The College Football Playoffs is a new system put in place last year to better determine the best college football team in all of the land. Teams are selected based on a number of factors: conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents and other factors. Personally, I believe more focus should be placed on strength of schedule, because some teams have played more difficult teams than others. Additionally, the committee meets weekly, starting Nov. 10 until the final selection on Dec. 7.
The first four teams in the playoffs, selected Nov. 10, are Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame. This is the breakdown of each team’s schedule and top matchups.
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Clemson is currently unbeaten and has played three teams with positive records (at the time Clemson played them). Clemson has played Wofford, Appalachian State, Louisville, #6 Notre Dame, which was a close win, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Miami (a blowout), North Carolina State and #17 Florida State. Their top matchups were against #6 Notre Dame and #17 Florida State. Today, Clemson sits atop the college football rankings and deservingly so. Clemson has proved they can score and beat teams that matter, though their final few games shouldn’t present too much of a challenge and maintain Clemson as the top team.
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Alabama currently has one loss, which was against Ole Miss. A few teams not in the playoffs have also beaten Ole Miss, so that should be considered. Alabama sits atop the SEC West, and a possible SEC championship against Florida could flip the positioning. Alabama has a had a fairly easy schedule, losing to then #19 Ole Miss but did make a statement winning against #4 LSU.
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Ohio State is taking easy strides into the Playoffs. OSU has yet to face a legitimate contender on their schedule and is struggling internally with their QB battle. Though they are unbeaten thus far, if we are basing the Playoffs off strength of schedule, OSU should be reconsidered from the final four. They have yet to prove they deserve the spot when there are other hungrier teams out there.
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Though people have been talking about Notre Dame, I don’t believe they are ready for the final four. They have played many teams over .500, but Notre Dame can barely win when it matters most. Recently, Notre Dame barely beat #23 Temple and their only loss this season was to Clemson, which would beat them again should they meet again in the Playoffs. Notre Dame has yet to prove itself, but a win against Stanford could change my mind.
Now, to talk about three teams on the outside of the final four that should be considered for the Playoffs. These teams are often called bubble teams, and in some cases, I believe they will make the cuts in the end.
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Oklahoma State may come as a surprise to some, but they have the talent to make the playoffs. They are currently unbeaten and have beat four teams thus far with a positive record. More importantly than that though, Notre Dame beat #5 TCU. This was a huge upset win, as Oklahoma State was then #12, so they have built momentum moving forward. Wins to close the season against Baylor and Oklahoma could be two huge deciding factors in whether or not Oklahoma State can make the final four.
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Baylor is another team that may not be on your radar, but they should be. Though they have not played a difficult opponent yet, they have been able to score a lot of points. However, an important fact to consider is that Baylor has yet to play a ranked team and have had an easy schedule to this point. To close out the season, Baylor will face Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU. Wins against 2/3 or all of those teams could be pivotal in proving Baylor is qualified and can play football against anyone. Losses against these teams likely rules Baylor out of the final four.
Florida is clearly my personal bias, but they are legitimate contenders to make the playoffs based on schedule. Florida, under new coach Jim McElwain, turned its year around when many thought it was impossible. They have upset Ole Miss, beat Georgia and many others in the SEC East. In fact, Florida has already won the SEC East. Thus, if one were to base Florida off schedule and conference championships, they have the potential to be in. A win against either Alabama or LSU (a rematch game) in the SEC Championship could ideally seal the fate of the Gators, seeing as the game is the day before decisions for the Playoffs are released.
The teams listed above can fluctuate constantly from now until December, but one thing should remain constant: schedules should determine the final four. Though it currently plays a part in the decision, schedules should matter more. There are teams in the final four that don’t necessarily deserve the spots as much as some other teams, but time will tell. As a Florida Gator, I pray for the Gators. However, as a writer, I realize certain teams deserve these spots. As the season plays out, positioning can change, and that is why college football is so special: every game matters.