Brads’ Breakdown: Ode to the four team playoff

By Alan Brads

Usually, I am a proud member of the four team playoff club. I dread next year’s change to the 12 team playoff which irreparably degrades the meaningfulness of regular season games and conference championship games. We lose high-stakes games like last week’s Ohio State-Michigan, or this week’s Pac-12 championship. After all, if Oregon loses to Washington twice, do they really deserve a third shot?

But this week, as a Buckeyes fan, I long for the 12 team College Football Playoff.

Yep, I’m a biased Buckeyes fan. I hope my scarlet Ohio State cover photo didn’t tip my hand.

And yet, this is best for college football. We lost, fair and square (unlike the last two years), and that matters. Barring an avalanche of chaos this weekend, my Buckeyes will miss out on the exclusive playoff, and likely play in the Orange Bowl.

The blame the Big Ten, not the CFP system for an 11-1 team with a loss only to the #2 team in the country missing the playoff. By not eliminating divisions like the ACC and Pac-12, the Big Ten allowed a far inferior Iowa into the conference championship game in place of Ohio State. Oregon gets a mulligan and Ohio State doesn’t, because the Pac-12, a conference taking its dying breaths, adjusted better than the Big Ten. 

Now we get five conference championship games which impacts the four-team field released at noon on Sunday.

For a complete breakdown of all 32 scenarios, their likelihood, and their implications, check my CFP breakdown sheet.

Let’s take a look at each semifinal, what it means, and for the first time, I will make a pick on every game.

#3 Washington vs. #5 Oregon – 8:00 P.M. Friday on FOX

The de facto quarterfinal

The winner goes, the loser goes home. I worked all 32 scenarios of wins in the conference championship games, I just don’t see a route for the Pac-12 loser to get in. Maybe, in an extremely unlikely combination of results, 12-1 Washington can squeeze in over Ohio State at #4, but the committee valued Ohio State over the Huskies all year. I doubt that would change with both teams picking up a top-5 loss. The winner buys not only a playoff spot, but in all likelihood, the Heisman trophy for their quarterback. Try finding stakes that high in a 12-team playoff. WIth everything on the line, you think Dan Lanning and college football history’s most experienced quarterback losing to the same team twice? Nah, Oregon 38-35

#7 Texas vs. #18 Oklahoma State – 12:00 P.M. on ABC

Texas tries to be “back”

Prepare yourself for the outrage. Texas will win the Big 12 conference championship game, probably by double digits, and still miss the College Football Playoff. The rust-orange outrage makes sense. They would be 12-1 with a win over Alabama and a close loss to Oklahoma. Even with that playoff resume, if Michigan, Georgia, Washington and Florida State all win, there is no room in the inn for a team that lost. The burnt orange meltdown intensifies if Alabama wins and outranks Texas despite a head-to-head loss. That might make you mad, but it’s what the committee will do, don’t shoot the messenger. Texas will take care of business in Dallas, but they still need help. Longhorns 38-20

#1 Georgia vs. #8 Alabama 4:00 P.M. on CBS

The chaos lynchpin. 

Available playoff spots get real scarce real fast if Bama wins the SEC. Texas and Georgia face serious peril with a 12-1 Alabama SEC champion. I cannot find a single logical reason why Alabama should win this game. The Bulldogs rolled through the back half of their conference schedule, while Alabama beat 6-6 Auburn on an answered prayer on 4th & 31. And yet … Nick Saban still prowls the Alabama sideline. Call it a hunch, but Saban teams find what it takes to win football games. Saban has three years’ worth of material to figure out Kirby Smart’s new and improved Bulldogs, and Georgia is long overdue for a loss. I can’t explain it, maybe I’m trying to be too clever, but I believe Alabama wrecks the playoff rankings and Georgia loses for the first time since the 2021 SEC Championship game against … Alabama. The Tide Roll 30-28

#2 Michigan vs. #16 Iowa

The blowout

Iowa has one teeny tiny problem:  a physical incapability to score points. They rewrote the record books for winning games without scoring points. How many teams have won 10 games and scored just 20 touchdowns? One. 2023 Iowa. But that will not fly against Michigan. The Wolverines beat Iowa 42-3 in the Big Ten championship game two years ago. 2023’s Michigan team is miles better than the 2021 version, and they’re not even cheating. 2023 Iowa can’t hold a candle to 2021 Iowa. If, by some miracle, Michigan loses, they could be in serious danger of missing the playoff, but with all due respect, the Hawkeyes have a snowman’s chance in July. Michigan 33-3

#14 Lousiville vs. #4 Florida State

The one you watch when Michigan goes up by 21

What to do with Florida State? How can you leave a 13-0 conference champion out of the playoff? And yet I know, you know and the playoff committee knows the Seminoles are not in the stratosphere of a top-four college football team. They struggled through a cupcake conference schedule and lost their star when Jordan Travis got hurt two weeks ago. The inaugural four-team playoff featured a 13-0 Florida State that got boat raced by Oregon. We could come full circle in the final four-team playoff … but not so fast. The Seminoles escaped too often this year. Not again, not against a top-15 opponent without Jordan Travis. Florida State trips up at the 11th hour and misses the playoff for the ninth year running. Louisville 27-24

So if I’m right, where does that leave us? Somewhere around here:

  1. Michigan
  2. Oregon
  3. Alabama
  4. Georgia
  5. Texas
  6. Ohio State
  7. Washington

Sign me up for those college football playoff semifinals. 

I’ll provide a championship pick on the flip side of the College Football Playoff release, but for now, I’ll just say this: watch out for the most complete team in football peaking at the right time. No, not the Georgia Bulldogs … the Oregon Ducks.

You heard it here first.

 Alan Brads is a senior journalism student and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys playing the drums, speaking Spanish and watching Buckeye football like his life depends on it.

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