The Texas Longhorns currently sit 7th in the College Football Playoff rankings heading into championship weekend with a real chance of sneaking into that fourth and final spot. With the Big 12 Championship on the horizon Saturday, here are the possible scenarios, and the outcomes that Texas faithful need for Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns to make it to the playoffs in his third year as the head coach of the Longhorns.
Sitting in front of Texas currently are
- Georgia (12-0)
- Michigan (12-0)
- Washington (12-0)
- Florida State (12-0)
- Oregon (11-1)
- Ohio State (11-1)
First, here are the positives going for Texas that help their case. There are five major factors that the College Football Playoff committee looks at when deciding the four teams to select for the playoff — strength of schedule, head-to-head results, results against top-25 opponents, results against common opponents, and conference championships.
The Longhorns have the best win in the college football regular season this year, upsetting then-No. 3 Alabama in their own house by double digits. That totals three top-25 wins for the Horns this season, including then-No. 24 Kansas and No. 23 Kansas State, as the committee looks at the ranking of the opponent at the time of the matchup and not at the end of the year.
Of course the loss in the Red River Rivalry is a glaring stain on the Texas resume, which is why the upcoming conference championships are so important. The Longhorns must not only win against the Cowboys on Saturday, but they must win in commanding fashion. Style points couldn’t be more important in this Big 12 Championship — Texas must prove to the nation that they not only deserve to be in the playoff, but deserve to be there by decimating Oklahoma State on Saturday in a convincing fashion that merits a spot over the likes of Oregon, Florida State, and Ohio State.
One of the last great Texas teams felt the sting of exclusion.
In 2008, Colt McCoy and the Longhorns were undefeated going into Week 12, a game that will live in infamy for the burnt orange and white faithful, as the Red Raiders stunned the Longhorns with a touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree down the sideline that gave Texas Tech a narrow 39-33 victory. This loss squeezed the Longhorns out of BCS contention despite a win over the Sooners, who played for the national championship, and tarnished the entire the season.
In contrast, Vince Young and the Longhorns cemented their admittance into the Rose Bowl against USC after a 70-3 beatdown of Colorado in the 2005 Big 12 Championship.
Those seasons were before the inception of the College Football Playoff, where style points mattered even more. Now as the Longhorns attempt to sneak their way into that final spot in the playoff, a convincing win over the Pokes tomorrow will still be pivotal if Texas has any hope of making a postseason run.
Now, more than just a beatdown in Arlington has to happen for Texas to snag that No. 4 spot. Here’s what Texas fans need to root for come Saturday.
The most important game for Longhorn Nation other than their own is of course No. 4 Florida State vs no. 15 Louisville. With the loss of Heisman-contending quarterback Jordan Travis to a broken leg in Week 11 against North Alabama, the Seminoles are now vulnerable to lose their spot in the playoff as they must take down a scrappy Louisville team with their backup quarterback, redshirt Junior Tate Rodemaker, who may be out himself after taking a vicious late hit against Florida last week.
Before I continue this discussion, a quick disclaimer: nobody should be happy for this scenario. What happened to Jordan Travis was tragic and extremely unfortunate for such a talented and humble young man. It’s is a big loss for college football and the sport as a whole, and we should all hope and pray for a speedy recovery so we can see him lace them up again.
Rodemaker is a three-star recruit out of Valdosta, Ga. Not the worst-case scenario for the Seminoles to replace Travis, but certainly not the best. The nation saw him struggle in his first start this season against a then-5–6 Florida team in the last week of the regular season, where Rodemaker went 12-of-25 passing for 134 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions with a QBR of 43.8.
The Seminoles were able to etch out a win against the Gators, who were also reliant on their backup quarterback, 24–15. However, now the young backup must do it again against a red-hot 10–2 Louisville team in the ACC Championship.
A Florida State loss, and a dominating Big 12 title victory for the Longhorns should all but ensure a spot in the playoff. However, there are some other scenarios that would certainly complicate the decision of who gets Florida State’s spot a little more difficult.
Michigan will most likely beat Iowa in the Big 10 Championship, so that game is almost a non-factor, although crazier things have happened.
Mainly, in the SEC Championship, the question remains who should Texas fans root for — Georgia or Alabama? Some contend an Alabama win could make the Texas Week Two victory over the Crimson Tide look even better. However, it also could to some degree negate the best win in college football, currently held by the Longhorns. I contend that the cleanest option would be for Georgia to beat Alabama and not even put this possible debate into question. A Georgia win would eliminate Alabama from any contention and make the Bulldogs the likely No. 2 seed.
Same scenario applies for the Pac-12. Oregon is likely ranked higher than Texas for a few reasons. They have a Heisman-caliber quarterback in Bo Nix and they have one more top-25 win this season than Texas. This year Oregon has taken down then-No. 19 Colorado 43-6 in Week Four, then-No. 13 Utah 35-6 in Week Eight, and Caleb Williams and USC, 36-27. And finally then-No. 16 Oregon State, 31-7, all four wins by an average margin of 24.75 points. However, none of this matters if they fall short in their conference championship game against Washington.
Texas fans should support the Huskies in this one — a second loss would eliminate Oregon from contention and make Washington the likely No. 3 seed.
No conference championship upsets in the SEC and Pac-12 and a Florida State loss to Louisville would leave only Texas and Ohio State in the running for that fourth spot. This is why style points and a dominating victory for the Horns in Arlington are so pivotal. If Texas barely squeaks by a 9–3 Okie Lite squad with a 33–7 loss to South Alabama and a 45–3 loss against UCF on their resume, Ohio State could easily supplant Texas without a conference title.
The only way to remove all doubts is a dominant victory at Jerry World. The Horns are favored by 15.5 points in the Big 12 Championship against a team whose makeup is eerily similar to that of the Texas Tech team they just dismantled 57–7 last week. A similar win, against a similar squad, would give the College Football Playoff committee all the ammunition they need to give Texas the fourth seed in the playoffs.