Classify the level of sublime chaos in college football last weekend at the highest level – a Category F5 whirlwind sweeping through some of the best neighborhoods in the game.
For the first time in three decades the Nos. 2,3,4 teams in the country lost on the same weekend, leaving quite a muddle for the good people of the playoff committee to make right. They are going to require some extra chainsaws, wood-chippers and perhaps some FEMA assistance to straighten out this mess and come up with the final playoff four.
And there is unbeaten Alabama sitting above it all, untouched, not a hair out of place, stretched out in kingly repose while everyone else scraps for a place at the table.
Beneath the Crimson Tide is a tar pit of one-loss teams and complications. Here are but some of them.
The Ohio State question: Won’t the Buckeyes pose the most difficult quandary of them all? Say the one-loss Buckeyes win out, beating Michigan in the process. Meanwhile two-loss Penn State beats Michigan State and Rutgers and advances to the Big 10 title game ahead of the Buckeyes (which the Nittany Lions beat last month, on the strength of a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown). Just looking at Ohio State, you know it is one of the four best teams in the country. But would you rightfully put a team that didn’t win its conference division in the playoff mix?
The Clemson question: Now that they finally found a dire, MacGuyver-like tight spot from which they could not escape, did the Tigers eliminate themselves with the loss to Pitt? Not at all. They can recover, win the ACC and still have a very strong claim to the playoff – possibly playing Alabama in the Atlanta semifinal, reprising last season’s championship game.
The Louisville question: Don’t you want the Cardinals in there, just to see Heisman front-runner Lamar Jackson on that big stage? But do you really want to see anything good happen for their coach, Bobby Petrino? Clemson, which beat Louisville by six this year, is a large obstacle.
The Saturday’s victims’ question: How much did Michigan, Washington and Clemson hurt themselves in Saturday’s mash-up? Not critically. By winning out, all three can win their conferences and reinvigorate their claims.
The Big 12 question: Just how relevant is this conference in the discussion, saddled with no conference championship game? Oklahoma did what the playoff committee asked, and scheduled up for its non-conference opponents, paying the price with two losses. Guess that will teach the Sooners.
The Big Question: Does any of it really matter in the end? Isn’t it all so much hollow debate if no one can touch Alabama on the field?