As always, Rivalry Week and the conference championships were full of excitement and certainly did not disappoint this year. Let’s take a look at how these outcomes impacted who’s headed to the College Football Playoffs.
- Rivalry Week Leaders: Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame have been 1-2-3 for the past 4 weeks and all won their rivalry games. Georgia also crushed Georgia Tech to move up to the 4th spot in the rankings. This made for an exciting SEC Championship… see results below.
- SEC Championship: We were eager to see whether Georgia could pull out a win and end Alabama’s undefeated season while potentially sending two SEC teams to the playoffs again. However, Georgia unfortunately lost its lead in the fourth quarter when Alabama scored an additional two touchdowns, winning the game 35-28. That pushed Georgia down to the 5th ranking, and out of the running to make it to the CFP.
- Expanded Playoff: This again brought up the question over whether the best teams are truly represented in the CFP given the belief that Georgia is seen as a top 4 team. Controversy again surrounds college football as many debate whether it would be more fair for the playoffs to include 8 teams rather than 4.
- Big Ten Championships: After beating powerhouse Michigan 62-39 during rivalry week, Ohio State’s CFP ranking raised from number 10 to number 6, and completely knocked Michigan out of the running. Then, Ohio State kept this winning streak by beating Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship, ending their season with a 12-1 record. But, it wasn’t enough to get them to represent the Big Ten in the CFP. Still, the team is headed to the Rose Bowl where they will be up against the Washington Huskies.
- Looking Ahead: We’re looking forward to the Orange Bowl where Alabama will face Oklahoma, and the Cotton Bowl where Clemson will face Notre Dame. FiveThirtyEight predicts that the title game will come down to Alabama and Clemson, with a 41% chance that Alabama takes home the title.
Other notes to focus it on the college football playoff:
- Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame have be 1-2-3 for the past 4 weeks. They all won their rivalry games. Since Notre Dame doesn’t play a conference championship, their rivalry week win over USC likely means they are locked in the playoff bracket after their undefeated season. Notre Dame already beat two teams that are underdogs in conference championships of other CFP contenders (Northwestern in Big 10 and Pittsburgh in ACC)
- Washington State falling to Washington in the Apple Cup ended the PAC-12’s last remaining hope of getting a team in the CFP.
- The Big 12 kept playoff dreams alive as Oklahoma squeaked by West Virginia.
- UCF beat USF despite losing its star quarterback to a gruesome leg injury. They’re still undefeated(for 2 years running), but don’t have a strong enough schedule for the playoff selection committee to put them in the playoff.
- Historic Outcomes: Wisconsin fell to Minnesota 15-37 in a stunning defeat – the Golden Gophers haven’t beaten the Beavers since 2003. Not only was this a big win for their rivalry, but also it also made Minnesota eligible for a bowl game! Down in Florida, Florida State had a big loss to Florida, making it the first time in 36 years the Seminoles don’t go to a bowl. In another turn of events, USC had a stunning finish. For the first time since 2000, the Trojans ended their season with a losing record.
- Interested in seeing other potential outcomes? Use FiveThirtyEight’s interactive 2018 College Football Predictions and test it out!
- Greatest Rivalry Week Upset: Ohio State upset powerhouse Michigan 62-39. The victory brought Ohio State’s CFP ranking up from number 10 to number 6 and completely knocked Michigan out of the running. This win also helped Ohio State’s QB, Dwayne Haskins, to be named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year. As Ohio State has continued to steadily climb up the rankings these last few weeks – will it be enough to bring the team to the championships? ESPN’s College Football Playoff Predictor seems to think so, giving Ohio State a 48% chance it makes it to the CFP.