The mighty Southeast Conference has dominated NCAA Football throughout the playoff era. Multiple Alabama vs Clemson matchups, the Bama-Georgia conference showdown where Tua Tagovailoa burst onto the scene, Joe Burrow’s LSU team, and the latest dynasty, Georgia who is trying to become the first team to win three-straight championships since the 1930s.
It feels like the SEC is destined to send at least one of their top teams to the College Football Playoff each year. But this season could be different. I’ve found a route that, with the help of some other schools, could have the SEC watching the playoff from their couches.
Let’s set the record straight; these are not predictions of how these games will pan out. In fact, most of them require major upsets and great teams losing at their home stadiums. Although, they’re not as outlandish as they seem. I’ll be explaining the how, not the why teams will win or lose. So without further ado, I present the realistic scenario where the SEC misses the College Football Playoff.
How the SEC Misses Out on the CFP
Sept. 9, Texas beats Alabama
When these two teams squared off last season, Texas had Alabama on the ropes despite star quarterback Quinn Ewers leaving the game with an injury. It took a miracle run from reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young to set up a game-winning field goal. Alabama won 20-19.
This year, the matchup heads to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Texas will have Ewers back and Saban will send out Jalen Milroe, an unproven talent and far from what Young was last year. If the game looks similar to last year’s, the Longhorns quarterback advantage will be the difference maker.
Alabama now has one loss on the season.
Sept. to Oct., LSU loses their second game
Two losses seem to be the threshold for the College Football Playoff committee. No two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff.
Brian Kelly already lost his first game with the Tigers. Granted, Florida State has a good team, but can LSU recover?
The likely trap game is Ole Miss in Week 5. On the road against a ranked team with something to prove sounds like a recipe for disaster. LSU gets knocked out of playoff contention early on, but there’s still plenty of time for Kelly to make an impact this season.
Oct. 21, Alabama avenges last year’s loss to Tennessee
Volunteers fans ferociously tore down their goalpost after upsetting the Crimson Tide last season. The win ultimately placed them at No. 1 in the first playoff ranking of the season.
This year, different story.
With the Tide already on their last legs, a win against a top-10 team gets them back into the conversation. Having this weight on their shoulders plus a chance to avenge a loss from last year, Saban and Alabama hand Tennessee their first loss.
Their glory is short-lived though.
Nov. 4, LSU knocks out Alabama
Even with two losses, an SEC title is still up for grabs. All they need to do is follow in Texas’ footsteps and take down Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Not a small task by any means, and this is a squad that started the season 3-2 in this hypothetical scenario. But by Week 10, the Tigers have it figured out. For the second year in a row, LSU beats Alabama and hands Saban’s squad its second loss of the season.
By way of a tiebreaker, this means LSU wins the SEC West, effectively placing them in the SEC Championship. They’ll either face Georgia or Tennessee.
Nov. 18, Georgia loses its first game in three years
They have to lose at SOME point.
Just like with Alabama and LSU, this game decides if one-loss Tennessee or undefeated Georgia represents the SEC East in the SEC Championship.
To this point, Georgia hasn’t had a notable game on their schedule, and Tennessee is their first real test. The pressure of the Knoxville crowd is too much for Georgia, and with the loss comes the end of their SEC title run. The Vols, on the other hand, head into the championship as heavy favorites against LSU.
LSU is crowned SEC Champs
Once again, LSU spoils a conference foe’s playoff hopes. With this win, here’s what the playoff committee is left with:
LSU, a two-loss SEC Champion.
Tennessee, a two-loss runner-up.
Alabama, a two-loss team without a championship appearance.
Georgia, a one-loss team without a championship appearance (but the defending champions).
The choice out of these four is Georgia. However, that’s only if no other teams were deemed worthy by the committee. Let’s look at the possible contenders in this hypothetical scenario:
USC or Oregon goes undefeated and wins the Pac-12.
Or, USC finishes as a one-loss champion, with the one loss being to undefeated Notre Dame.
FSU is an undefeated ACC Champion that knocked off LSU.
Texas wins out and captures the Big 12 trophy, also boosting their resume with a win over Bama.
Ohio State, Michigan, or Penn State win the Big 10 with an undefeated record.
So many dominoes need to fall for the SEC to miss out. This whole plan could be spoiled by the end of this week. But the path is there. As dominant as they’ve been, the SEC is mortal, and with so many teams in contention for the highly-coveted four playoff spots, the college football juggernauts could be on the outside looking in.
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