There are disappointing losses, and then there are losses that effectively wipe out a team’s postseason opportunities.
LSU witnessed last Saturday night losing to Texas A&M 38-23 to drop to 9-3 on the season. It was a crushing loss for the No. 5 Tigers, who went into the college football playoffs with a relatively clear path: beat the Aggies, beat No. 1 Georgia in the SEC championship game, and then hope that’s enough for the war committee.
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However, it shouldn’t be. Now the Tigers are entering the SEC title game and are merely playing for a better bowl game.
The loss clouds an already confusing CFP picture. The expected top three teams – Georgia, Michigan and TCU – should be feeling good, but fourth place looks wide open. If USC wins the Pac-12 title game next week, the Trojans should lose.
But other teams on the outside looking in now might have a little more hope. The path is not easy for anyone, but who has it easy in 2022?
This season is by no means a failure for the Tigers. Brian Kelly’s debut in Baton Rouge seemed destined to fall apart early. Making the CFP felt like a long shot from the moment they lost to Florida State to open the season.
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Here are the teams that will benefit from LSU’s loss, with Saturday’s games now on the books.
Previous rank: 1
There was no way Georgia could have been kept out of the playoffs, regardless of next week’s outcome. Even a loss to LSU would likely have sent two SEC teams to it instead of the Tigers taking Georgia’s place. Losing LSU gives the Bulldogs room to breathe; Keeping them out of the playoffs will now be almost impossible.
Ohio State (11-1)
Previous rank: 2
This loss is big for the Buckeyes. That means the expected last team to break into the leaderboard this week is now out of the picture.
In other words, it’s one less team for Ohio State to contend with for fourth place. The Buckeyes were throttled by Michigan in the second half of “The Game” on Saturday. If the committee decides it was a competitive game that just got out of hand, maybe they can get back into the playoffs.
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Previous rank: 3
Michigan is in a similar situation to Georgia. Do you play in the Conference Championship? Check. Signature win over a ranked opponent? Check. Strong overall record in recent seasons? Check, check and check. LSU’s defeat means the Wolverines have one less team to worry about should the unthinkable happen against Purdue in the Big Ten championship. It’s hard to imagine things would change much anyway, but it does offer some reassurance.
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Previous rank: 4
TCU is in a slightly different situation. Although it will likely slip to No. 3 in Tuesday’s rankings, it has yet to win the Big 12 to guarantee anything. Maybe some chaos will happen that will allow them to come in with a loss, but given some of the other teams behind LSU this week, don’t be surprised if a TCU is left out with a loss.
Previous rank: 6
The clear winner in this scenario. Now it can be argued that USC will be playing for a playoff spot in the Pac-12 championship next week.
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If LSU had improved to 11-2 with a win over Georgia while USC beat Utah or Oregon to go 12-1, the team that beats the No. 1 team and is ahead of USC would likely take the awarded. Now USC will move up to No. 5 (possibly No. 4) in the rankings and won’t have to look to Georgia for help.
Previous rank: 7
Speaking of teams going on a big break, the CFP just can’t leave Bama.
The Crimson Tide looked dominant against Auburn, and now they can watch the SEC championship next week without feeling like they need a win in Georgia to stand a chance. LSU’s loss is the siltation that Nick Saban and co. were hoping for. The biggest problem is that LSU’s loss is also a poison pill: it makes Alabama’s loss to the Tigers look worse, which could negatively affect it in the committee’s eyes.
We’ll know more when the rankings drop on Tuesday. If the tide ranks above the state of Ohio, they definitely stand a chance. If not, it will be difficult to level up. One thing’s for sure: you’ll need a TCU or USC loss to get in through the back door.
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Previous rank: 8th
It must be reiterated: Clemson may be the biggest loser of the group, but LSU is a close second.
Clemson could gain ground with a comfortable win over South Carolina, but after a 31-30 loss, a win over North Carolina in the ACC championship game will likely only improve his placement in the bowl. Given the losses (South Carolina, Notre Dame), it’s difficult to carve your way into the playoffs.