Sunday, October 30, 2016

WITS: Playoff Chaos

What I Think, Sports edition: The College Football Playoff hits and near misses

Things got a little easier for the playoff committee's first rankings.  Three Big Five conference undefeateds, Nebraska, West Virginia, and Baylor fell at the hands of conference foes.  And the race for the Group of Five representative in the New Years Six bowls has a leader on the track: the mighty Western Michigan Broncos are last remaining undefeated team outside the Big Five after Boise State's narrow loss to Wyoming. 

The final and deciding points on that one were from a safety on a fumble.  You just never know in college football.

But things could have gone much differently.  Alabama had a bye week and Michigan took control of their rivalry game with the Spartans of Michigan state in the first half, so were never in danger.  Undefeated Clemson of the ACC and Washington of the PAC-12 had tough, close, road victories over ranked, conference opponents.  The top one loss teams, Louisville and Ohio State, also had to make plays late in their respective games to pull out wins.  A little more sprinkling of chaos and there would have been a big two and multitude of everybody elses.

Of course, that could still happen.

Alabama has road contest with a ranked LSU team this weekend.  And a date with a surging Auburn at season's end.

Michigan has its own rivalry challenge with Ohio State, which is still alive in the race for the Big Ten championship, pending an elimination game this Saturday with Nebraska.  A victory over the Buckeyes would propel the Wolverines into a championship game showdown with either Nebraska or Wisconsin.

The Badgers have virtually spent this season as the agents of chaos.  In addition to knocking off Nebraska, they have given Michigan and Ohio State all they could handle.  And a Buckeye victory over the Cornhuskers would give Wisconsin another shot against the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan tilt at season's end.  And they started the year pinning a nonconfersnce loss on LSU, something no SEC school can afford to suffer.

There are other agents of chaos lurking.  Two loss Oklahoma can win the Big XII, burying any hope of that conference to place a team in the playoff.  Washington State, Colorado, or Utah could put a blemish on Washington's record and deny them the Pac-12 title.  Clemson has played close games all season, making virtually every opponent a stumbling block, including potential ACC Coastal champ Virginia Tech and ever improving rival South Carolina.

And there's rarely just one Chaos Weekend.

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