Road to the Orange Bowl: SEC and Big Ten pave the way but what about Cincinnati?

The road to the Orange Bowl, one of the two semifinal sites of the College Football Playoffs, are being paved by two conferences, the Big Ten and the SEC. 

Every week has been an example of just how powerful No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Georgia are and just how powerful No. 3 Iowa and No. 4 Penn State could be in opposition. 

It’s going to take a lot for the playoff committee to resists rendering the conference championship games pointless. If both Alabama and Georgia go into the SEC Championship Game undefeated and the game is close, what are the stakes outside of loser drops down to No. 4? 

However, could you blame them? Arkansas shocked the nation and went into last week’s game against Georgia at No. 8 and got shutout. Ole Miss was sold as team who could unseat Alabama and that wishful thinking didn’t last nearly long enough to make the game fully enticing. 

The Big 10 will be more interesting considering how many teams are highly ranked and how the divisions are aligned. Iowa has a clear path to the conference title game but someone among Penn State, No. 7 Ohio State, No. 9 Michigan and No. 11 Michigan State is going to emerge from the East Division, which will make for an entertaining season. 

So what happens when the top four teams are competing for two conference championships? Do we just scrap the concept of a playoff and pit the winner of the Big 10 and SEC against each other? Maybe that’s what the Orange Bowl is for. 

Cincinnati is the new Boise State

About a decade ago, the integrity of the inclusivity of the BCS was constantly being tested by a powerful outsider who would dominate its conference and even take the blue bloods for a ride. The one problem was that the team was called Boise State and the Broncos were playing in a dying conference and could never get over the glass ceiling. 

Boise State cracked the top 10 in numerous seasons from 2004-11. The Broncos reached prominence with an improbable win over Adrien Peterson’s Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl in 2006. They beat No. 4 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl in 2009 and went as high up as No. 4 in 2010 before losing to No. 19 Nevada. Kellen Moore broke a NCAA record by winning his 50th career collegiate game in the Las Vegas Bowl against Arizona State in 2011 at the end of the run. 

None of it was good enough to play for a national championship but if there were a four team playoff, maybe there would have been an opportunity. 

Boise State crawled so that Central Florida and Cincinnati could run, and the Bearcats ran over Notre Dame this past weekend to move up to No. 5 in the rankings. 

Cincinnati is good enough to run the table and take advantage of rival conferences cannibalizing each other. Going undefeated last year helps their cause this season but a single loss will torpedo their playoff hopes. 

Clear path for the Pac-12

Whenever Oregon is running rampant undefeated, Stanford is always there to knock the Ducks down a peg. An overtime win for the Cardinal leaves the Pac-12 with the potential for a battle between two loss teams in the conference title game. 

No. 22 Arizona State returned to the ranks after an impressive 42-23 win over UCLA (No. 20 at the time) and could face No. 8 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, should both teams make it to the end of the season without a loss. 

Now the Sun Devils will have to avoid being victim of a second consecutive upset bid by Stanford on Friday. Junior quarterback Jayden Daniels has a knack for avoiding turnovers and finding the open lanes to run. Most of the touchdown opportunities has been going to senior running back Rachaad White, who has eight touchdowns. Only five other offensive players in the nation have more rushing touchdowns.  

Considering that the Sun Devils’ lone loss came on the road at No. 10 BYU, they should have a strong resume should they emerge as Pac-12 champions. However, unlike other conferences, none of that is for certain  in the Pac-12, which is unfortunately seen as a knock.

“Well, it’s a week to week situation in the Pac-12,” ASU coach Herm Edwards said. “We all know that, that’s how it works in our conference,” Edwards said. “You never know what’s going on. You just see it. You think, ‘Oh,’ and then somebody loses, I just think, every week, and that’s how we approach it.”

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