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College Football Playoff scenarios: How Texas A&M can snag fourth spot with one loss

No. 5 Texas A&M is the first team out in the College Football Playoff rankings.  

The Aggies are 7-1 and will not play in the SEC championship game, but their path to the four-team playoff is not all that complicated.

Texas A&M must win its regular-season finale against Tennessee on Dec. 19 to stay in the conversation. What else do the Aggies need to happen from now until the College Football Playoff selection show on Dec. 20? 

Let’s play out the rest with the three key pieces:  

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College Football Playoff scenarios for Texas A&M

A Christmas miracle from either Arkansas against Alabama or LSU against Florida this weekend would obviously work in the Aggies’ favor. For the sake of this scenario, we’re not counting on either of those upsets to happen.  

So let’s be more realistic:  

No. 1 Alabama (10-0) must beat No. 6 Florida in the SEC championship game. That knocks the Gators out of contention with two losses.  No. 2 Notre Dame (11-0) must beat No. 3 Clemson in the ACC championship game. That gives the Tigers two losses.  A loss by No. 4 Ohio State would help, but it’s unlikely so it’s not worth counting on.   

That would give Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State three spots and leave a big debate for that No. 4 spot:  

Who else could be in contention?  

Texas A&M (8-1) would be the best one-loss team but would not have the benefit of playing in a conference championship.  

Clemson (9-2) and Florida (9-2) would have two losses. 

No. 7 Iowa State (9-2) or No. 11 Oklahoma (8-2) would have a conference championship.  

No. 15 USC (6-0) or No. 21 Colorado (6-0) could be undefeated and have a Pac-12 championship.  

No. 8 Cincinnati (9-0) would be the highest-ranked Group of 5 unbeaten team if it beats No. 24 Tulsa in the American Athletic Conference championship.  

Would Texas A&M get in?  

That’s a lot to play out, but the Aggies would be a good bet to snag that final spot if that scenario unfolds. It’s not that unrealistic, but it requires Notre Dame — a likely underdog in the rematch with Clemson — to deliver another upset.  

Remember, the College Football Playoff has never featured a two-loss team. Clemson would have an argument, but the committee might lean toward the Aggies with one loss. 

That said, the loss is bad. Alabama beat Texas A&M 52-24 on Oct. 3. That would be the worst loss by a CFP team since Georgia in 2017. The Bulldogs lost 40-17 to Auburn in the regular season, but Georgia corrected that mistake with a 28-7 victory in the SEC championship game. The 15 one-loss teams that have qualified for the CFP lost by an average of 7.5 points per game.  

That could give some other teams consideration.  

USC — a Power 5 champion with a big brand — has a lot of ground to cover in two weeks. 

The argument likely would rest on Texas A&M vs. Cincinnati at that point. Would the committee put an unbeaten G5 school in over a one-loss team?  

It’s still an argument we think Texas A&M would win — even if the Bearcats might be the more deserving team at that point. 

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