Week 13 Recap
The regular season ended with a bang, knocking out 4 of the 5 elimination candidates in a wild holiday weekend. Only UCF survived its elimination game, but suffered a worse loss as star QB McKenzie Milton suffered a horrific knee injury in the easy victory over Charlie Strong’s Bulls. Black Friday was brutal for teams on the brink, as Wazzu and WVU were sent packing. It’s hard to believe the Mountaineers would lose a game where Will Grier threw for 539 yards, but ultimately it was the Sooner defense that closed the door on WVU, bringing two fumbles home for TDs. It’s less surprising to see the Apple Cup end with a win for Chris Petersen’s Huskies in snowy Pullman. Most of Saturday seemed like a routine day, with walkover wins from Georgia, Ohio State, Alabama and Clemson, lulling us into a false sense of security headed into the evening. The late slate got weird, highlighted by the insanity of the premature Gatoration, 146 points, and 7 overtimes in College Station, as the Aggies put the LSU Tournament run to sleep. Notre Dame pretty easily survived the comeback upset attempt from USC, but does not have a 13th data point so they cannot make the Playoff, right? That requirement applies to everyone, every season right? Utah State couldn’t keep the dream alive in Boise, as the Broncos advanced to the MWC Championship and a chance to get another NY6 bid if Memphis can take out UCF in the American.
The Tournament is now down to the Elite Eight and it is time to make the case for 8-Team Playoff. It is easy to look at the rankings and just set up 1 vs. 8 and so on, which would produce fine match-ups. The Committee has basically already decided what the 4-team Playoff should be – Alabama and Notre Dame are guaranteed, with Clemson and Georgia in with a win and OU jumping up with a win and a loss from either the Tigers or Dawgs. In the Committee’s scenario, for Ohio State to get in, at least two of Clemson/UGA/OU would need to lose. For UCF to have even a remote shot at Playoff, they would need to crush Memphis and see all of the previously noted bubble teams lose. Instead of that inevitability this season, let’s scrap the mostly useless conference championship games and integrate them into a true 8-team Playoff:
- Alabama vs. Georgia – so the actual SEC Championship does happen to match up its two best teams again this season, but here would be a true elimination game on the path to a National Title.
- Ohio State vs. Michigan – the B1G divisions have been vastly imbalanced since its creation, so ditch those requirements and give the two best teams a chance to earn a Championship. Yes, this is a rematch, but both teams survived to remain in the Top 8 through the regular season and deserve a chance to prove they belong in the Final 4.
- Clemson vs. Notre Dame – the Irish play half of an ACC schedule, so they should be subject to the extra data point of surviving the ACC Conference Championship to lay true claim to its spot into the Final 4.
- Oklahoma vs. UCF – the Big XII probably should have just expanded to 12 or 14 teams rather than just settling for a rematch Conference Title game. UCF was in consideration and would likely have made the cut if the conference had expanded - especially if increasing to 14 – and here would get the opportunity to prove their power and to be crowned actual National Champions
**Note: The Pac 12 was fully eliminated throughout the regular season and has no team eligible to compete in the 8-team Playoff this season.
Unfortunately we only get one of the above games, subjected instead to money-making Conference Championship games with huge spreads unlikely to bring much chaos to the Committee’s final decisions.
However, we do have one elimination game this week, as the Golden Knights face off with the Memphis Tigers for the 4th time in two seasons. Last season’s AAC Championship was a 2OT thriller and back in October UCF put together a big comeback in the Liberty Bowl, shutting the Tigers out in the 2nd half, to keep its win streak alive. The stakes are huge for UCF, as a win will send them to consecutive NY6 Bowls, a slim shot at the Playoff, and keep alive the ability to claim another undefeated title. A loss likely sends them tumbling down the bowl hierarchy towards the Gasparilla or Birmingham Bowl. The Milton injury has added some uncertainty to this one, but UCF is still favored by a FG and plays at home.