NCAA Football Playoff Scenarios Ahead of Championship Weekend

Nov 30, 2021

On Sunday, the College Football Playoff Committee will announce its final Top 25 poll which will include the top four and the programs that will play for this season’s national championship. The current top four – Georgia, Michigan, Cincinnati, and Alabama – looks solid, but nothing is set in stone as all of the FBS conferences will tee up their championship games this weekend. And anything can happen.

Best Case Scenario

There are a few best-case scenarios for the CFP committee. If Georgia, Michigan, and Cincinnati all win their respective conference championship, all three will make the playoff. The only issue would be the fourth spot.

If current No. 5 Oklahoma State wins the Big 12 championship game, the Cowboys would likely move up into the spot vacated by Alabama. Remember, the Crimson Tide plays Georgia in the SEC title game. If the Cowboys lost to Baylor, then No. 6 Notre Dame (11-1) could move into that fourth spot. Regardless, the committee’s job would be much easier if the top three win this weekend.

The Chaos Factor

If the top three winning is the best-case scenario for the committee, all three of those teams losing is probably the worst-case scenario. Add in an Oklahoma State loss and you have essentially created complete chaos.

Imagine, Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC. Michigan loses to Iowa to become a two-loss team. Cincinnati loses to Houston in the AAC championship and Oklahoma State falls to Baylor preventing the Cowboys from moving up. Now what?

That whole scenario is probably the committee’s worst nightmare. What if Oregon stomps Utah in the Pac-12 title game? What if Baylor puts on a show against Oklahoma State to become the Big 12 champ? What if the SEC championship game comes down to the final minutes? Could both Alabama and Georgia make the top four?

Somewhere in Between

This college football season, we have seen plenty of chaos. There have been some monumental upsets and it would be safe to assume that we see at least one this weekend. That means the likely outcome for the CFP committee probably lies somewhere in between the best-case and worst-case scenarios.

Oklahoma State will make the top four if it wins the Big 12 and one of Alabama, Michigan, or Cincinnati loses their conference championship. If Georgia loses to Alabama, there is still the possibility of a two-loss Alabama in the playoff. Remember, the committee leans SEC.

Notre Dame only makes the playoff if Alabama, Michigan, Cincinnati, and Oklahoma State lose. The Fighting Irish do have nine wins over Power 5 programs, but wins over teams like Duke and Georgia Tech just don’t carry the same weight as Oklahoma State’s four wins over Top 25 programs, for example.

The interesting thing heading into this weekend is that Cincinnati already has a win over their AAC title game opponent – Houston. The same is true in the Big 12 where Oklahoma State beat Baylor 24-14 earlier this season. It’s hard to beat a team twice in one season.

Imagine a scenario where the Bearcats and Cowboys both lose. The SEC championship game ends up close. That would probably result in both Georgia and Alabama making the cut. If Michigan won the Big Ten, it would be in and the committee would have to once again decide on the fourth spot.