Opinion: Who is in and out of the January College Football Playoff?

John Bove
Oxford Stories

November means a lot of things to many people. For some, it’s holiday season. For others, it’s college football season.

Any college sports fan knows November is the beginning of the end, and the most exciting point of the season.

November also marks the first release of the season’s College Football Playoff rankings. While these rankings ultimately mean nothing, they are the matches that light a fire of debate across the country.

Who is in? Who is out? Will a one-loss conference champion get in over an undefeated independent? In a society where everyone looks ahead and loves to predict the future, here’s the four teams that will play in the CFP in January.

1. Alabama. This is a no-brainer. Alabama is a group of middle-schoolers on the playground with toddlers. They are better, faster and stronger than everyone else, not to mention having the best head coach in football, Nick Saban.

Unsurprisingly, the Crimson Tide enter November at (8-0). They have five games left; four of them against ranked opponents. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Alabama a 35.7 percent chance to win out; giving #14 Auburn the best chance to beat Alabama at 41.2 percent.

Alabama, according to ESPN, ranks fourth in the country in offensive efficiency, and first in defensive efficiency. Handling their opponents by an average of 33 points per game, and a defense that is allowing just 2.4 yards per carry, it is hard to see how anyone can pick against Alabama.

2. Clemson. Clemson at this point should essentially be undefeated. They enter November at (7-1) with their only loss coming to unranked Syracuse 27-24 in a game in which starting QB Kelly Bryant, who arrived banged up, suffered a concussion.

Also to note: Syracuse is not what their record states. They are 17 points away from beating three top 25 teams this season. So hold off on the whole Syracuse is garbage debate.

Clemson is ranked 6th in FPI, and if they want to play in the CFP, they must win out. ESPN gives Clemson a 36.1 percent (9th) chance of winning out. If they do, they will have gone on to beat Top 10 Miami to get to 12-1 and be crowned ACC Champions for the third year in a row.

3. Oklahoma. The Sooners welcome in November (7-1) ranked #5 in the country. They began the season with a 31-16 win over #6 Ohio State. Their only loss of the season, so far, has come to #15 Iowa State, a loss that looked bad, but slowly over time, as Iowa State continues to topple Top 10 opponents, it only strengthens the loss.

Bedlam is tomorrow, and just like in years past, this one has playoff implications as well. The Sooners will travel to #11 Oklahoma State. With an ESPN efficiency rating of 95.81, Oklahoma has the best offense in the country, which will prove to be overwhelming for the Oklahoma State Cowboys Defense, which is allowing 358 yards per game, according to CFB reference yikes.

Oklahoma winning out would put them at 12-1. With ranked wins over; Ohio State, Oklahoma State, TCU, and West Virginia. Also, it would give Oklahoma a chance to play Iowa State again in the Big 12 title game and avenge their loss from earlier in the season.

4. Georgia. For the first time, two teams from the same conference will be playing in the CFP. No doubt to anyone that the SEC will be the first conference to do so.

Georgia welcomes in November (8-0) and is currently ranked #1 according to the CFP Committee. The Bulldogs will inevitably face off against Alabama in the SEC Championship game, and will most likely lose. However, that will not be the end of their season.

Georgia will be 12-0 heading into the SEC Championship game, and will most likely be ranked either #1 or #2 in the country. If Georgia loses to Alabama, they will be just another one-loss team. However, that one loss will be to the current #1 Alabama, meaning Georgia will have the highest strength of loss of any 1L team.

The Bulldogs have four games remaining. Their only ranked opponent is #14 Auburn. Now, playing Auburn in death valley is no easy task. However, the dawgs prove themselves capable of coming away with a win; having already gone on the road to beat a top five team earlier in the season, i.e Notre Dame.

Coming Up Short

Every year, college football fans drive themselves crazy about who is going to be five and six. This year is no different.

5. Ohio State (7-1). Finishing fifth is probably one of the worst feelings in the world for a college football program and its fans, only because the difference between five and four is so paper thin. Knowing what could have happened if you were #4 is awful. You spend the whole offseason think what if we were #4?

By putting Ohio State at #5, I am not saying they do not deserve to be in the college football playoff. However, if you want to make the playoffs, you better take care of business and win every game you play – womething Ohio State has not done.

The Buckeyes are merely a product of the system. Being a 1L team means you will most likely finish anywhere from #2-#8, and Ohio State has the third best loss of any of them – #3 Oklahoma.

6. Notre Dame. Notre Dame comes into November at (7-1). And I believe Notre Dame will win out. However, I also know that history repeats itself, and this year is no different.

Back in the first ever season of the CFP (2014), we saw 1L Oklahoma and 1L TCU both not get into the playoffs. Why? Because they did not have a conference championship game.

The Fighting Irish are not in a conference. Therefore they will finish the season at 11-1, while five other teams get one more Top 25 victory to add to their resume.

Any way you look at it, this is one of the most exciting topics in sports. There are so many things to discuss, and so many different viewpoints. No one is right; No one is wrong. But everyone has a few cents they would like to put in the tip jar that is college football.

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