The Michigan Wolverines silenced many of the college football experts with their overwhelming 45-23 victory in their showdown Saturday with the Ohio State Buckeyes. The win gave Michigan (12-0) the Big Ten East title and a spot in the Big Ten championship game. More importantly, the triumph over their archrivals on the road all but assures the Wolverines a spot in the College Football Playoff.
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It was a devastating defeat for Ohio State (11-1), as the Buckeyes will fall in the CFP rankings and their opportunity to compete in the playoff looks like it has gone by the wayside.
Ohio State has not been eliminated yet since they have only lost one game, but they will need help to get into the top four.
When the CFP rankings are released later this week, the top 4 are likely to mimic the Associated Press rankings that were released Sunday. Georgia (12-0) is in the top spot, followed by Michigan, TCU (12-0) and USC (11-1).
While the regular season has been completed – with the exception of the Army-Navy game – the top four teams will all compete in their conference championship games. A loss by Michigan, TCU or USC could ruin any of their playoff aspirations. That’s not likely for Georgia, because the Bulldogs have dominated the rankings for much of the season and a loss may not cause them to drop out of the top 4.
USC and TCU may be most vulnerable
While USC is almost certainly the No. 4 team in the rankings following their impressive 38-27 victory over Notre Dame, they are likely to face a severe test from Utah in Friday night’s title game. Utah (9-3) handed the Trojans their only defeat this season, beating USC 43-42 in a midseason game.
The two teams will play again for the Pac-12 conference title at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. While USC has been vulnerable on defense this season, QB Caleb Williams is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender and will be difficult to contain. He completed 18 of 22 passes for 232 yards and 1 touchdown against Notre Dame and he also rushed for 3 TDs.
TCU will meet Kansas State (9-3) in the Big 12 title game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Horned Frogs have passed every test to this point in the season and are coming off a 62-14 triumph over Iowa State in which QB Max Duggan threw for 212 yards and 3 touchdowns. TCU defeated Kansas State 38-28 in October, but the Horned Frogs would likely lose their spot if they can’t beat the Wildcats for a second time this season.
Georgia, Michigan more secure in CFP positions
Georgia will face LSU (9-3) in the SEC title game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. While the Bulldogs are facing a quality opponent in the Tigers, it would take a blowout loss to knock Georgia out of the top 4. QB Stetson Bennett has thrown for 3,151 yards with a 16-6 TD-interception ratio, and the Bulldogs have dominated in every game except an early-season 26-22 win over Missouri.
J.J. McCarthy threw for 263 yards and 3 long TD passes against the Buckeyes and demonstrated his leadership and skill in the Big Ten showdown with Ohio State. The Wolverines would appear to have an overwhelming advantage against Purdue (8-4) in the Big Ten Title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Unless Jim Harbaugh’s team completely overlooks the Boilermakers, the Wolverines are not likely to lose this game.
Ohio State and Alabama are poised to step in
The Buckeyes had a brilliant season before losing by 22 points at home, and they are in the No. 5 spot in the Associated Press poll. If USC or TCU lose, Ohio State may just get an opportunity to compete in the playoff.
Alabama (10-2) can also make an argument that it belongs in the tournament, and Nick Saban’s team has a ton of loud supporters in the media. However, the Crimson Tide hurt itself with two regular-season losses and Alabama will not even compete in the SEC title game. So while Alabama always expects to compete for the national title, it may not happen this year.
Tennessee was one of the most exciting teams in college football throughout the season, but the Volunteers dropped late-season games to Georgia and South Carolina. Those two losses will likely keep Tennessee out of the playoff.