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Setting the Stage for CFP Selection Sunday

Where might the Huskies land when the reveal comes out tomorrow morning?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 01 PAC-12 Championship Game - Oregon vs Washington Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What: College Football Playoff Selection Reveal

When: Sunday 12/3/23, 9:15a PT

Watch: ESPN, espn.com/watch

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Washington did their part this weekend by taking care of #5 Oregon in a 34-31 Las Vegas victory. The win improved the Huskies’ record to 13-0 and earned them a Pac-12 title. It’s safe to say that the Dawgs are absolutely assured of a berth in the College Football Playoff. It was a chaotic Saturday though across the rest of the sport which will require some difficult decision making from the College Football Playoff committee.

First, let’s set the stage with a summary of the teams in order of their most recent standing in the CFP Rankings.

#1 Georgia- Lost 27-24 to #8 Alabama. 12-1 record. Ranked wins: #9 Missouri, #11 Ole Miss, at #21 Tennessee

#2 Michigan- Won 26-0 over #16 Iowa. 13-0 record. Big Ten champ. Ranked wins: #6 Ohio State, at #10 Penn State, #16 Iowa (N)

#3 Washington- Won 37-34 over #5 Oregon. 13-0 record. Pac-12 champ. Ranked wins: #5 Oregon, #5 Oregon (N), at #15 Arizona, at #20 Oregon State

#4 Florida State- Won 16-6 over #14 Louisville. 13-0 record. ACC champ. Ranked wins: #13 LSU (N), #14 Louisville (N), at #23 Clemson

#5 Oregon- Lost 37-34 to #3 Washington. 11-2 record. Ranked wins: #20 Oregon State.

#6 Ohio State- Idle. 11-1 record. Ranked wins: #10 Penn State, at #17 Notre Dame

#7 Texas- Won 49-21 over #18 Oklahoma St. 12-1 record. Big 12 champ. Ranked wins: at #8 Alabama, #18 Oklahoma State (N), #25 Kansas State

#8 Alabama- Won 27-24 over #1 Georgia. 12-1 record. SEC champ. Ranked wins: #1 Georgia (N),

Let’s start at the top. The most likely scenario is that the committee drops down Georgia while elevating both Michigan and Washington up to #1 and #2 respectively. There is certainly a case for the Huskies. They very clearly have the most impressive slate of wins if you don’t take margin of victory into account. I like the strength of schedule calcs at Brian Fremeau that measures how many wins you’d expect both an elite team or an average team to have against each team’s schedule. UW’s SOS is 21st and 14th respectively in those categories while Michigan is 35th and 57th. And that was before UW played a better team this weekend.

On the flip side, pick an advanced metric and Washington lags substantially behind Michigan. The Wolverines aren’t battle tested but they blew out every overmatched opponent on their schedule. If you want to reward getting past a challenging schedule unbeaten (or punish the Wolverines for their paper soft slate) then you could justify elevating the Huskies to #1 overall. If you want to reward the eye test then you just keep the status quo and have Michigan move up to 1st. I think we know which way the committee will go and it isn’t in UW’s favor.

Now comes the fun debate. There are 3 power conference title game champions with 1 or fewer losses in Florida State, Texas, and Alabama. You also have a pair of teams that were #1 and #2 just two weeks ago that didn’t win their conference title game in Georgia and Ohio State (the Buckeyes of course didn’t qualify for the B1G CCG).

It’s very easy to say that this isn’t even a debate. Florida State finished the year undefeated. They did not play a tough schedule overall but still had a pair of neutral site top-15 wins. They lost their star QB for the season but still won a game with his backup and also won a game against a top-15 team with their true freshman 3rd string QB. You’re really going to leave a 13-0 ACC champ out of the dance?

If you give a spot to Florida State then the battle seemingly comes down to Texas and Alabama. The Longhorns beat Alabama by double digits in Tuscaloosa earlier this year. Even though the Tide just ended Georgia’s 2+ year win streak, they also needed a 4th and 31 miracle to beat a bad Auburn team the week before. How can you possibly justify including a 12-1 P5 conference champ over another 12-1 PF conference champ that beat the other one H2H in their building?

The answer is of course is that it just means more. The final question lurking in everyone’s mind is does the committee actually have the gall to leave the SEC entirely out of consideration?

The committee has repeatedly said their job is to pick the best 4 teams. But prior precedent has showed they don’t simply take the teams that rank 1-4 in SP+. Results matter. Conference championship game wins matter. Head-to-head victories matter. Yet if you asked Vegas for the spreads of every potential matchup it would be clear that Georgia and Alabama are almost certainly both in the final four teams.

This is going to be a sleepless night for many of the committee members.

The final piece of the puzzle relates to which bowl game is assigned to which semifinal. This year the two bowls are the Rose in Pasadena, California and the Sugar in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was going around X/Twitter that the #1 seed gets to pick their bowl game. That isn’t true. The committee makes the decision but tries to honor the preferences of the #1 seed.

Let’s assume that Michigan is #1 overall. Technically New Orleans is closer to Michigan than California is. But New Orleans is also much closer to all of the schools seemingly in the mix for the #4 seed (FSU, Texas, Alabama, Georgia). I would think that because of that and the tradition of the Rose Bowl being a Pac-12 and Big Ten site that Michigan would prefer the Rose Bowl and be granted that choice. Which would leave the 2/3 game for the Sugar Bowl.

My Semi-Realistic Ideal Scenario

Sugar Bowl: #1 Michigan vs. #4 Texas

Rose Bowl: #2 Washington vs. #3 Florida State

Alabama 5th, Georgia 6th, Ohio State 7th, Oregon 8th

In this world the committee does the straightforward thing. They decide that the teams ranked 2 through 4 all won and finished undefeated so they deserve to move up a spot each once #1 Georgia lost. Alabama and Texas each leapfrog Georgia by having possession of a conference championship. It comes down to the head-to-head result in week two which means Texas gets the spot and the SEC gets shut out.

In terms of bowl location, the committee looks at the difference for travel and decides that since Texas is closer to both New Orleans and Pasadena that they might as well give them the location that is closer to Ann Arbor. That allows Washington to play closest to home as well in the Rose Bowl.

The Huskies luck out by getting to play a Florida State team that will be without their star quarterback and have the easiest path to the national title game.

My Worst Case Nightmare Scenario

Rose Bowl: #1 Michigan vs. #4 Georgia

Sugar Bowl: #2 Washington vs. #3 Alabama

Texas 5th, Florida State 6th, Ohio State 7th, Oregon 8th

The committee here agrees with the idea that it just means more. They decide that Georgia was their best team all season and that a close loss to Alabama can’t knock them completely out of the bracket. And since Georgia lost to Bama the committee decides to slot them one place ahead at 3rd overall. Texas is furious but the committee justifies the decision by saying that Alabama is a better team now than they were in week two and that they care more about the H2H that happened yesterday than the one from 3 months ago.

Michigan is given the Rose Bowl since they are closer to there than Georgia which means that Washington has to play an SEC team in the Sugar bowl. The Huskies in this world would have to beat 2 of Alabama, Georgia, and Michigan to win a national title. Yikes.

My Final Guess Scenario

Rose Bowl: #1 Michigan vs. #4 Florida State

Sugar Bowl: #2 Washington vs. #3 Texas

Alabama 5th, Georgia 6th, Ohio State 7th, Oregon 8th

Yes, the SEC gets left out of it. Texas vaults all the way from 7th overall to 3rd after Georgia and Oregon both lose and Ohio State is idle. The committee really really wants to keep Florida State out because of their issues at quarterback but ultimately can’t justify doing it. They do however punish them the best they can by making them travel all the way across the country to play Michigan in the opening round. That means we get an Alamo Bowl rematch from last year in a location that is a 7 hour drive from the Texas campus rather than a 1 hour drive. Progress.

Go Dawgs.