Commentary: To reach playoff, USC would likely need to win out

Lincoln Riley says he doesn’t pay attention to the weekly college football playoff rankings. And with a massive rivalry game against UCLA just days away, it’s probably a good decision. No wasted minutes and such.

If he tuned in on Tuesday night, he would have seen some positive signs of respect from the CFP selection committee for the 9-1 Trojans, which have moved up a spot to 7th place.

USC stayed ahead of No. 8 Alabama, who won a hard-fought game on the road in Mississippi, a result the committee certainly could have said about the Crimson Tide clearly having accomplished more than the Trojans, even with two losses in 2022 . USC is also above No. 9 Clemson, who as another Power Five conference champion could end up in defeat once the dust settles.

So Riley’s Trojans have everything in front of them. The top 5 of No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Texas Christian and No. 5 Tennessee did not change. Louisiana State No. 6 with two losses joined USC and moved up a spot after Oregon’s loss to Washington.

One of the teams of the Buckeyes and Wolverines will lose in “The Game” on November 26th in Columbus. The loser would not stay above a 12-1 USC ending with victories over No. 16 UCLA, No. 18 Notre Dame and No. 10 Utah or No. 12 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. Conference championships are important to the committee, as are blue-blooded brands that will boost viewership.

To keep things simple, USC needs Georgia to defeat LSU in the SEC championship game in Atlanta. The Bulldogs will be an overwhelming favorite to beat the Tigers, who even with two losses would pose a threat if they boasted wins over Georgia and Alabama.

With one of the Big Ten powers and LSU out of the way, TCU and Tennessee still stand in the way. The Trojan believers should fight hard against both of these teams from here if they want a totally free path with minimal debate.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the Horned Frogs and Volunteers win. TCU would be there as the undefeated Power Five champion. It was then 11-1 for Tennessee, who failed to win their own SEC division, and 12-1 for USC, who came through a tough home stretch and won an extra game to win their conference.

Tennessee running back Dylan Sampson escapes from Missouri defenseman DJ Coleman.

Tennessee running back Dylan Sampson (24) escapes from Missouri defenseman DJ Coleman (7) during the second half Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn.

(Wade Payne/Associated Press)

The SEC bias would have to be pretty strong for the committee to pick Tennessee over USC in this unlikely scenario where the Trojans catch fire and play themselves to the brink of a historic season.

This is the part we need to remember: The four-team CFP playoff is an invitational tournament designed to create compelling television programming for the masses.

Who would want to see No. 1 Georgia and No. 4 Tennessee in a national semifinal? Millions watched as the Bulldogs dominated the Vols on November 5th. The final score of 27-13 was no indication of how easily Georgia was handling its business.

The Big Ten’s No. 2 team against TCU No. 3 would be locked up.

Who wants to see Georgia vs. USC No. 4? Many, many more people across the country.

USC vs. Tennessee would be one of the most intriguing debates the committee has had to date.

If the committee wanted to capitalize on its love of the SEC, it could jump something like Ohio State-Michigan winner to No. 1, place Georgia at No. 2, TCU at No. 3, and drop Tennessee at No. 4 to do this to avoid SEC rematch in the first round.

When that happens, we don’t have to guess why.

Of course, all of that is moot when USC drops a game in this gantlet. But that’s what the Trojans, who haven’t lost to a Pac-12 bottom feeder like UCLA this season, have given us: a chance to happily keep daydreaming.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-11-15/commentary-cfp-rankings-usc-tennessee-georgia-ohio-state-tcu Commentary: To reach playoff, USC would likely need to win out

Emma Bowman

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