Lakshman: Who’s in contention for the college football playoff?

Dec. 4, 2014, 6:33 p.m.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re almost there — just one short month until we arrive at a playoff in college football. For a sport that once saw Notre Dame claim a National Championship after tying an also undefeated Michigan State 10-10 in the final week of the regular season, college football has certainly come a long way despite its massive inertia, and a freakin’ playoff is serious progress.

Is it perfect? Absolutely not — if anything, it gives more people a chance to be unhappy; but — like it or not — we have a playoff coming with four spots to play for a national championship up for grabs. Here’s a quick rundown of how the main contenders for this year’s holy quartet of teams stack up.

Out: Michigan State, Kansas State, Mississippi State

Sorry buddy, it’s just not happening this year. That’s not a knock on any of these teams — they each have two losses against quality opponents and they just unfortunately fell on the wrong side of the bubble. If the College Football Playoff included eight teams, all of these programs would be in the thick of it and I wouldn’t want to face off with any of them. Kansas State, though, could still make things interesting if they manage to knock off Baylor on Saturday.


The Wildcats might be the most interesting case amongst all of the contenders. With two losses, you would think they would fall into the previous category, but RichRod’s boys get another showdown with Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship. If they repeat their performance from October, the Wildcats will knock Oregon out of playoff contention, but they would need to blow the Ducks out of the water to push their way into the top four.

Ultimately, I just don’t see that happening — Oregon is way too talented to lose at embarrassing proportions — but, nevertheless, Arizona has a chance. Part of me wants to see the Wildcats vault into the top four, just to see the look on Michigan fans when Rodriguez leads his team into a semifinal game.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes are presenting an extremely good pitch for having a human selection committee. Ohio State could very well beat Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship game and finish with one loss, but still miss out on the playoff because of quarterback J.T. Barrett’s leg injury. Unless backup Cardale Jones puts up an impressive performance against the Badgers, I think Ohio State gets the stiff arm from the committee.

The Big 12 Schools

It’s a pretty simple formula for Baylor and TCU. On Saturday, the Bears play Kansas State and the Horned Frogs take on Iowa State. If one team loses and the other wins, the winner goes into the playoff. If both win, then TCU will likely get the nod, though Baylor still has a chance to turn some heads against K-State.

If anything, the Big-12s lack of a conference championship game might be the new standard in the sport — they have essentially guaranteed themselves of a representative. Meanwhile, the SEC might not get any teams in if Missouri trips up Alabama in the SEC Championship game. I have a slight hunch that that wouldn’t go over so well.

Florida State

The Seminoles barely keep winning, but the word “barely” doesn’t really do justice to the Houdini-esque escapes that this team has pulled off against some not-so-impressive competition. Now, Florida State faces a stiff test in the ACC title game against Georgia Tech. If they lose to the Yellow Jackets, I think they probably fall out of contention because of their repeated close calls. On the other hand, an undefeated Florida State would make a strong case for the top seed in the playoff and we lucky fans would get to experience another moment of the sensation that is Jameis Winston.


A fully healthy Marcus Mariota finally guided Oregon over its Stanford hump and the Ducks are in prime position to chase that elusive national title. However, Mariota’s most impressive accomplishment this season has to be his ability to make that combination of lime green and parakeet yellow borderline wearable. I’d give him a Heisman for that alone.

All Oregon has to do is beat Arizona at Levi’s Stadium and — with a win — the Ducks would avenge their one blemish on the season and show, once and for all, that life after His Holiness Chip Kelly goes on.


Growing up watching a lot of SEC football, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the 55-44 score in the Iron Bowl. SEC football teams are officially outscoring their basketball counterparts. Whatever happened to the good old days of 9-6 bloodbaths when crossing midfield warranted a minor celebration?

In all seriousness, Lane Kiffin has done a pretty remarkable job since landing in Tuscaloosa, taking the Tide’s offense to another level. Alabama will almost certainly best Missouri in the SEC championship game to reach the playoff and, from there, good luck stopping that train. T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper are frighteningly good and the defense will be just fine. If you gave Nick Saban a month to prepare with a team of moderately athletic 7th graders, he’d probably shut you out.

It’s going to be an exciting ride of college football from here to the finish line, as the playoff looms large. It may not be perfect, but we’ve come a long way from “Notre Dame wins 10-10.”

Apparently, the fact that Baylor rallied late to defeat TCU on October 11th escaped Vihan Lakshman’s mind when he gave the Horned Frogs the nod over the Bears to make the CFB should both win out. Send arguments advocating the paramount nature of head-to-head matchups to vihan ‘at’ (and ‘cc’ committee head Jeff Long).

Vihan Lakshman's journey at The Stanford Daily came full-circle as he began his career as a football beat writer and now closes his time on The Farm in the same role. In between, he has served as an Opinions columnist and desk editor, a beat writer for Stanford baseball, and as a member of The Daily's Editorial Board. Vihan completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematical and Computational Science in 2016, and is currently pursuing a master's in Computational Mathematics. He also worked as a color commentator on KZSU football broadcasts during the 2015 season. To contact him, please send an email to vihan 'at'

Login or create an account