Rost: Could both UW Huskies and Oregon make College Football Playoff?

Nov 29, 2023, 9:55 AM

UW Huskies...

Ja'Lynn Polk of the UW Huskies is tackled by Evan Williams of the Oregon Ducks on Oct. 14, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Could the final year not just of the Pac-12, but also of the four-team College Football Playoff format, bring something unprecedented? And by that, I mean this: There’s an argument to be made for two Pac-12 teams – the UW Huskies and Oregon – making it to the playoffs, but that would come at the expense of the SEC.

CFP Rankings: Not only do UW Huskies rise, but so does Oregon

I know. It already sounds preposterous. But there’s a lot of potentially intriguing scenarios that could unfold over a weekend of conference championship games, so let’s get to it.

A CFP with no SEC? It’s possible

The Southeastern Conference has housed the last four national champions (Georgia twice, Alabama, and LSU) and has won 13 of the last 17 national championship games. At the top of the CFP rankings released Tuesday is undefeated Georgia, a program that’s currently on an SEC record 29-game win streak. It’s been a dominant run; just once during that stretch have they even scored fewer than 20 points.

But an SEC Championship game between the Bulldogs and No. 8 Alabama could stir up those top four spots. That’s in large part because of an especially competitive top-10, where, for the first time in the four-team playoff format, eight Power Five teams have one loss or fewer during the regular season.

If No. 3 Washington (12-0) beats Oregon, No. 4 Florida State (beats Louisville in the ACC Championship, and No. 2 Michigan beats No. 16 Iowa in the Big Ten Championship, three of the top four currently ranked teams will be undefeated. For a committee that favors conference champions and head-to-head results, would a one-loss Georgia team that lost to Alabama get in over a potential Big 12 champion one-loss Texas? The Longhorns beat Alabama, who would be the SEC champs in this scenario, in Tuscaloosa earlier this season.

Is there a world where two Pac-12 schools get in?

The path to the playoff is simple for the UW Huskies: Win and you’re in. There’s no world where an undefeated Pac-12 champ isn’t represented in the top four.

But what if No. 5 Oregon beats No. 3 Washington? In the previous scenario where Georgia is also a one-loss team, how much weight would a one-loss UW Huskies team carry considering its strength of schedule?

ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg joined us on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy to talk about the possibility.

“Georgia’s been the No. 1 team and I would anticipate them being the No. 1 team when rankings come out Tuesday,” Rittenberg said. (Update: they were.) “So I think it would probably be a little likelier just because Georgia’s been there and Washington wasn’t initially. I think it’s probably the SEC over the Pac-12. The interesting thing about Alabama is if they win the SEC Championship but Texas wins the Big 12, Texas has the head-to-head win — a definitive win on the road, where nobody beats Nick Saban as a non-conference team — so there’s so many possibilities if that’s the case.

“I think what’ll be more interesting is if Georgia beats Alabama to eliminate them, but Oregon beats Washington in an incredible game. How close is Washington to getting in over some of these other contenders? Because Washington may not have been the most dominant team this season, but they have played an incredible schedule in a very good league. Nobody’s talking enough about the win over Arizona, which has looked better and better as time has gone on. Washington’s resume is just outstanding and shouldn’t be discounted even if they lose to Oregon.”

The UW Huskies have wins against No. 5 Oregon, No. 15 Arizona, and No. 20 Oregon State. They also have wins over previously-ranked Utah and USC.

Huard: Why are No. 3 UW Huskies underdogs vs No. 5 Oregon?

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Rost: Could both UW Huskies and Oregon make College Football Playoff?