Earlier in the week, I wrote about Ohio State’s path to the College Football Playoff. It seems easy enough: Clemson needs to win, Georgia needs to demolish Auburn, Oklahoma needs to win, and OSU needs to beat Wisconsin convincingly.
With all those dominos falling, that should be enough for the Buckeyes to make it to their third Playoff.
However, what if the dominos don’t fall that way.
Picture this scenario: Clemson wins close, OU wins, Ohio State takes down Wisconsin, but Auburn repeats another whoopin’ on Georgia.
If the committee wants to reward the best teams in college football with playoff berths, and if that scenario holds, then it is entirely possible that Auburn jumps Clemson for the No. 1 spot in the rankings. Since the start of November, Auburn defeated No. 1 teams in Georgia and Alabama inside the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium, and would’ve defeated Georgia in their own backyard for the SEC Championship. I would think a second win over UGA would increase Auburn’s stock, as beating a team a second time around seems harder than just beating them once.
The logic behind this is that the team that lost the first game now knows what they need to improve on, and knows what caused them to lose the first time. Combine that with the fact that it’s a rematch with bigger implications (i.e. conference title and playoff aspirations) and you have a Georgia team that is, figuratively, chomping at the bit for another shot at Auburn.
But if Auburn smokes Georgia in the grudge match, then they would be the hottest team in football, and would be seen as the better of the two-loss teams. During ESPN’s unveiling of the recent CFP rankings, Joey Galloway said that the committee didn’t have the “stones” to put Auburn No. 1. If Auburn gets a big ‘W’ on Saturday afternoon, I don’t see how they can’t put Guz Malzahn’s Tigers at the top spot.
The ties that bind
An Auburn win in Atlanta brews serious trouble for Ohio State. For the CFP committee to put two 2-loss teams in the College Football Playoff would be borderline absurdity, especially when you consider that there are other 1-loss teams in the fold. It will be a case of one or the other, and since AU is already near the top, they’ll be the ones going.
The twist, I think, is that the success of Auburn helps Alabama. In a way, this is like when Professor Quirrell, a character in the first Harry Potter book, had Voldemort attached to the back of his head. Quirrell was a medium for Voldemort, enabling the ‘Dark Lord’ to get back on his actual feet.
In this case, Auburn is Quirrell and Voldemort is ‘Bama. Breaking it down into even more layman terms: Alabama’s playoff hopes rest, partially, in the success of Auburn. The Tigers keep winning, and it makes the Crimson Tide’s loss look more bearable; the Tigers lose, and it exposes ‘Bama as being imposters, unworthy of a playoff bid.
And this is where Ohio State comes in. A Buckeye win on Saturday pushes Wisconsin out, and sparks debate on whether OSU or ‘Bama slips in. But if Auburn wins, the doomsday scenario is set up.
An Iron Bowl at the Sugar Bowl would be the must-have ticket of the year
Matching two of the South’s most storied programs, as well as one of the most intense rivalries in football, in the Sugar Bowl semifinal would make one of the most in-demand tickets the college football universe has ever seen.
The playoff committee could basically start printing money because of this game.
Geographically, it’s one of the, if not the, closest elite-tier bowls for either program. It’s also a bowl that is storied, and is the dream for any athlete when growing up in the shadow of the SEC or Big 12 landscape.
For SEC die-hards, this is the dream matchup: a rivalry matchup that ends up playing for a shot at the biggest prize in college football. For college football purists, this matchup might make you want to jump on the next space shuttle to Mars.
If I were on the playoff committee, and if some of the members even mentioned this Iron Bowl rematch idea on the basis of putting the best teams in, I would be protesting this call like there were no tomorrow. In fact, I’m pretty sure that security would have to carry me out of the room—it would be that bad.
But, if the idea were brought up on the basis of making the most buzz-worthy matchup that would create the most money, this idea makes too much sense. This rematch would not only be the most watched game of the season, but one of the most watched games in the whole playoff era.
With eyeballs being glued to the screen, this game also becomes an advertisers’ dream. If there were any ad-space open for the Sugar Bowl, the announcement of Iron Bowl II should close it up.
New Orleans has been the site of a consequential rematch before
Way back in the year 2011, LSU was the No. 1 team in all of the land. On Nov. 5, 2011, the Tigers defeated No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., 9-6, in overtime. It was a huge win that propelled LSU to an SEC title, and kept the Crimson Tide at home. However, with the BCS computers playing matchmaker, these Tigers got to face Alabama, again, in the National Championship Game in New Orleans. In the rematch, ‘Bama shut them out, 21-0.
The biggest gripe about the rematch wasn’t the final score, but that No. 3 Oklahoma State, who won their conference after beating No. 10 Oklahoma in the final week of the regular season, didn’t jump an Alabama team that didn’t win their own conference. (It should be noted that 2011 was the first year the Big 12 didn’t have a championship game, as Nebraska and Colorado departed the conference.)
It’s freaky, the circumstances are almost the same: A Tiger team may get Alabama again in a consequential game in New Orleans, while an OSU is left out.
2011 set a precedent, which will eventually happen again—whether it’s justifiable or not.
Is this scenario just a bad dream? Or is it a valid concern? Sound off in the comments with what you think.
Editor’s Note: After Georgia laid the smackdown on Auburn, this scenario is no more. Sorry for the scare.