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Meet the One Man Who Will Alter the College Football Playoff

Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire

Meet the one (young) man who will alter the College Football Playoff this season, whether he is spectacular, average or a flop.

True freshman Jarrett Stidham is your new quarterback for the rest of the season at Baylor, where the Bears are 7-0, ranked among the top four teams in the country and generally considered a lock to make the College Football Playoff if the season ended today.

But the season doesn’t end today, and with the school announcing Monday that quarterback Seth Russell – he who was playing by far the best football of any QB in the country – was out of the season with a neck injury, all eyes now turn to Stidham.

All eyes.

Because he truly will be the one player who will shape the CFP this season. Based on projections from various media around the country, here are the difference scenarios I’ve seen this week for the four teams who will make the playoff:

* Ohio State, Clemson, TCU, LSU
* Ohio State, Alabama, TCU, Clemson
* Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Stanford
* Michigan State, Clemson, Baylor, Stanford
* Ohio State, Alabama, Baylor, Clemson

That’s just five projections with seven different teams, certainly all of them plausible. Oh, there are definitely other possibilities. Unbeaten Iowa comes to mind, and what would happen if the Hawkeyes ran the table in the Big Ten? And there’s always the Notre Dame factor; the Irish have one loss, and a narrow one at that on the road at Clemson.

But for now let’s make the assumption that the aforementioned seven teams are the most well-positioned to make the CFP.

Enter Stidham.

There are three scenarios to consider here of what might happen and how it will affect the CFP.

SCENARIO ONE: Stidham is spectacular, becomes the latest cog in the Baylor passing machine system, and finishes out the season by guiding the Bears to a perfect record. If that happens, it’s a lock that Baylor is playing on New Year’s Eve. And oh by the way, speaking of plausibility, this scenario isn’t so far-fetched. We don’t have a huge sample size by which to judge Stidham, but this kid can play. He was one of the most highly recruited players in the country last year. He is currently 24-for-28 this season playing against poor teams in garbage time, but has more touchdown passes (six) than incompletions (four).

SCENARIO TWO: Stidham struggles. Baylor has a bye this week before closing with Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas. That’s a gauntlet, no doubt, and it’s not unreasonable to expect that he’s going to have a tough game somewhere along the line. Would one loss knock Baylor out of the CFP picture? That probably depends on the loss. Would two? Without a doubt.

SCENARIO THREE: This is the one that blows things up. Stidham plays fairly well, loses a game – but beats TCU. Let’s say the defeat comes against Oklahoma but otherwise the Bears win out. Would Baylor have a compelling case as a one-loss CFP team? Would TCU, if the loss was to Baylor???

Sorry, Jarrett. But the ball is in your court.

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