Now that it’s in the ACC title game, does Georgia Tech have any shot at the four-team College Football Playoff? It’s not much of one, but coach Paul Johnson hasn’t given up hope.
“Right now, we’ve still got a lot of football in front,” he said Tuesday, two days before Tech’s appearance in the ACC championship game became a reality. “Hopefully, we’ll have a conference championship game. I know we’ve got Georgia and then a bowl game. Who knows, worst-case scenario, we’d like to have three and, if crazy things happen, we could have more than that, I guess.”
The scenario, while highly unlikely, at least could happen. It unquestionably requires Tech to beat No. 10 Georgia Nov. 29 in Athens and No. 3 Florida State in Charlotte, N.C., Dec. 6. Decisive, impressive wins would help the cause.
And, should that come to pass, then it gets a little more interesting, as here’s one way of looking at it. There are 17 teams ahead of Tech. Beating the Seminoles and Bulldogs would possibly take care of at least the Bulldogs, though the merit of a one-loss FSU and a two-loss (and conference champion) Tech is unknown. After that, they won’t need the other 15 teams to fall below them. They’d only need to pass a mere 12, and some of them Tech would bypass by virtue of its two hypothetical wins.
Further, elimination games (presumably) will take place ahead of them in the next two weeks. No. 15 Arizona and No. 17 Utah play Saturday, and the Wildcats play No. 13 Arizona State Nov. 28, for instance. It's fanciful at this point. But, here are a few potential ways it could happen.
In the Pac-12, No. 2 Oregon will play the South champion. What would probably enable Tech to pass all of the Pac-12 would be for No. 19 USC to win the South by beating UCLA Saturday (coupled with an Arizona State in one of its final two games) and losing decisively to Notre Dame to drop to 8-4. Ideally, Oregon would lose one or two of its final two regular-season games (Colorado State or Oregon, presumably the latter) and then lose the Pac-12 title game to USC.
In the Big 12, No. 5 TCU, No. 7 Baylor and No. 12 Kansas State are ahead of Tech. Without a conference championship game, a helpful scenario for Tech might be for Texas to upset TCU on Nov. 27, Baylor to somehow lose to Oklahoma State and Texas Tech the next two Saturdays and then beat Kansas State Dec. 6. (Kansas State plays Kansas next Saturday, and while an upset would be extremely advantageous, it doesn’t seem particularly realistic.)
In this instance, I believe the champion would be TCU at 10-2. Still in contention, but Tech at 11-2 would have a much better case for getting picked ahead of the Horned Frogs.
In the Big 10, No. 6 Ohio State, No. 11 Michigan State and No. 16 Wisconsin are ranked ahead of Tech. The Jackets want to root for No. 25 Minnesota. (Does anyone expect Minnesota to win the Big Ten? Probably not, but I’m going to guess not a lot of people are putting their chips on Tech to beat Georgia and Florida State, either.) The Gophers can win the West by beating No. 23 Nebraska Saturday and Wisconsin Nov. 29, both on the road.
Ohio State has a fairly easy finish with Indiana and Michigan, both at home. Let’s give the Buckeyes both games and the East championship at 11-1 overall, but then Minnesota beats the Buckeyes in the Big Ten title game. (Minnesota lost 31-24 to Ohio State last Saturday, so it’s not entirely out of the question.)
Let’s assume an SEC team is getting in. Tech would be helped by the SEC just not getting two teams in. How could that happen? No. 1 Alabama beats No. 14 Auburn. No. 8 Ole Miss loses to Arkansas Saturday and then beats No. 4 Mississippi State soundly Nov. 29. Alabama beats No. 10 Georgia, which in this case has already lost to Tech, to take the SEC.
Within the ACC, Tech would be helped by No.3 Florida State remaining undefeated by beating Boston College and Florida. Duke and North Carolina could help marginally by beating Wake Forest and N.C. State, respectively, as could any team Tech has defeated (Clemson vs. South Carolina, principally).
Again, not all of the scenarios would have to happen, as there are four spots available.
Likely? Not at all.
Possible? It’d be truly remarkable.