If there’s one term I despise more than any other in sports, it’s “style points.” It’s just an ugly term that eventually means that one school should beat the bejeezus out of another opponent just to show how grand they are. That means sportsmanship is thrown out of the window.
Unfortunately, Tennessee’s football team might need some style points. That’s just the way college football is.
Let’s make sure we’re on the same page: I think Tennessee makes the College Football Playoff with or without style points. The Vols just have to win their last three regular season games. However, if Tennessee wins each of those games by just one point, which seems highly unlikely, then the Vols could be left our of the four-team College Football Playoff.
The Vols are currently No. 5 in the CFP rankings behind Texas Christian, Michigan, Ohio State and Georgia, in that descending order. There are a few scenarios that could eliminate the Vols from the College Football Playoff despite what they might accomplish.
Here are three:
The Michigan-Ohio State game is close
It seems to be a foregone conclusion that the winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game will make the College Football Playoff and the loser will be out of the little dance. Well, that’s not necessarily true. Let’s say the Buckeyes and Wolverines play a close game then both teams win the rest of their games before the College Football Playoff committee’s final selection. That’s not good for the Vols.
In that scenario, Tennessee could be left out of the College Football Playoff if the committee picks two Big Ten teams for the four-team field to determine college football’s national champion. Many think it’s just a given that two teams from the SEC will make the College Football Playoff. However, if the Michigan-Ohio State game is close, don’t be so sure.
Texas Christian wins out
The Horned Frogs have had a marvelous season. They’ll play No. 18 Texas on Saturday. There’s a great chance, per oddsmakers who have named Texas a seven-point favorite, that TCU’s magical run comes to an end this weekend. That would be good for Tennessee considering TCU has two very winnable regular season games left against Baylor and Iowa State. Then, there’s the Big 12 Championship Game. If TCU goes undefeated, it would be tough to leave the Horned Frogs out and put Tennessee in. That seems very unlikely.
As much as everyone likes to see a rival lose, the Vols need to root for the Bulldogs for the remainder of the season and hope that Georgia wins the SEC Championship game against whoever survives the SEC West. If not, then Tennessee’s loss doesn’t look nearly as understandable and, moreover, the SEC won’t likely get two teams into the College Football Playoff. I know it hurts, but root for the Dawgs.
Here is exactly what needs to happen in the coming weeks to ensure the Vols make the College Football Playoffs despite what they do in their final three games.
1. TCU must lose
2. Either Michigan or Ohio State must hammer the other other team
3. Georgia wins out
Now, there are scenarios in which those things don’t happen and Tennessee still makes the College Football Playoff. However, that’s the easiest path. If those three things don’t go Tennessee’s way, then it will take bedlam to get the Vols into the College Football Playoff – and it might be completely impossible for Tennessee to make the CFP.
There is one thing that the Vols can control. That’s to beat their three opponents thoroughly. Unfortunately, with one loss, “style points” do matter.