Could the SEC Be Left Out of the College Football Playoff?
There is no questioning that the SEC is the best top-to-bottom conference in college football. For a large portion of the 2014 season, it was looking like the SEC could potentially end up with two teams representing the conference in the inaugural College Football Playoff (CFP). Now, there is the very real possibility that the members of the ultra-competitive SEC could all knock each other out of the CFP picture.
This past weekend, Texas A&M upset third-ranked Auburn, which gave the Tigers two losses for the season and virtually eliminated them from CFP contention. A week earlier, Auburn put an end to Ole Miss’ CFP hopes by going into Oxford and beating them 35-31. With three regular season games left, the SEC is down to two remaining CFP contenders.
The Bulldogs are sitting at 9-0 and will more than likely be the top-ranked team when the CFP poll is released on Tuesday. Their next game is this Saturday against 8-1 Alabama, and a win against the Crimson Tide may be enough to lock up a CFP spot for MSU. A loss on the other hand, would convolute the CFP picture for the SEC even more than it already is. It would put Alabama in the driver’s seat for the chance to represent the SEC West in the SEC Championship Game, and also put MSU into a must-win situation in their annual Egg Bowl game against Ole Miss. They may be currently undefeated, but with two of their remaining three games against top 10 teams, a CFP berth for Mississippi State is no sure thing.
The Crimson Tide needed overtime to narrowly defeat No. 16 LSU 20-13 this past Saturday. Auburn’s loss this week will be enough for the Tide to jump into the top-four in the CFP rankings, but their stay in CFP projections could be short-lived. This week, Alabama hosts top-ranked Mississippi State, and they follow that up with a game against Western Carolina before their annual Iron Bowl game against an extremely talented Auburn team. Alabama, like Mississippi State, controls their own CFP destiny, but their brutally tough schedule may be too much for them to overcome in 2014.
If No. 1 Mississippi State wins out, they will almost surely be the only team from the SEC that makes it into the CFP. If Alabama is able to beat MSU this Saturday, the CFP likelihood of both teams will come down to the final week of the regular season and the SEC Championship Game when Alabama hosts Auburn, and Mississippi State travels to Ole Miss. In the unlikely event that Alabama beats Mississippi State, but loses to Auburn, and Mississippi State loses to both Alabama and Auburn giving them both two losses, the SEC could very well be left out of the CFP altogether. If Florida State remains unbeaten and the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten all have one-loss conference champions, it may be hard for the CFP selection committee to justify selecting a two-loss SEC team.
If Mississippi State and Alabama both finish the season with one loss, there is one major question that remains to be answered, and only the CFP selection committee will be able to answer it. Is a one-loss SEC team that didn’t even win the SEC West more worthy of a CFP berth than a one-loss conference champion out of the Big 12 or Big Ten? If you’re asking me, the SEC team would probably stand a better chance in the CFP than either the Big 12 or Big Ten team.