April 16, 2024

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How Washington’s Pac-12 win affects the College Football Playoff

How Washington’s Pac-12 win affects the College Football Playoff

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One team is already tied for the College Football Playoff.

Washington capped an unbeaten regular season with a thrilling 34-31 win over Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game, all but guaranteeing a spot in the top four of the final playoff standings, depending on how things go in the rest of the franchise. five.

The second win of the season against the Ducks is the ultimate answer to the doubters who denounced the Huskies’ chances in this game and placed them among the elite teams in the Bowl Subdivision.

In case it’s not clear: Washington is a worthy playoff team and a dangerous matchup for any team in the semifinals.

Quarterback Michael Penix completed 27 of 39 attempts for 319 touchdowns and pressured two massive fourth-quarter touchdown drives to reverse Oregon’s 24-20 lead. Washington took a 20-3 lead into the second quarter but was in danger of letting the Pac-12 championship slip away before the offense asserted itself against a tired Ducks defense.

All that’s left to decide is where the Huskies fall in the final seeding, which depends on how things go in the SEC Championship game between Georgia and Alabama along with the Big Ten Championship game between Michigan and Iowa. Regardless, Washington will become the first Pac-12 team to reach the playoffs since the Huskies did so under former coach Chris Petersen in 2016.

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Also on Friday, Liberty beat New Mexico State 49-35 to win the Conference USA championship. The Flames are one of only a small group of undefeated teams in the Bowl Subdivision and a contender for a Group of Five bid to reach the New Year’s Six tournament, but there is a barrier of teams in their way, as we’ll see.

What does a Washington playoff win mean?

Washington completed a perfect regular season in one of the best leagues in the FBS and can sit and wait to see how the rest of the Power Five landscape unfolds during Saturday’s games.

The only question is where the Huskies will land: No. 1 or No. 3. There’s no chance Washington drops to fourth place with its second win over the Ducks.

Getting to No. 1 requires two upsets: Alabama beating Georgia and Iowa beating Michigan. The Huskies would likely still be in third place if both candidates win, though beating Oregon twice might be enough for the committee to push them above the Wolverines.

Then it’s a matter of matches. Most likely it’s Michigan’s opposite as a second or third seed in the Rose Bowl, which is the first semifinal on New Year’s Day.

If Michigan loses and Florida State wins, the Huskies would rise to second place and face the Seminoles. In a scenario where the Tide, Hawkeyes and Seminoles win to move UW into first place, the game would come against Texas, Georgia or Michigan.

Michael Penix and the Heisman Trophy

Penix was a Heisman front-runner for much of the regular season before losing his grip in November, and he went into Friday night third in the pecking order behind Nix and LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels. Winning should change things.

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But maybe it’s not enough. Penix was very solid in the first half but less so in the second, perhaps needing a more complete, eye-opening game to make up the ground he ceded to Nix and Daniels.

The good news is that Heisman voters probably can’t vote for Nix over Penix, given the Huskies’ head-to-head victory this season. That’s if many voters haven’t already sent in their ballots before the weekend, which is always a possibility.

The bad news for Penix is ​​that Daniels isn’t going anywhere. For those torn between Nix and Daniels, Friday’s result may not mean shifting the vote to Nix, but rather embracing the LSU senior as the clear Heisman pick.

Can Washington win the national championship?

Any team that can beat Oregon once, let alone twice, is good enough to beat any opponent on a neutral field and win the national championship.

This second win erases the notion that the previous home victory was the result of coaching decisions on the part of Dan Lanning or hunting ducks on an off day. Washington was the more aggressive team and was very effective at the point of attack, offsetting the misguided belief that Oregon would be the more physical team at the line of scrimmage.

Overall, this performance should open some eyes. Far more than just a borderline upset — Oregon State was more than a touchdown favorite despite the previous loss — the win should prompt a reassessment of the Huskies’ chances against opponents like Georgia, Michigan or Texas.

Let’s wait and see who Washington pulls out in the semifinals and, if they’re lucky, the championship game. But there is no doubt that the Huskies have the offense, quarterback, coaching staff and mentality to shine on college football’s biggest stage against some of the biggest brands in the sport.

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Will Liberty make a New Year’s Six bowl?

The odds are slim even after a win over New Mexico State. While beating the Aggies will help boost Liberty’s reputation with the selection committee, the Flames will still look to the American winner, especially if Tulane beats SMU in the conference championship game.

While SMU was not in the latest playoff rankings, the Mustangs are expected to move ahead of Liberty if they beat the Green Wave.

Basically, the Flames gave it everything they could during the regular season and will still be under six in the new year. This is not due to bias or lack of thoughtfulness on the part of the committee but is a reflection of Liberty’s extremely weak schedule.

The Flames have never played a Power Five opponent and have six wins against bowl teams, two of them against the Aggies. Outside of NMSU, the team’s best win is either Jacksonville State or Bowling Green. That’s not enough to justify a lead over the AAC champion.