With all due respect to the fan bases of both Notre Dame and Georgia — both groups may want to avoid their television sets tonight — those two losses Saturday should lend a great deal of clarity to the College Football Playoff picture. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t controversy.
Here are the three most pressing questions heading into the third CFP rankings Tuesday night:
1. Who’s No. 1?
It won’t be Georgia anymore, not after that 23-point loss to Auburn on Saturday. Most likely the selection committee will bump up last week’s No. 2, Alabama, despite a shaky performance against Mississippi State. When the new top 25 is unveiled, the Crimson Tide will have at least two top-25 wins, which could justify its move to the top spot.
But you could also make a case for undefeated Miami, which has answered a string of four consecutive one-possession wins with back-to-back dominant victories against Virginia Tech and last week’s No. 3, Notre Dame.
Don’t forget about Oklahoma, either. The Sooners have one loss but own three against teams that ranked in the top 15 last week, and they may be playing the best football out of anyone in the country. Part of the reason the selection committee exists is to be subjective, to use the eye test. And if you’re looking at film and asking yourself, “Who ya got?” in various comparisons/matchups, well, it’s going to be hard to go against Oklahoma.
2. Which two-loss team has the best shot to crash the party?
This one is easy: Auburn. The Tigers were the highest-ranked two-loss team last week, and they will be again after their beatdown of Georgia last weekend. Jarrett Stidham and Kerryon Johnson probably aren’t content with just one landscape-rattling result, either. They’ve got Alabama in two weeks in a game that will decide the winner of the SEC West — who will then face Georgia in the SEC title game.
Though it’s a tall order to knock off the Tide and beat a talented team like Georgia twice in one season, it’s also a clear path to Playoff inclusion. In a season full of wild and wacky results, this could be the most unpredictable Playoff participant (and first two-loss one). And the Tigers are playing well enough to make this happen.
3. How much should blowout losses matter?
Throughout the CFP’s existence, no team that made the Playoff field suffered a regular season loss with a margin greater than 14 points. But this season, a few teams that remain in CFP contention (including those with long odds) have been on the wrong end of some terribly lopsided games. Examples include Georgia, Notre Dame and even Ohio State, which has been blown out twice.
It would be hard to imagine a scenario in which a one-loss Bulldog team that runs the table (presumably including a win against Alabama) would be barred from the Playoff field. But it would also be charting new territory after Saturday’s 23-point loss.
This question will matter for midseason rankings as well, starting with Tuesday’s. Let’s see how much the committee penalizes Georgia and Notre Dame not just for losing, but for how they lost. That will tell us a lot about the committee’s feelings about Auburn and Miami, too.
As a reminder, a new All-American Podcast will go up late Tuesday night, breaking down the biggest storylines from the latest CFP rankings. Be sure to subscribe here on iTunes, Google Play, Bumpers, Soundcloud or Stitcher.
And, one last reminder: This week’s show airs on ESPN around 9 p.m. ET. It will be in between the two college basketball games that make up the Champions Classic.
(Top photo: Matt Bush / USA TODAY Sports)