No regular season in sports is more important than college football’s. And history has shown us that if you want to play for a national championship, you better not lose twice. Could 2017 be the year a two-loss team makes the playoff?
Whatever criticisms you may have about college football, one can’t argue that its regular season is much more important than any other major American sport’s. The MLB, NBA and NHL regular seasons frankly matter little. The NFL’s is important but it doesn’t matter how many games you lost as long as you get into the postseason, and we’ve seen teams with losing records do it.
In college football, you simply can’t lose more than once in the regular season if you want a shot at the College Football Playoff. That has been around since 2014 and only unbeaten or one-loss teams (and those from Power 5 conferences) have made it.
Penn State fans had an argument to reach last year’s College Football Playoff with an 11-2 record as the Nittany Lions were the champions of the best conference in the nation, the Big Ten. They also beat Ohio State, but the Buckeyes got into the playoff at 11-1. They clearly shouldn’t have, getting routed by Clemson in the semifinals, but that’s an argument for another day.
The last time a two-loss team played for the title was Coach Les Miles’ LSU Tigers in 2007. They were ranked No. 2 in the nation and beat No. 1 Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game, 38-24.
5Dimes offers a college football prop on a two-loss team making it to this year’s playoff: no at -230 and yes at +170. Let’s break it down.
Will History Repeat Itself?
I believe there are lessons to be learned from that 2007 LSU team for any two-loss club to have a playoff shot this season. First off, said team must be ranked very high in the preseason Top 25 (polls should be out soon). Those Tigers were No. 2 in the preseason Top 25. They started 6-0, including impressive wins over No. 9 Virginia Tech, No. 12 South Carolina and No. 9 Florida.
LSU was then upset at No. 17 Kentucky (UK was ranked!?), 43-37 in triple overtime. However, that only dropped the Tigers to No. 4 in the BCS rankings. They would then win four in a row, including over ranked Auburn and Alabama, before falling 50-48 in triple overtime to Arkansas. That only dropped LSU to No. 5. It still won the SEC West, though, and beat No. 14 Tennessee in the SEC title game and got enough help around the country to reach the title game.
So in projecting a possible two-loss playoff team in 2017, it would have to be one from one of the top conferences in the land and a likely preseason Top 10, if not Top 5, team. Also with a tough enough schedule to overcome those two losses.
I see only two possibilities: Alabama and Florida State, and those two likely will be Nos. 1-2 in the first polls. They open against another on Sept. 2 in Atlanta, with the Tide currently -7 on college football odds. Whichever team loses that game needs to lose it close – (triple) overtime preferred. Then a second loss would have to come against a ranked club, be close and still fairly early in the season.
For Alabama, perhaps that second defeat is Oct. 7 at Texas A&M. Then the Tide would need to run the table impressively and win the SEC championship game. For the Noles, that defeat perhaps would be Sept. 16 at home vs. Miami or Oct. 21 at home vs. Louisville. The Nov. 11 game at Clemson might be too late in the season. Ditto the Nov. 25 matchup at Florida. The Seminoles would naturally have to win the ACC title as well. I don’t see any way to the playoff for a team that doesn’t win its conference.
I don’t believe the Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 is thought of highly enough for its champion to have two losses and make the playoff. Some might argue Ohio State, but it’s tough to see the Buckeyes losing twice considering they will be favored in every game and get both Oklahoma and Penn State in Columbus. If the Nuts had a loss and then fell at Michigan in the regular-season finale, that would be too deep into the season.NCAAF Free Pick: No (-230)Best Line Offered: 5Dimes