There are no more games to play. Now, for the College Football Playoff hopefuls, it’s waiting time.
Alabama and Clemson won their conference championships and finished undefeated. Notre Dame went undefeated with four wins against ranked teams. While nothing is guaranteed now, it’s safe to say those teams should be in the field come Sunday.
That leaves one spot, and three strong suitors.
Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State… all have solid cases. Ahead of Sunday's selection show — which you can watch at noon Sunday on ESPN — let’s take a look at each, going by their current CFP ranking:
No. 4 Georgia
The Bulldogs had nightmarish déjà vu in the SEC championship. They led Alabama at halftime, then watched the backup quarterback erase that lead and confetti fall for the Crimson Tide. But how much should a one-possession loss to the No. 1 team in the nation affect Georgia’s ranking?
Though the final score didn’t fall their way, Georgia put up the second-most points Alabama’s allowed all year and made Tua Tagovailoa look pedestrian, holding him to 10-for-25 for 164 yards and forcing two interceptions — a feat no other team has done this season. Yes, Tagovailoa left the game with an injury, but he was unquestionably having his worst game of the year while he was on the field.
With the loss, Georgia fell to 11-2, going 3-2 against ranked teams. But those two losses came against two of the current top 10 squads, and both came away from home. This stat from College Gameday’s Chris Fallica gives even more weight to that record:
Alabama and Georgia are the only two teams with two wins away from home vs current CFP Top 15 teams.— Chris Fallica (@chrisfallica) December 2, 2018
The simple fact is that no team has ever made the College Football Playoff with two losses. If any team were to break that streak, the Bulldogs are a great candidate, but that’s a tough stat to overcome, especially with two one-loss conference championships hot on their heels.
No. 5 Oklahoma
In the Big 12 championship game, Oklahoma avenged its only loss of the season, beating Texas 39-27. With that win, the Sooners have now beat every team on their schedule, with the only loss coming by three points in a neutral-site game.
One of the main arguments against Oklahoma is that they don’t have as many signature wins as Georgia or Ohio State. The Sooners were 2-1 against ranked teams this year, losing to Texas in October, then beating West Virginia and Texas to end the season. But again, Oklahoma beat every team on its schedule. Is it their fault that their opponents weren’t better?
Another knock against Oklahoma this year has been the team’s defense. Before the Big 12 championship game, the Sooners allowed an average of 32.8 points per game — the 31st highest in all of the FBS. In their two ranked games, they had given up 48 points and 56 points. They’d scored 45 and 59 in those two games. Not a great look.
But against Texas, the Sooners defense showed off. Oklahoma shutout the Longhorns in the fourth quarter and held them to just 27 total points — four below Texas’ season average.
It was a strong final plea to the committee. If that defense can show up alongside one of the most potent offenses in all of college football, Oklahoma is a tough matchup for anyone. But that’s a big if.
No. 6 Ohio State
Let’s get that glaring blemish out of the way right off the bat: The 49-20 loss to unranked Purdue. Ohio State is the only one of these three teams to lose to an unranked opponent. But that loss is not nearly as bad as it seems on paper. The Buckeyes played their worst offensive game of the season and fell on the road against a team that went 3-0 versus ranked opponents this year.
What’s more, one loss to an unranked team isn’t a huge problem in the CFP committee’s eyes, historically speaking. Nine of the 16 previous CFP teams lost to an unranked opponent. Two of them (Ohio State in 2014, and Clemson in 2017) even went on to win the national championship.
And Ohio State has done everything in its power to make up for that loss since. The Buckeyes may be one of the hottest teams in the country right now. Let’s recap their final four games:
- A 26-6 thrashing of No. 24 Michigan State on the road
- Scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter to force overtime on the road against Maryland, then winning 52-51
- An unreal second half against No. 4 Michigan to win 62-39
- A 45-24 drubbing of No. 21 Northwestern to win the Big 12 championship
The victory over Northwestern made for five wins against ranked teams this year for Ohio State — more than Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia or Oklahoma. Hard to dismiss that.