Ohio State won the first College Football Playoff Championship in the 2014 season, and Alabama won the 2015 season title game. Florida State won the final BCS Championship game in 2013. This year, before a single snap had been taken, all were near the top of the the college football betting odds for the playoffs. Washington and Southern Cal were also among the 2017 favorites, along with reigning 2016 champion Clemson.
The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com foretold of a final four consisting of Florida State, Ohio State, Alabama and Oklahoma. Ironically, the first two weeks of the season featured games between those four teams. Florida State lost the opening game to Alabama, and in doing so, lost its starting quarterback and its season. The following week, Oklahoma road into Columbus and dominated Ohio State 31-16.
Now, nearly four months after the preseason rankings were released, the college football playoff selection committee submits that the current four best teams are Alabama, Clemson, Miami and Oklahoma.
Miami stands out as the surprise performer. Under second year head coach Mark Richt, the 'Canes are 9-0 and have already clinched a berth in the ACC Championship game. Their opponent will be a Clemson team looking for back-to-back national titles and a three-peat of the ACC title.
Meanwhile, Alabama's annual season-ending rivalry game against Auburn has become a de facto playoff game for the SEC Western division title while Georgia lies in wait as the Eastern division champ. The Alabama-Auburn game is the Iron Bowl, and irony struck again last weekend when Auburn handed Georgia its first loss of the season. Could the Tigers do the same thing to Alabama on November 25th?
As for Oklahoma, the Sooners were moving through their schedule with aplomb until Iowa State went to Norman and ran off with a shocking 38-31 upset win on October 7.
A week later, Clemson lost 27-24 at Syracuse. And just two weeks ago, Ohio State went to Iowa and laid a 55-24 egg.
Wisconsin coyly sits just outside the committee's top 4, ready to pounce on any miss-step by the Tide, Tigers, 'Canes or Sooners. By occupying the No. 5 slot, the West division champions are in position to make a dramatic move at the end if they can take care of Michigan this week, and then win the conference championship game on December 2.
Oklahoma may actually be in the most dis-advantaged position. Thanks to the Big 12 adding a conference title game this year, the Sooners can't simply beat Kansas and West Virginia and move on to the playoff. On December 2, they will also have to survive a rematch with another strong conference member - presumably Oklahoma State or TCU.
To determine how interesting the next couple of weeks could get, just look at the current odds based on the Congrove Computer Rankings. Right now, Alabama is a slim 4.23-point favorite over Auburn, and Clemson gets a mere 2.72-point nod over Miami. Ohio State has a narrow 4.79-point edge over Wisconsin.
Buckle up. The ride to the finish line could get bumpy. But man, it will be a whole lotta fun.