The time is now to wait: Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State, Stanford and Oklahoma won the championships of the Power 5 conferences, and now need to wait and see what the committee will determine regarding the four lucky teams that make it into the College Football Playoff.
Who is safe, who isn’t? Clemson, being the only undefeated team in the nation and number one going into their ACC title game against North Carolina, are safe. While they didn’t have the easiest time dispatching of the Tar Heels and needed one huge official’s mistake to stop North Carolina from maybe going on a game-tying drive, their body of work, which includes three wins against 10-win teams (Notre Dame, Florida State, UNC) is enough to be at #2 or #1 when it’s time for the Final Four of college football.
Why fall to number 2? Because Alabama, despite their one loss, are SEC champions, a pairing of words (SEC is a word, right?) that voters, AP and committee alike, simply salivate when hearing. They looked more than convincing in almost all of their wins since the home loss against Ole Miss, which luckily enough for them happened early enough in the season to make people forget about it. There’s no way they’re not in the playoff selection, which will make them the only team to appear in both years of the format so far.
Now comes the slightly tricky part, although we do predict it’s going to be Oklahoma and Michigan State that go in at #3 and #4 (doesn’t really matter the order) while Stanford are left out. Oklahoma didn’t have a championship game, but they won the Big 12 outright, with just one loss (to Texas, who did beat Baylor on the final week), and won against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State to finish the season, which should give them enough credit when the final decision is made.
The Big Ten championship game made things simple: Undefeated Iowa going up against Michigan State. A fun game, without a lot of brilliant offense and plenty of exciting moments. The Spartans ended up winning it to end up as Big Ten champions for the second time in three years. With one loss and wins against Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa, they have done enough to be at #4 (or maybe #3) even if all of their wins came in the final 30 seconds of these games.
Stanford lost twice, and being Pac-12 champions just shouldn’t be enough this season. Someone has to be left out. Their win over USC was convincing. They have a Heisman caliber player in Christian McCaffrey who can do more than just run the ball. But unless the committee has a specific guideline that a conference needs a champion through a conference championship game (which at least publicly they say it doesn’t), Oklahoma have been more impressive than The Cardinal.
Houston finished a very impressive season under Tom Herman, last year still with Ohio State, part of the coaching staff that won the national championship. He led the Cougars to a 12-1 season, winning their first American conference championship, which means a first big bowl game for the Cougars in over 20 years. The rest of how teams are going to be ranked doesn’t matter all that much, with the New Year’s bowl games being the important factor and the rest just a bonus for fans and players who want to see one more win before the end of the season.