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Klonsinski: Singing the College Football Playoff blues

| Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Instead of Cinderella’s slippers, get ready to put on your blue suede shoes and play the Delta blues, College Football Playoff Committee:

Memphis could be about to crash your ball.

If you should know anything about my qualms with the College Football Playoff, it’s that the current four-team format doesn’t allow any room for the little guys.

This year, a possibility exists out there that could really bring this problem to the forefront. No. 16 Memphis is 7-0.

Now, before anyone jumps down my throat screaming there’s no way a non-Power 5 team can get into the playoffs, hear me out, because the absolute perfect storm still has potential to be brewing.

Memphis’s upset over Ole Miss two weekends ago was well-discussed throughout the college football world. It shed light, and deservedly so, on the successful year in which the American Athletic Conference (AAC) is currently reveling. Undefeated Memphis at No. 16 in the AP Poll. Undefeated Houston at No. 18. No. 21 Temple still undefeated, too — and with a suddenly important matchup with Notre Dame this weekend to prove itself.

Sure, there’s no way all three teams will stay undefeated since they’ll have to beat each other up eventually. But if one of them, especially Memphis or Temple, goes undefeated, they’ll have a strong case to make for more than just a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Especially because there could be some other conferences that won’t.

The Pac-12’s hopes essentially rest on Stanford, which already has a loss to Northwestern, albeit in the first week of the season, and Utah, which a talented USC squad ran circles around last weekend. Both of those teams are on razor’s edge, and the three-loss Trojans sit in prime position if the Utes stumble before the end of the season to be the Pac-12 South representative in the title game — and the conference champion.

The Big Ten is another interesting case: if Michigan State falls to Ohio State and then Michigan beats Ohio State, there would be a three-way tie at the top of the East division. Depending on tiebreakers, a two-loss Michigan team could end up in Indianapolis — and the conference champion.

The ACC has basically pinned its hopes on Clemson staying undefeated and unquestionably in the playoff picture. Any trip by the Tigers makes things very interesting for that conference, too, especially because one could argue the American is as deep, or at least as top-heavy, as the ACC.

Notre Dame, the lone independent candidate still in the race, still has three ranked teams left on its schedule, one of which is Temple. A win by the Owls suddenly vaults them into New Year’s Six bowl consideration, at the very least. Any loss by the Irish also knocks them out of playoff contention.

Finally, then, there is the SEC.

“Wait,” I’m sure you’re thinking, “the SEC champion is going to be in the playoff, no questions asked.” Well, don’t forget that a team that controls its destiny in the SEC West is … wait for it …

Ole Miss.

The same team Memphis beat two weeks ago.

If a two-loss Rebels team runs the table and beats LSU and then Florida, presumably, in the SEC championship game, could they actually be put in the playoff over an undefeated Memphis team that beat them?

Sure, I’ll concede that in each of these scenarios, the stars have to align perfectly, starting with Memphis, or Temple, even, going undefeated the rest of the year. But remember there are four spots available, and only five Power conferences and Notre Dame to fill them at this point. All it takes is three of those six to trip up in some way.

I’ve outlined five of those six possibilities above (you can pencil the winner of the Big 12 in for a spot). All it would take is three of the above situations to unfold and suddenly: chaos.

Could Temple beat Notre Dame in two weekends? There’s one.

Could Notre Dame then beat Stanford over Thanksgiving, handing the Cardinal their second loss? Or could Utah trip up and give its spot in the conference’s title game to three-loss USC? There’s two different ways.

Could Ole Miss run the table? There’s three.

Stranger things have happened in college football.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Zach Klonsinski

A History graduate, Zach spent all four of his years on campus as a resident of Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Hockey, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus. You can contact him in his post-graduation travels and job search at [email protected]

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