Scully’s NCAAF takeaways: Notre Dame and Clemson earn a bye
The college football regular season is wrapping up, and conference championship games begin next week.
It's been a strange season, and it's possible the conference title games will have no affect upon the College Football Playoff.
While the ordering has changed, Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Ohio State have been ranked in the top four since Week 7.
Clemson and Notre Dame receive extra bye week
ACC officials are taking no injury or upset chances, as they scrapped scheduled Week 15 games for Notre Dame (at Wake Forest) and Clemson (at Florida State). Both teams will have a week off to prepare for their rematch in the Dec. 19 ACC Championship Game.
The second meeting is a treat for college football fans, because Notre Dame is normally an independent. Because of to COVID-19 complications, the Irish became a full ACC member for only the 2020 season.
Unbeaten Notre Dame edged Clemson in Week 10, when the Irish won, 47-40, in overtime. It was Clemson’s first regular-season loss in more than three years.
Both teams can remain in the CFP chase with a loss in the ACC Championship Game.
If Clemson wins the rematch, and Notre Dame sustains its first defeat in a respectable manner, the Irish will still make the four-team CFP. The selection committee will respect their body of work.
It will get interesting if Clemson loses. The prospect of having to beat the Tigers for a third consecutive time may not be fair for an unscathed Notre Dame, but a two-loss Clemson team could have more appeal for the committee than one-loss Texas A&M (currently ranked fifth) or undefeated Cincinnati (ranked seventh).
No. 6 Florida will fall out of the discussion when they lose to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
Alabama and Ohio State romp
Top-ranked Alabama dropped 45 first-half points on LSU in Week 14 and cruised to a 38-point win. After the Crimson Tide defeats Arkansas in Week 15, it will be a double-digit favorite over Florida in the Dec. 19 SEC Championship Game.
Now 9-0, Alabama leads the nation with a 30.9-point average point differential. The Tide's smallest win margin is 15 points.
No. 4 Ohio State impressively returned from a two-week layoff in Week 14, when it forced four turnovers and scored double-digit points in every quarter en route to a rout of Michigan State. The Buckeyes are scheduled to conclude the regular season against longtime rival Michigan, but the Week 15 matchup could be in jeopardy.
Michigan canceled its Week 14 game against Maryland because of issues related to COVID-19, and the shorthanded Wolverines need to return to the practice field first. Big Ten rules stipulate that teams must play six games to be eligible for the conference title game, and the Buckeyes are only 5-0.
Ohio State doesn’t have the résumé to make the CFP without a win the Big Ten Championship Game. If Michigan is forced to cancel, the conference may alter its rules to assure Ohio State's participation against Northwestern in the Dec. 19 title game.
Pac-12 championship picture is still unclear
The participants in the Dec. 18 Pac-12 Championship Game will be decided in Week 15.
In the North, Washington (3-1) and Oregon (3-2) will meet to settle things. The Ducks are favored by nearly a touchdown at home, and both teams are looking to rebound from disappointing losses in Week 14.
Washington squandered an opportunity to lock up the divisional title in a 31-26 loss to Stanford as a double-digit favorite. Oregon repeatedly shot itself in the foot against winless California. The Ducks failed to score in the second half of a 21-17 setback and recorded nine penalties and two costly fourth-quarter turnovers.
In the South, USC (4-0) will lock up the division title with a defeat of UCLA. The Trojans, who exit a 38-13 romp over Washington State, are an early three-point favorite.
If USC loses, Colorado can claim the South crown with a win against Utah. The Buffaloes, who are 3-0 in Pac-12 play and 4-0 overall, have recorded double-digit wins over Arizona and San Diego State in their last two outings.