Four Down Territory: Get Ready for the Expanded Playoff Argument, Keys To Big Match-Ups This Weekend
The Four-Team Playoff: By 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning, if the favorites all win on Saturday (or if the favorites win and Alabama loses) the drumbeat from the “everyone gets a trophy sect” of the College Football Playoff cult will be all over social media with 6-team, 8-team and 16-team plans ready to go. But a quick look at the 4 previous years proves a couple of things:
First Down: First Seed Failures: The Playoff committee “Eye-Test” needs a seeing eye dog. The top seed has never won the National Championship, but the 4-seed has won it twice and the 2-seed has won it twice.
Record National Titles
1-seed 2-4 0
2-seed 5-2 2
3-seed 1-4 0
4-seed 4-2 2
Second Down: The Semifinals Have Been Mostly Mismatches: In 8 semi-final games the average margin of victory is 22 points and only 2 of the 8 semifinal games have been one-score games (2014 Ohio State by 7 over Alabama and 2017 Georgia by 6 in OT over Oklahoma). The next closest semifinal was the 2016 season when Alabama beat Washington by 17. Given that information does anyone really believe that expanding the playoffs will give us better match-ups?
Third Down: But What About The 5th Seed That Just Misses?: In the four years of the playoff the 5th seed has lost their bowl game to a lower-seeded team every year but one--last year when 2-loss Ohio State beat USC in the Cotton Bowl. It is hard to make a case that a 5-seed should be in the playoff when they’re 1-3 against lower seeded teams.
Fourth Down: The Best Match-Ups: #1 Alabama vs #4 Georgia for the SEC Championship. No surprise here as both teams were favored to be here before the season. If Georgia’s defense can slow the Tide’s offense they will have a chance to win the game—but that is a hell of a lot easier said than done. Mississippi State and LSU did good jobs of slowing the Bama offense. But neither team was good enough offensively to mount a real threat. Georgia may have enough firepower to make a run at Alabama and pull the upset. #14 Texas vs #5 Oklahoma: The Big question for the College Football playoff committee is how they have Texas ranked so low? This team has wins over #5 Oklahoma and #24 Iowa State. Oklahoma’s defense scored 2 touchdowns last week against WVU or they wouldn’t even be here. If Texas QB Sam Ehlinger can avoid turnovers and the Texas defense can slow OU QB Kyler Murray just enough Texas can complete a season sweep of the Sooners. Keeping the shorter OU QB in then pocket and forcing him to throw from a contain position will be critical for Texas.
Fifth Down: Cinderella Crashes the Party: Pitt vs #2 Clemson: For the Panthers to have a chance they will need some turnovers and to find a way to run the ball against Clemson’s stout defensive line. That kind of ball control offense is what helped them upset Clemson two years ago and upset previously undefeated Miami last year. If this gets to be a shootout, Pitt does not look like a team that can play that kind of pace. #21 Northwestern vs #6 Ohio State: Experts keep dismissing Northwestern and they just keep winning Big Ten Games. They’re 15-1 in their last 16 Big Ten games with that lone loss being just a 3-point loss to Michigan. With the pressure on Ohio State to win big to impress the committee, the Buckeyes must not be impatient. Pressing to make big plays in a hurry can leads to big mistakes. For Northwestern they want to get to the fourth quarter with a lead or within striking distance. The Cardiac Cats have won a lot of fourth quarter games in their recent success the past 2 years-including a 4-0 record in OT.