So, to review: If the season ended today — instead of being two thirds complete with four games left in the regular season plus conference championship games — Texas A&M would be one of the four teams who will play for a National Championship.
That, to me, was the No. 1 shocking reveal of the first CFP rankings. Nobody thought A&M would be ranked above the undefeated Pac-12 favorite Washington.
Now, I should disclose straightaway that I am hugely biased in favor of Texas A&M. I was a member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band. Also, I’m a graduate (’93). Seeing the Aggies win the National championship before I die is my No. 1 sports goal. (At right, that’s my cubicle in Austin’s Longhorn Network Building. So my bias isn’t exactly a secret.)
The ranking portends that Aggies have a chance to get into the CFP.
Here’s what could get in the way:
1) The Aggies themselves — if they lose one of the last four games, eliminating them from contention.
2) Michigan Wolverines — if they lose OSU.
3) Ohio State — if they beat Michigan and win the Big 10.
4) Washington Huskies — as undefeated Pac-12 Champion
5) Louisville — if OSU and Washington lose, then it’s between Louisville and A&M for slot four. SEC > ACC.
Now, the Huskies have a tough road where they have to beat a resurgent USC team, Washington State in the Apple Cup, and the Pac-12 championship game, all of which are challenging matches.
If they do win all those games they deserve to be in the CFP as an undefeated conference champion more than Texas A&M.
Washington was basically just told it MUST beat USC, Washington State and win the Pac-12 Championship game. If Washington incurs just a single loss — and Texas A&M wins out impressively in the meantime — that means the Aggies are in, according to the committee’s reasoning.
Also, if Michigan beats OSU they are in as long as they win the Big 10 Championship game against likely Wisconsin, and as long as OSU is eliminated from contention.
Technically, Louisville still has a shot but based on its current ranking at No. 7. That ranking with Washington and OSU losses to No. 5.
But it is still pretty clear that the committee feels Texas A&M has a better resume than Louisville. And the only chance Louisville has of surpassing the Aggies without another loss is if A&M struggles mightily against 3 – 5 Ole Miss or 3 – 5 Miss St. Playing poorly in those games gives Louisville an outside chance to bypass the Aggies if both teams finish 11 – 1. and their loss at Clemson is respectable just not as respectable as A&M’s loss at Alabama.
Maybe their case would be better if Clemson had defeated Alabama in the NC game last year, but never mind that.
Notice I did not include a two-loss Auburn team, which definitely could make a mess of things by beating Alabama. That’d create a three-way tie for the SEC West.
If Auburn wins the West and the SEC Championship, that is also a huge threat. But remember that Auburn has two losses — and A&M won out. So it would need A&M to lose to get in.
As for LSU, it is also a threat. But for LSU to displace the Aggies, it would need to win on Thanksgiving. And that means Texas A&M has not delivered on the No.1 requirement to make the CFP. And that is, obviously, just not losing.
So here’s my message to the Aggies
Yes, a lot has to happen for Texas A&M to make the final four. But any initial ranking in the final four serves as a message to the players and coaches. So here’s my message to the Aggies:
- Play your best against Miss St. Loss of style points can cost you in the committee rankings.
- Play your best against a dangerous Ole Miss team. There’s no real bonus given for winning but massive penalty for losing or barely winning.
- Play your best against the Bayou Bengals on Thanksgiving Day. You haven’t defeated the Bengals since joining the SEC in 2012. What a year this would be to break that streak!
Honestly I am amazed A&M is No. 4 in the initial CFP rankings. I’m still pinching myself. The SEC could be the first conference to get two teams in the CFP.
That means two Power 5 conference champions would be left out. The likely candidates are the Pac-12 and the Big-12. Both conferences have already been left out once, and this year they could both be left out together.
What Aggie fans should be rooting for now:
- Root for Michigan to beat Ohio State and win the Big 10 Championship game.
- Root against Washington — any loss is good for the Aggies.
- Root for Alabama to win out clean and win the SEC Championship.
- Root for the Aggies to win impressively against Mississippi State, Mississippi, and UTSA. Any win over LSU would be impressive, too.
Texas A&M was handily defeated by Bama; its young offensive line was outclassed in the second half by Bama’s defensive line. Alabama also has a deep and experienced D line.
But take heart: The Aggies were in that game and even led by a point in the 3rd quarter after falling behind 13 – 0.
And you never know. If the Aggies somehow get a rematch with Alabama maybe the O line learned some things.
Listen. I’m not saying this is the year the Aggies win the NC before I die. But you gotta make the final four to have a chance. And they might make the final four.
For aNewDomain, I’m Richard Hay.