After a weekend of significant upsets (yes, I am counting No. 3 Georgia defeating No. 1 Tennessee as an “upset,” even though Georgia was a 10-point favorite), the playoff picture got much clearer.
Alabama, it would seem, is officially out of the playoff race as they no longer control the SEC West and are a two-loss team.
Clemson and Tennessee are now one-loss teams who do not control their destiny. Clemson needs to win out and clinch their conference to have a shot. Even then, they would likely still need help.
Tennessee is in a much more enviable position. While they are not likely to be conference champs, they should finish as a one-loss team whose only loss is to the No. 1 SEC Champions.
Meanwhile, TCU and Oregon now seemingly do control their destiny. By putting TCU fourth, the committee has said that as long as TCU emerges as an undefeated conference champ (not at all a tall task), they will make the playoff.
And though Oregon is a one-loss team, their loss comes against Georgia at the beginning of the season. Should they win the PAC-12 title, there is no reason the No. 6 Ducks should not leapfrog Tennessee.
So, this week, I want to pick games that should impact the following weekend’s CFP rankings.
But first, ZeLO and FPI went 39-21 (.650) last weekend. Because it was a somewhat crazy week, the much more conservative ZeLO won the Brier Point tiebreaker (316.24-313.09), so, very little difference between the two models.
Now, onto the picks!
No. 25 Washington @ No. 6 Oregon
By putting Oregon in 6th behind the one-loss Volunteers, the Committee has shown they value Tennessee’s loss to Georgia much more than Oregon’s one loss. However, by putting Oregon at No. 6, I think the committee suggests that a one-loss Pac-12 Oregon squad could and should make the CFP.
Oregon has a 60.8% chance of winning this week, so the team should continue its CFP run. I could see the Huskies offense giving the Ducks some fits, so this will be a good game.
No. 4 TCU @ No. 18 Texas
This is arguably the most challenging game remaining for TCU in a schedule that is already challenging. ZeLO currently ranks TCU’s remaining strength of schedule seventh. Texas, Baylor, and Iowa State are all legitimate threats to TCU’s CFP ambitions.
Though Texas is a seven-point favorite, ZeLO currently gives TCU a 63.1% chance of beating the Longhorns.
While I do think that TCU can win the Big 12, I do think this may be where their unbeaten streak ends. Texas at home is a tough challenge (ask the Tide). TCU’s habit of needing to comeback may catch up with them.
No. 22 UCF @ No. 17 Tulane
This might be the most crucial game I will talk about this week. Why?
UCF and Tulane are the strongest AAC teams and the likeliest to win their conference. Tulane is currently undefeated in conference play, while UCF is just a one-loss team.
If UCF wins, they should make their conference championship (the AAC takes the two highest teams for its championship game) as they boast a win over 7-2 Cincinnati. Tulane would then play what amounts to an elimination game against Cincinnati in their season finale.
If Tulane wins, they become a lock to make their conference championship, even if they lose to Cincinnati. Both scenarios are equally likely, with ZeLO giving the Green Wave just a 52.7% chance to win.
No. 9 Alabama @ No. 11 Ole Miss
In contrast to UCF and Tulane, this might be the least important game of the week. That feels weird to say. But in all likelihood, the two-loss Tide have already been eliminated from the CFP.
Ole Miss might have a chance to win the SEC West (and the glorious prize of being dismantled by Georgia on national television for 60 minutes). But it is a longshot, as LSU has a head-to-head advantage over the Rebels. Alabama should win this game, with ZeLO giving the Tide a 55% chance of victory. But Ole Miss could make this interesting, utilizing a high-powered offense and a home-field advantage to give Alabama trouble. Alabama is tied for most penalties per game in the country. Last week, Death Valley helped contribute to that stat, as the Tide took nine penalties for 92 yards.
Louisville @ No. 10 Clemson
Thanks in large part to Notre Dame, ZeLO majorly downgraded the Tigers. Though ZeLO still has Clemson as its favorite to win the Atlantic and the ACC, Clemson took a significant step back in ZeLO’s CFP rankings, falling to 14th.
As a result, Clemson has just a 51.7% chance to beat Louisville and keep its playoff hopes alive. A two-loss team has never made the CFP. And the Committee is not going to start with this iteration of Clemson.
Even if Clemson does defeat against Louisville, they feel like a stretch to make it to the CFP. But a solid bounce-back showing could be just what the Tigers need.
No. 15 North Carolina @ Wake Forest
At the start of the season, I wrote that I was skeptical of ZeLO0s faith in UNC. ZeLO has UNC as a divisional dark horse behind both Pitt and Miami. Pitt took a step back this season, and the entire college football world discovered that the U is not back.
So, UNC is looking to win ten games, the division, and maybe even the conference. Right now, the Tar Heels have an excellent chance to win 10 games and reach the conference championship against a weaker-than-normal Clemson.
However, ZeLO thinks Wake will dash Carolina’s hopes of making the CFP. These two teams are dead even on a neutral site, so the Wake home-field advantage is the difference maker here. It is slight, but Wake’s 55% chance to win might end Carolina’s CFP ambitions before Clemson does.
Look for Wake to take advantage of a porous Carolina defense that would struggle to stop a middle school flag football squad.
No. 20 Notre Dame @ Navy
By dominating Clemson in all three facets of their matchup, Notre Dame has launched itself back into the top 25 rankings. In all honesty, if ND wins and winds up 9-3, you can argue that the season was incredibly successful, despite the bumpy start.
ZeLO has the Irish going 2-1 down the stretch, and this game against Navy is a winnable one for Notre Dame (62.9%). Though it would not shock me if Notre Dame went 2-2 in its last four, losing to Navy and BC but beating Clemson and USC. Because why not?
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
Contact Tom Zwiller at firstname.lastname@example.org.