Now that Ohio State has lost, Alabama (8-0) looks like far and away the best team in the country, especially after steam-rolling Texas A&M, 33-14, this past Saturday. But do the Tide have any margin for error? Can they lose a game and still reach the College Football Playoff?
“You have to win the SEC,” CBS Sports senior writer Dennis Dodd said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Can they lose a game and still win the West? Yeah, then they would be playing in the SEC title game. LSU, with a healthy Leonard Fournette, looks better. Auburn now looks like they have an identity, and the defense is really, really good. Yes, (Alabama) can lose those games. But whoever’s the SEC champion, unless somehow it has two losses, is going to play in the College Football Playoff.”
Alabama must play at No. 19 LSU (5-2) on Nov. 5 and against No. 15 Auburn (5-2) on Nov. 26. What if one of those teams somehow wins the SEC? Could Bama still make the playoff?
“Sure, it’s possible, and it happened with Alabama back in 2011,” Dodd said. “In fact, in ’11 and ’12, they lost games in November and still won the national championship in the BCS system. So that is two very recent examples of proof that they can absorb a loss. It’s not ideal, but I think the committee has shown us that they, over everything, favor conference champions. It would take probably a major conference champion with two losses for that to even entertain the discussion.”
No. 6 Ohio State, meanwhile, must regroup after losing to Penn State, 24-21, in Happy Valley on Saturday night. The Buckeyes looked unbeatable against Oklahoma and survived Wisconsin at Camp Randall, but they were outscored 17-0 in the fourth quarter on Saturday and blew a 14-point lead in the process.
J.T. Barrett finished 28-of-43 for 245 yards and a touchdown but had just two completions of 20+ yards.
“I’m proud to say this because I pointed it out Friday: If there’s an Achilles’ heel for Ohio State is they can’t throw downfield,” Dodd said. “Not that they won’t; they can’t go downfield much. Last week, they were 90th in completed passes of 10 yards or more. They were 98th in completed passes of 30 yards or more. So that tells you they have trouble going downfield – and they do. Now they haven’t had to do it until this game. They had some special teams breakdowns. They had two kicks blocked late. You can criticize Urban for going for the field goal instead of putting of going for (the first down) or something like that. But one person on Twitter said it was a ‘horrific’ loss. No, they can still get to the College Football Playoff very easily. It’s an elite team. They lost to a 4-2 team on the road in the Big Ten. It wasn’t horrific. For now, it’s a speed bump. I think they still have a good chance of going.”
Ohio State (6-1) hosts Northwestern (4-3) this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Finally, what should we think of Tom Herman now that Houston has lost to Navy and SMU and is unranked?
“I think the question has to be asked of those promoting him at Texas and LSU and others,” Dodd said. “Boosters, how do you feel now? You lose to SMU and Navy? And he should have lost to Tulsa. I think the biggest (concern is defensively). Tom Herman told me before the season this is the best front seven he’s ever been around – not as a head coach, (but) ever. Consider his resume. Go look at it. They’re not playing that way. I’m just asking, rhetorically, is the shine off Tom Herman? What’s going to happen at (LSU) when it’s an 8-4 Houston or a 9-3 Houston and (athletic director Joe Alleva is) trying to get Tom Herman and either he can’t get him or doesn’t want him and Jimbo Fisher stays at Florida State? Now you got an issue at a place like LSU.”