We’re Not Ignoring Kansas Anymore in Our Mock 12-Team College Football Playoff Bracket – Sports Illustrated

  • September 27, 2022

The one-man College Football Playoff selection committee (me) met Sunday to hem and haw around what the 12-team expanded bracket would look like if selections were made this week. With four games as the sample size, the decisions were that much more difficult.
Several teams lost their spots in the field from last week—Arkansas, Kentucky, App State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and NC State. New to the field this week for a variety of reasons—James Madison (!), WashingtonMichiganKansas (!!), Florida State and Tennessee. The Cowboys, Wolfpack and Wildcats didn’t lose, but were leaped by a few teams based on results and schedules. Keep in mind the committee is cognizant of how teams win and the teams they beat. Schedules are of utmost importance.
Another thing to keep in mind: We are using the exact model CFP executives adopted last month. The 12-team model features automatic qualifiers to the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large selections to the next six highest-ranked teams. The four highest-ranked conference champions receive byes to the second round (independents are not eligible to receive a bye).
The committee had no debate around the top two seeds, Georgia and Ohio State—both have dominated good enough schedules to remain where they are. Everything else is up for debate, including conference title spots. Washington has a right to claim it is the best in the Pac-12, while Oklahoma State, not even in the field, might say it’s the best in the Big 12. There are four undefeated teams in the ACC—Clemson, NC State, Florida State and Syracuse—who are making strong arguments in their league.
Outside (barely) looking in: The final at-large spots went to Washington and Michigan after some heated debate, bumping out NC State and Oklahoma State. If we had to explain the tough decision during a live television interview (like the poor actual CFB chairs), we’d sound like a fool. We also left out two undefeated SEC teams (gasp!)—Kentucky and Ole Miss—which just so happen to meet in Oxford this weekend. The winner gets a bid into next week’s mock playoff. You can’t find motivation like that anywhere else.
The G5 Dukes: In its very first year in FBS, James Madison is riding high after a 3-0 start that includes a wild comeback victory against App State on Saturday. Remember, in this format, at least one Group of 5 champion will advance into the field. With their 32–38 victory, the Dukes replaced App State. Other Group of 5 teams considered include Cincinnati and undefeated Coastal Carolina.
Big 12 bonanza: The league might just be the best in the sport from top to bottom. Sure, its top isn’t the best, but its bottom will likely beat your bottom, and its mid-tier might beat your mid-tier, too. Of the three remaining undefeated teams in the conference—TCU, Kansas, Oklahoma State—we chose the Jayhawks as league champions. Lance Leipold’s team has played, by far, the toughest schedule.
Best matchup: Give me the first-round duel between the Vols and Huskies. This is a delightful quarterback matchup between Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. Penix leads the nation with an average 347 passing yards per game (he’s thrown 12 TDs and one interception) and Hooker is fifth overall in total offense at 342 yards a game (1,193 passing and 175 rushing). The winner faces USC. 
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