve been in instead.
Had Tennessee not gacked in a blowout over South Carolina and finished 11-1, it would’ve had a better resumé than Ohio State.
If Michigan really is the No. 2 team in the country – or maybe No. 1 with a Big Ten Championship win and a Georgia loss – then theoretically, Ohio State might be No. 3.
No matter how it happened, it’s one of the four remaining teams without at least two losses. Thanks to Utah, Ohio State will almost certainly get its shot.