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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Oregon’s rout of Utah cleanly shifts Playoff focus to Baylor-Oklahoma Big 12 championship

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C.J. Verdell (208 rushing yards, 3 TDs) and Oregon can now look forward to a Rose Bowl berth on Jan. 1, facing either Penn State or Wisconsin.

So long, Peach Bowl.

So long, Rose Bowl.

Heck, maybe even the Cotton Bowl’s a no-go for No. 5 Utah, after incurring a 37-15 drubbing to No. 13 Oregon in Friday’s Pac-12 championship game.

With the damning loss, Utah abandoned all hopes of its first-ever College Football Playoff berth. It also means the Pac-12 won’t have representation in the national semifinals for a third straight season.

Now, we could use this space to assess how Utah suffered a 22-point, neutral-field loss, even with Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert passing for less than 200 yards, but that would be a waste of time.

Why is that?

‘Playoff’ talk had always been a zero-sum game for Utah and Oregon since the first Saturday of October.

Given their respective September defeats to USC and Auburn, the Utes and Ducks were forced into a situation where no additional losses would be tolerated by the 13-member CFP committee.

And even then, ‘style points’ might weigh heavily when stacking the Pac-12 champion up against the Big 12 champ and the runner-ups for the Big Ten and SEC.

Is that fair? Probably not. But that’s how the world of big-time football works, meaning that if a two-loss team ever reached the four-team Playoff … it certainly wouldn’t come from the Pac-12.

Which brings us to this …

Short of a shocking Wisconsin thrashing of Ohio State in Saturday’s Big Ten title game — let’s say, 20-plus points — the No. 8 Badgers face extremely long odds of making the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.

That leaves the door open for two plausible scenarios, in terms of filling the fourth and final CFP slot … after undefeated Ohio State, LSU and Clemson.

SCENARIO #1

**Georgia beats LSU (SEC championship)
**Baylor beats Oklahoma (Big 12 title game) … or vice versa

This would be the dream occurrence for those working in the SEC front office, even if the powers-that-be cannot say so publicly.

Under this hypothetical, a Georgia victory would likely vault the Dawgs into the 3-slot … but the defeat would still keep the Tigers in the Playoff mix — citing an elite-level Strength of Schedule quotient, along with four top-10 victories from the regular season (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Texas).

As for the “vice versa” line above, a Georgia victory would render the Big 12 championship result entirely moot.

SCENARIO #2

**LSU handles Georgia
**Oklahoma takes down Baylor … or vice versa

Sensing a theme here with the vice versa talk?

Because of Oregon’s resounding win on Friday night, and a presumptive LSU win on Saturday, the Big 12 champion would have a clear/near-automatic path to the No. 4 seed in Sunday’s final Playoff rankings.

By proxy, College Football Nation would also be spared having a real conversation about expanding the Playoff field to six or eight teams, since technically none of the conferences were wrongfully deprived of a Peach or Fiesta invite.

About The Managing Editor

Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media’s national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out NBA.com, MLB.com, PGATour.com, The Players’ Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s pre-eminent award for Best Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the NBC/Universal family. With Sports Illustrated (2006-11), Clemons served a triple role with SI.com‘s heralded football coverage—editing Peter King’s famed ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, penning award-winning pieces for NFL and then writing/narrating scripted videos within the NFL and baseball realms. In 2013, Clemons’ first year with the company, FOX Sports South enjoyed a monumental increase of approximately 34 million Web hits in a 12-month cycle—merely posting 11 million hits the previous year. 

Then, over a two-month span in 2014, FOX Sports South amassed 19.5 million Web hits—a 60-day record for any FOX affiliate. And in 2015, Clemons claimed the aforementioned Cynopsis Media award on FOX Sports’ behalf, the company’s only national writing award during that period. Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University  and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

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