Playoff scenarios aplenty exist

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Conference championship week has arrived in college football in the most unique and challenging season to date.  The four-team playoff will be determined and announced on Sunday and there are still several scenarios that could lead to a shake-up of some kind in regards to the CFP.

Let’s start by examining what might the playoff look like if Notre Dame beats Clemson in the ACC title game which would give the Fighting Irish the 2-0 sweep over the Tigers. It would absolutely knock Clemson out of the playoff entirely and open the door for Texas A&M, Cincinnati and USC as a potential consideration for the fourth  spot.

Florida might have already cost themselves a shot at being a playoff team with their devastating second loss of the season last week at home against LSU. But if they were to bounce back and somehow pull off the massive upset as double-digit underdogs against Alabama on Saturday in the SEC title game, the Gators would be back in the mix for a potential playoff spot even with two losses because the committee may find it difficult to ignore and keep out the SEC champions.

What would happen if Northwestern shocks Ohio State as 3-touchdown underdogs in the Big Ten title game? The Wildcats as a one-loss Big Ten champion that just beat a team currently ranked in the top four and in the playoff would have to be at least considered strongly for being a playoff team.

If the chalk prevails and Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State all win their conference title games on Saturday, it means the top four playoff teams would remain unchanged and it will be status quo. The latter two cases of Florida and Northwestern emerging with straight up wins on Saturday are not expected or likely but the point of this is to bring attention to some of the chaos that may indeed occur if we get some wildly unexpected results in the conference title games.

It’s worth noting that 2020 in general has been a year filled with the unexpected and there is at least a chance that could translate to the college football playoff landscape on Saturday this weekend.

Friday

UAB vs. Marshall -5.5: Marshall was stunned by Rice in a 20-0 shutout loss two weeks ago for their first loss of the season. The Thundering Herd were -6 in turnover margin in that game including 5 INT’s from QB Grant Wells who had a fine season prior to that game. They outgained Rice in spite of the loss and I expect a big

bounce-back performance from Marshall here in the Conference USA championship game.

UAB is a solid team but I don’t like their QB play as much this season and their defense has not been nearly as good at times. Marshall didn’t play last week while UAB did, providing Marshall with an added situational and preparation edge for this conference title game. MARSHALL

Saturday

Northwestern +20.5 vs. Ohio State: There is no denying the talent and speed advantage that Ohio State should have in the Big Ten championship game and they have dominated Northwestern in the past.

However, this is a lofty point spread for a Buckeyes team that only managed to beat Nebraska, Rutgers and Michigan State by more than three TD’s while they only beat Indiana and Penn State — the two best teams they’ve played — by less than two TD’s.

Northwestern’s defense has been good against both the run and pass and I believe they could be able to hold down Ohio State a bit even though it will be difficult to shut them down completely. On the flip side, Ohio State’s defense has holes that QB Peyton Ramsey and the Wildcats can exploit. NORTHWESTERN

Oklahoma vs. Iowa State +5.5: Bettors may flock to the Oklahoma revenge angle here after losing to Iowa State during the regular season and there is no doubt the Sooners peaked down the stretch, going 6-0 SU, 5-1 ATS in their last six games.

However, the Cyclones have been an outstanding bet as underdogs throughout the Matt Campbell era in Ames and the only loss for Iowa State this season was a narrow 3-point loss at Oklahoma State. Iowa State QB Brock Purdy has enjoyed a fantastic season with 66.2% completions and a 17-6 TD-INT ratio.

Iowa State has the explosive offense now to go with the solid defense they’ve had for years and I expect them to be right in this game from start to finish. IOWA STATE

Stanford +7 at UCLA: Stanford is playing their best football of the season down the stretch and this will be their final game of the season after declining a bowl game. Which means it’s also QB Davis Mills’ final game as well.

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The Cardinal have gotten progressively better each week with three straight wins against Cal, Washington and Oregon State, and prior to that, a narrow 3-point loss to Colorado which just lost its first game of the season on Saturday against Utah.

UCLA is a very vulnerable favorite and I worry about the Bruins being flat as a pancake here after a brutal 43-38 loss to USC in which they coughed up a double-digit lead and lost to the arch rival Trojans in the final minute. The mood in the UCLA locker room was a dismal and downtrodden one after the game.

This is a very live underdog here with Stanford being capable of staying in this game from start to finish and possibly winning in outright fashion as well. STANFORD

Last week: 1-3

Season: 17-31-1

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