What We Learned: Barring an Upset of the Century, LSU is in the playoffs now

Coach Ed Orgeron celebrates with tight end Stephen Sullivan after LSU's 46-41 win on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.Butch Dill/USA Today
Tony Barnhart

Five Things We Learned on a wild and whacky Week 11 in SEC Football:

1—Barring an Upset of the Century, LSU (9-0) is in the playoffs right now.

Yes, really. Here’s how:

If LSU, which won 46-41 at Alabama on Saturday, wins its final three games at Ole Miss (4-5), Arkansas (2-8) at home, and Texas A&M (6-3) at home, then the Tigers will roll into the SEC championship game at 12-0. I know anything is possible but LSU losing one of those final three regular-season games isn’t. And even if LSU loses the SEC championship game—probably against Georgia--the Tigers would be 12-1 with Top 10 wins over Texas, Florida, Auburn, and Alabama.

LSU’s resume would be better than any of the other one-loss teams in the current CFP rankings.

2—Georgia fans don’t need to spend whole lot of time looking at the CFP rankings and comparing resumes with other teams.

That’s because there is only one path for Georgia (8-1) to get to the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs must beat Auburn, Texas A&M, and Georgia Tech to round out the regular season. Then they must beat LSU in Atlanta for the SEC championship. Do that and post a 12-1 record and Georgia is in. Losing another game likely eliminates Georgia.

Georgia could lose to Auburn, beat Texas A&M and Georgia Tech and go to Atlanta at 10-2. But would a win over a No. 1 or No. 2 LSU put Georgia in the playoffs? Maybe. Maybe not. But note that the committee has never put a two-loss conference champ into the field before.

3—If LSU’s Ed Orgeron wasn’t around, Jeremy Pruitt would be your SEC Coach of the Year.

I’ll admit it. When Tennessee started 1-4, which included losses to Georgia State and BYU, I thought the Vols were going to crash and burn big time. But Pruitt, in his second season in Knoxville, held it together and managed a very erratic quarterback situation. Since that start the only Tennessee loss has been to Alabama (35-13), in a game that was much closer than the final score would indicate. Saturday night at Kentucky, Tennessee rallied from a 13-3 halftime deficit to win 17-13. Now, with games remaining with struggling Missouri (5-4) and Vanderbilt (2-7), the Vols have a chance to finish 7-5 and go to a bowl.

That’s coaching.

4—Alabama can still get into the playoffs but the Crimson Tide (8-1) is going to need some help.

After losing by only five points to the best team (in my opinion) in college football, I don’t expect Alabama to drop very far (from No. 3) when the when the new CFP rankings are released Tuesday night.

First of all, Alabama needs to win its last three games at Mississippi State, FCS opponent Western Carolina at home, and at Auburn on Nov. 30 to finish 11-1.

Then some folks need to lose:

Oregon (8-1) needs to lose one of its final three games against Arizona, Arizona State, or Oregon State or in the Pac-12 championship game. If Oregon finishes 12-1 it would have won 12 straight games since a last-second loss to Auburn to open the season.

Penn State (8-1) needs to lose again to Indiana, Ohio State, or Rutgers. It will be interesting to see how far the committee drops Penn State from No. 4 after its loss to Minnesota.

It will be interesting to see where the committee puts Minnesota after being No. 17 last week.

It would probably help if Oklahoma (9-1) and Baylor (9-0) lost as well. But I think 11-1 Alabama gets in ahead of a 12-1 Oklahoma or 12-1 Baylor. I could be wrong about that.

5—Florida is not out of the SEC East race yet:

The Gators (8-2, 5-2), which beat Vanderbilt 56-0 on Saturday, will know where they stand at the close of business on this Saturday. Despite Georgia’s win over the Gators on Nov. 2, there is still a scenario that puts Florida in Atlanta for the SEC championship game.

If Florida wins at Missouri (Noon, ESPN) they will be rooting hard for Auburn to beat Georgia later in the day. If Georgia wins, the Bulldogs clinch a spot in the SEC championship game. If Georgia (8-1, 5-1) loses at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Bulldogs would then have to beat Texas A&M in Athens on Nov. 23 to win the division. If they lose to Texas A&M, Georgia finishes 5-3 in the SEC and Florida goes to Atlanta.

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Tony Barnhart

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