In the first two years of the College Football Playoff, only two types of teams have made into the four-team field: undefeated teams and one-loss teams. However, the biggest turnaround of any team in College Football this season could give the Auburn Tigers a chance to be the first two-loss team to earn a shot at the national title.
Few teams in college football have been as hot as Auburn in the past five weeks. After starting the season 1-2, Gus Malzahn and the Tigers have made a complete 180 on the season and have won five consecutive games, beginning with a last-second win against LSU in Week 4. As the Tigers have moved up the rankings each week, the question has become how Auburn’s early losses could hinder the Tigers’ postseason aspirations.
Even with those two losses, Auburn is still square in the mix of an SEC West race that also includes No. 1 Alabama, which the Tigers will face at the end of the season, and No. 7 Texas A&M, which defeated Auburn 29-16 in the third game of the year. If the Tigers are able to win out en route to a SEC title, Auburn would boast a resume worthy of a place in the third annual college football playoff.
Along with having one loss or fewer, there is one other common bond among the eight teams that have appeared in the playoff to date. In the first two years, each team that has made the playoff has been a conference champion. Even with two losses, a conference champion from the SEC would be a strong candidate for a playoff, given the quality wins and overall strength of record that Auburn boasts this season.
The Tigers’ two losses this season have to be to two teams currently ranked second and fourth in the first edition of the college football playoff rankings. Even if multiple losses has been a stigma that has prevented teams from being considered for a spot in the postseason, consider this question: Is it really worse to have two losses a pair of elite teams than it is to have one loss to mediocre team (example: Ohio State’s loss to Penn State)?
Predicting Auburn’s chances of landing in the playoff also mean looking forward to what the rest of the Tigers’ schedule will do for their postseason résumé. While remaining matchups against Georgia and Vanderbilt won’t do much for Auburn’s case, there is an opportunity for the Tigers to add a monumental boost to their body of work in the last week of the regular season. It is on that day that Auburn travels to Tuscaloosa to face No. 1 Alabama, which is currently widely regarded as the nation’s best team.Winning out implies a victory for Auburn in the Iron Bowl, meaning the Tigers would have the best individual win of any team in consideration for a place in the four-team field.
Since the inception of the playoff, the committee has often tried to send a message to teams about the importance of scheduling and beating top teams, to build the most impressive body of work. If Auburn were to pull off the upset on its way to a SEC title, the committee would have the chance to send that message once again.