Nov. 25, 2016
Can Huskers earn a College Football Playoff berth?
The No. 16 Nebraska Cornhuskers have steadily climbed back into the College Football Playoff Rankings. On Tuesday, the Huskers received their highest ranking since the 62-3 loss to Ohio State on November 5. Coming into that game, the Huskers were the No. 10 team in the country. After, it looked like all hope was loss.
First of all, the Huskers were blown off the field. To make matters worse, the status of quarterback Tommy Armstrong seemed to be in doubt. Remember, he left the game in the second quarter with a scary head injury. It left some questioning if Armstrong would don a Nebraska uniform again. Well, he came back to lead the Huskers to a huge 24-17 victory over Minnesota the following week.
Once again, Armstrong was injured, and missed the contest against Maryland. However, the Big Red didn't miss a beat, defeating the Terrapins by 21 points. On Monday, Armstrong returned to practice and he believes his hamstring will be ready to go on Black Friday. If not, the Huskers will have to use multiple options at quarterback.
With all that said, the Huskers are still in the race for a College Football Playoff berth. It might take a miracle. But miracles are known to happen this time of year.
Five Ways Huskers make the Final Four
1. Win the Big Ten: Currently, the Huskers are in a tie for first place of the Big Ten West. They will lose the tie-breaker to Wisconsin by virtue of the 6-point overtime loss. However, the Huskers have a real shot at winning the division. If they defeat the Hawkeyes and earn a trip to the Big Ten Championship game, the Huskers would be one win away from shocking the college football world.
They would play 1 of 3 teams from the Big Ten East. The No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes, No. 3 Michigan Wolverines and No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions are all looking for the bid into the conference title game. The Wolverines have the easiest path on paper. All they need to do is defeat the Buckeyes. However, the game is played at the "Shoe." The Wolverines have not beaten the Buckeyes since 2011. More importantly, the Wolverines have lost seven straight games in Columbus.
Therefore, the Nittany Lions seem like the favorite to win the Big Ten East. They hold the tie-breaker over the Buckeyes. Yet, Penn State will be under immense pressure in their game vs. Michigan State. Still, the Nittany Lions' seven straight wins are the best in the Big Ten. Furthermore, they are playing at home on senior day. But would a Huskers' win over Penn State be enough in the College Football Playoff committee's eyes? It may depend on what happens with the rest of college football.
2. Have Best Record in Big Ten: The only way the Huskers can achieve the best record in the Big Ten is an Ohio State loss. First of all, the Buckeyes can finish the season with one loss. Although it won't guarantee a College Football Playoff spot, the Buckeyes' resume will look immaculate compared to other programs. But if the Buckeyes defeat Michigan and Penn State loses, a Nebraska Big Ten title would guarantee the best record in the conference. Furthermore, they would avenge their loss to the Buckeyes. The Huskers can also earn the best record by beating Michigan. In addition, a victory over the Wolverines would be historic. Unfortunately, they won't have the chance at the best conference record if they beat Penn State in the Big Ten Championship game.
3. Complete Chaos: This would have to be the least likely scenario. As we stated earlier, the No. 2 Buckeyes and No. 3 Wolverines have to play each other. There are also plenty of other high profile games that could result in something insane.
For example, the No.1 Alabama Crimson Tide could lose twice. They play No. 13 Auburn Tigers and No. 15 Florida Gators in the SEC Championship game. If the Crimson Tide lost both games, they would be done. If Florida lost to the No.14 Florida State Seminoles and won the SEC Championship, there would be a chance the SEC could be left out of the whole party.
The same goes for the PAC-12. The No. 5 Washington Huskies are two wins away from joining the College Football Playoff. They also have a huge game against No. 23 Washington State. A loss knocks the Huskies out of the PAC-12 title game. A los in the conference title game also knocks the Huskies out of the running. Meanwhile, the No. 9 Colorado Buffaloes also have a shot at a College Football Playoff berth. Yet, they need to defeat No. 22 Utah to get to the conference title game. A loss leaves No. 12 USC as the PAC-12 South champion.
It's hard to envision a three-loss team getting into the College Football Playoff. Yet, the Trojans look like the best bet of that ever happening. However, the Trojans have to defeat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for any of the playoff talk to come to fruition. Otherwise, the PAC-12 could be completely left out of the Final Four.
At this point, at least eight teams ranked ahead of the Huskers would have suffered a loss. Now keep in mind, the Huskers don't need Alabama to lose a game. However, the ACC can help out with an implosion of their own. Currently, the ACC has three ranked teams in the College Football Playoff Rankings.
The No. 4 Clemson Tigers will face North Carolina or Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. They also play South Carolina this weekend. It's safe to say, the Tigers can't afford a loss in any game. Due to their loss to Pittsburgh, the Tigers have to impress the selection committee with devastating wins. Otherwise, the ACC could be left out of the Final Four as well. Just last week, the conference had two teams in the Top 5.
The Big 12 was also left for dead a couple of weeks into the season. No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 10 Oklahoma State might be playing for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The winner of the game will finish the year with a two-loss season. In fact, the Sooners have a chance to complete an undefeated conference season in the Big 12. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have that controversial loss to Central Michigan on their resume. In reality, the Cowboys should be a one-loss team in the Top 5.
4. Take Care of Business on Friday: College football can produce all the chaos it wants, but if the Huskers don't defeat the Iowa Hawkeyes, nothing else matters. Therefore, Nebraska can't afford to look ahead to Wisconsin's match up with Minnesota. They should put all of their effort into winning 10 games in the regular season.
So far, the offense averages 28 points per game. They haven't reached the 30-point mark since a 31-16 victory over Illinois on October 1. The Huskers must show the ability to score a lot of points. Due to quarterback issues, the Huskers must find away to do so.
Defensively, the Blackshirts are giving up 17.1 points per game when they aren't facing the Buckeyes. In other words, the BlackShirt defense gives up 21.1 points per game this season. It shows they don't have much margin for error in these close games.
5. Selection Committee Sticks to Principles: During the first two years of the College Football Playoff, the selection committee picked four conference winners. Would the selection committee stick to the same principles once a two-loss team earns their conference title? It remains to be seen, but that would be the Nebraska Cornhuskers' only chance.
College Football Playoff- 2014 Season
1. Alabama Crimson Tide vs. 4. Ohio State Buckeyes
2. Oregon Ducks vs. No. 3 Florida State Seminoles
College Football Playoff 2015 Season
1. Clemson Tigers vs. No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners
2. Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 3 Michigan State Spartans
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