It may be tough to believe, but Tennessee didn’t lose all that much on Saturday when it comes to a quest to win a national championship. Despite the 27-13 beatdown that the Vols took at the hands of Georgia, Tennessee can still win a national title – or at least play for one.
As for Tennessee’s goal of winning an SEC Championship, forget about that. The Vols aren’t going to Atlanta unless the unimaginable happens. Georgia would have to lose to Mississippi State and Kentucky in the next two weeks for the Vols to get back into the SEC Championship Game. That’s not going to happen. However, the bigger trophy, a national title, is still a distinct possibility.
Here’s why. If you drowned your sorrows in some libation of choice after the Vols lost to Georgia, I can’t blame you. The Game of the Century turned out to be the flop of the weekend. That doesn’t mean all is lost. For those that stayed focused on the other college football games on Saturday, you know exactly what I mean.
For the football fans who stuck around the television or whatever streaming device you may use, Alabama lost again and Clemson lost to Notre Dame.
The second Bama loss – an overtime, 32-31 defeat to LSU – practically eliminates any chance that the Crimson Tide had to make the College Football Playoff. Clemson’s loss to Notre Dame dropped the Tigers from a 52-percent chance to make the College Football Playoff before Saturday’s games to a 34-percent chance to make the final four.
Clemson’s weak schedule for the remainder of the season and its lack of a top-quality wins makes the Tigers’ College Football Playoff chances bleak to say the least. The Vols are in a much better situation.
Alabama’s loss eliminates the discussion that Tennessee could be the third SEC team in a college football playoff. The thinking was that Alabama and Georgia would meet in the SEC Championship and the Vols could still slip into the College Football Playoff. That was never going to happen. The College Football Playoff committee can’t look the rest of the nation in the eyes and pick three teams from any one conference even if they are three of the best four teams. It was just never going to happen. Now, it doesn’t have to.
Thanks to the Bama and Clemson loss, Tennessee’s odds of making the College Football Playoff didn’t change. The Vols, according to ESPN’s playoff predictor, had a 62-percent chance to make the four-team playoff before the Georgia game. When the Vols begin prep for Missouri on Saturday, the Vols still have a 62-percent chance of making the College Football Playoff. As bleak as Tennessee’s postseason chances looked in Samford Stadium on Saturday, those odds are still the same following the loss.
As I mentioned, other games, such as the Alabama and Clemson losses, factor into that, but there’s more. The College Football Playoff Committee is designed to chose teams based on their body of work and the Vols’ body of work is still solid, even with a loss to Georgia.
So what needs to happen for the Vols to be the second SEC team to make the College Football Playoff? Well, Tennessee just has to be the same Tennessee team that created a national stir earlier this season. Keep scoring. Keep being exciting and, of course, keep winning. The Vols can do that. They’ll be double-digit favorites against Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, which are their last three foes of the season.
If the Vols can avoid a hangover, they’ll almost certainly make the College Football Playoff. Only Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan have better odds of making the final field of four. It certainly looks like Georgia will make the College Football Playoff. Ohio State and Michigan still have to play each other so there could be an odd man out after that matchup on Nov. 26.
In other words, Tennessee just has to take care of their business and they’ll most likely still make the College Football Playoff and they won’t have to prepare for an SEC Championship Game in order to do so. The Vols can be better rested and healthier with one less game to play.
This season has continued to line up with the Vols’ best fortunes in tow. Nothing has changed even after the Vols lost to Georgia on Saturday. Yes, simply put, the Vols can still win it all.