Believe it or not, there are three teams still in the discussion to make the inaugural College Football Playoff that haven’t been discussed much.
These three programs have gotten differing degrees of attention for their solid seasons to this point. However, not many people consider them to be serious contenders.
But I do, and if havoc goes down between now and the first week of December, these three programs deserve to be looked at, if not considered for a spot in the Final Four.
To make this list, the teams had to have one loss or fewer and play in a “Power 5” conference. They also needed to be flying mostly under the radar in the College Football Playoff analysis.
(Also read: A sad realization for Atlanta sports fans)
Key wins: No top-25 wins
Loss: at Michigan State
At 8-1, the Nebraska Cornhuskers figure to win the Big Ten West if they can win the remaining three games on their regular-season schedule. And while they’ve cruised through what’s been a very easy schedule so far, they have challenges ahead. This weekend, they can pick up a victory over a ranked opponent if they can defeat Wisconsin on the road, and they still have a game against an impressive Minnesota squad.
If they can hold on, they’ll get a date with Ohio State (probably) in the Big Ten Championship; By then, the Buckeyes could be in the top 5. So if they run the table and several one-loss teams ahead of them lose again, why not the Cornhuskers? They haven’t played the toughest teams this year, but they would certainly deserve a shot.
Key wins: at Georgia Tech
Loss: at Miami
At this point, it’s very likely that the Duke Blue Devils will make it to Charlotte in what will likely be a rematch of last year’s ACC Championship game against Florida State. The remaining opponents on Duke’s schedule are North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest – all at home. Aside from a confusing loss at Miami, the Devils’ slate is pretty flawless, and they boast a solid defense, which is a rarity in college football this year.
So let’s just say they roll over FSU in the ACC title game … shouldn’t they get a shot at the national title? Sure, beating FSU isn’t as big a deal as it was a year ago, but they’re still the undefeated defending champs, and they would be ranked in the top 2 at that point, assuming they win out. What else would Duke have to prove?
3. Arizona State
Key wins: at USC, vs. Stanford, vs. Utah, vs. Notre Dame
Speaking of dominant defenses, the Arizona State Sun Devils were swarming early in last Saturday’s game against Notre Dame. They took their foot off the gas pedal late in the game, but they made their statement to the nation that they won’t be taken lightly on the defensive side of the ball.
Now, this is easily the least surprising of the three teams listed, which is why I saved them for last. But have you really heard anyone go to bat for the Sun Devils in the Final Four discussion? I haven’t heard much about ASU, but I think they’d be right in the middle of the discussion if they win out. They appear to be on a crash-course with the Oregon Ducks and what would be a massive Pac-12 Championship showdown in Levi’s Stadium, but they have one more nationally-ranked foe to take down before they can get there – No. 19 Arizona.
The Pac-12 is loaded this season, and if the Sun Devils can make it through the rest of their schedule unharmed, they absolutely deserve a chance to play for the national title. Just think – we could see the Sun Devils vs. the Blue Devils in the playoff, if the chips fell exactly right for those two teams.
And if I got my way.