By: Max Wolpoff
Dwayne Haskins and “The” Ohio State Buckeyes threw a giant nut in the gears of the College Football Playoff machinery. The assembly line hummed toward yet another predictable ending to the college football season with yet another Playoff featuring the same teams viewers have come to expect.
In the last five years of the (imperfect) tournament structure, the Playoff has seen Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Florida State, and Oregon. Barring a complete and utter meltdown in the final week, under consideration by that completely subjective Selection Committee, at least two of those teams will be in that final four.
I do not pedal in “realistic” or “likely” outcomes when it comes to college football. This season, for as strange and weird as it was, the expected teams are largely set to march into the Orange or Cotton Bowls for a coronation ceremony.
What if we finally let our imagination run absolutely hog wild? What if NONE of those above teams make it to Miami or Dallas? What if some mystery team emerges from the pack and sparks the imagination to make us un-invested fans care about the national championship?
Grab your Imagination Hats, as I want to take you on a journey to a dream day. Allow me to welcome you to Max-a-Mania, where the decisions are made up and the rationale does not matter.
GEORGIA BEATS ALABAMA
Intrigue cloaks this contest. A rematch of the 2018 National Championship game, Tua Tagovailoa having a Heisman-worthy season, Georgia losing much of their star talent to the NFL Draft, and a chance to knock the Crimson Tide out of the Playoff picture for the first time. Of all the games on here, the Bulldogs seem to have the best chance to fulfill this dream.
‘Bama has easily stomped their way through their schedule. The LSU matchup looked every bit like their best chance to lose, and all they did was shutout the Tigers. The Citadel scored more points against Alabama then a top-10 team in the country. Let that sink in.
The winning team here will likely lock in a spot in the Playoff. Both had great seasons, and the winner certainly deserves to go. The Chaos Rating is low for this game.
NORTHWESTERN BEATS OHIO STATE
Could a Wildcat team that gave the Michigan Wolverines all they could handle in September do the same, AND finish the job, against Ohio State? Yes, and they have the team to do it.
Face facts: do you, the college football fan, really want Ohio State and all their off-field baggage from this season sullying an otherwise serene time to be a sports fan? I may be alone in thinking that hearing another question about what an unemployed football coach did to his ex-wife should be reserved for a criminal trial, not the pre-game press conferences of the Orange Bowl.
Should Ohio State win, they have a good chance to make the top-four, and almost certainly the top-six. If Northwestern pulls off the upset, there is a low chance they make the committee go ga-ga for them. The Chaos Rating is medium for this game.
TEXAS BEATS OKLAHOMA
Are the Longhorns… back? For real? If they win this game, yeah, probably.
Tom Herman has managed to endure sitting on “the hot seat” as a head coach longer than most people could sit – hot seat that was baking in the Texas sun. His glutes must be strong as irons. Butt jokes aside, Texas under his leadership is primed with a chance at the Big 12 Championship.
Oklahoma, with the above scenarios happening, is likely to make the Playoff with a win. If only one of the above happens, they provide the Committee an interesting choice. A win for Texas is unlikely to place the Longhorns in serious conversation without a lot of help. The Chaos Rating is medium for this game.
PITTSBURGH BEATS CLEMSON
Another super-unlikely story of a team that has basically no business being here but is here anyway: the Panthers can win the ACC title in football for the first time ever. The alma matter of Buffalo Bills legend Nathan Peterman (well, for the last 2 years of his NCAA eligibility, anyway) may get their moment in the sun.
The pre-season rankings, which are worth nothing at all ever for any reason, sloted Pitt in fifth for the Coastal Division. These same geniuses picked Miami to win that division and Syracuse to pull up the rear in the Atlantic Division. Look how well that turned out.
Clemson has the clear upper-hand, but this thought exercise is meant to excite your innards to believe in what is possible, not to resign you to what is probable. Clemson wins and they are pretty assured a date in the Playoff. Pittsburgh wins and settle in for a crazy Selection Sunday. The Chaos Rating is high for this game.
UCF AND MEMPHIS
Here is the only game I am willing to say qualifies as “chaos” regardless of result.
A UCF victory may give them a chance to defend their self-proclaimed title of “national champions” from their undefeated season in 2017. They need almost all of the above to happen, and win this game in a preferrably easy fashion. No small task without quarterback McKenzie Milton, who is out after a gruesome injury against South Florida.
If Memphis wins, strap yourselves down. Suddenly, NONE of the expected or hoped for outcomes happened. The Selection Committee will need a lot of coffee and sugary drinks to get through a long night of harranguing over whether the loser of a conference championship from the Power Five is still better than the American Conference champion.
Given the above scenarios, this game has the potential for Maximum Chaos. A UCF win may force the Committee to bestow legitimacy to the two-season undefeated run of the Knights. A Memphis win combined with EVERYTHING else from above will cause the Committee to leave at least three deserving teams out and will renew wider calls to expand the tournament from four games to something (more fair) larger.
All the while, an undefeated Notre Dame can sit safe in South Bend, Indiana knowing that they are the only lock of the bunch.