The Big Ten’s Wednesday announcement that it will return to play on Oct. 23 throws a major wrench into the College Football Playoff race.
For a while, when it looked like the ACC, Big 12, and SEC would be the only Power Five leagues playing this fall, which increased the likelihood that one of those conferences—namely the SEC—could land multiple teams in the four-team field. The presence of Ohio State, and potentially upstarts like Penn State and Wisconsin, changes that. As a result, Paul Finebaum has updated his prediction for the CFP.
“I start with Clemson. They are there every single year and they will be again this year,” Finebaum said on ESPN’s Get Up this morning. “Alabama is next. Nothing changed yesterday that affects Alabama’s attempt to regain the crown. And here comes the new entrant. It is Ohio State. I have no doubt whatsoever that they are one of the three best teams in the country. They may be even better. They ended the season last year in the semifinals blowing a big lead to Clemson.”
“The fourth one is very difficult, but I’m going with Oklahoma because I think that league is diminished.” Finebaum continued. “If they get through the league undefeated, which I think they have a good chance of doing, that they’ll sneak in. But the big losers yesterday were the ACC and SEC. Georgia, possible loser in the SEC (Championship) Game or even Notre Dame may have gotten edged out by Ohio State’s entry into the playoff.”
Finebaum also addressed the potential for the Pac-12 to return to play, something that Yahoo’s Pete Thamel says there’s significant momentum for right now. He thinks Oregon may be a fringe College Football Playoff contender, but that the league isn’t a serious factor, even if they manage to get back to playing soon.
“It would be great to have them competing, but I don’t think its going to be a big factor. If you look at the Pac-12 objectively, there’s really only one school—Oregon—that may play big into the Playoff,” Finebaum said. “I’m not going to sit here and talk about the Pac-12’s ineffectiveness in the Playoff over the years… They have not been a serious contender.”
“Everyone would love to see the Pac-12, I don’t think they’ll make it in time for the Playoff. That’s their own fault. They’ve been sitting around moving forward toward a spring ball while the Big Ten realized their mistake and got right to it.”
Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Oklahoma wouldn’t be a very unique College Football Playoff at all, and it would be the first without a new team to the field in the still young history of the event, but the fact that it looks like we’ll get a postseason at all is a win for fans of the sport.