Each of the four participants in the 2014 College Football Playoff won their respective conference championships: Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and Ohio State. That was the case again in 2015, 2016, 2018, and, for all intents and purposes, 2019 when the lone non-champion in the field, Notre Dame, wasn’t in a conference.
Twenty-two of the 23 conference-membership playoff teams through the first six years of the four-team field have been conference champions. The lone exception was 2017 Alabama, who didn’t win the SEC West, let alone the SEC, on their way to a fifth national championship in nine years. The cards perfectly aligned for Alabama three years ago when two-loss Ohio State won the Big Ten over a one-loss Wisconsin who started 12-0 against a soft schedule, the Pac-12 was littered with two- and three-loss teams, and playoff No. 2 seed Oklahoma left behind a trail of mediocrity in the Big 12.
That was an anomaly. We knew that in 2017 and know that three years later. It’s difficult for a non-conference champion to make the field and more difficult for a non-divisional champion. The SEC West could check both boxes in 2020.
This week on the High Motor podcast, we discussed why Texas A&M has not only the best playoff chance of any current outsider but also a realistic chance of making the field as a 9-1 non-divisional champion with a strong résumé. Listen below (or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else):
Andrew Doughty hosts the High Motor podcast and covers college football and college basketball for HERO Sports. A Kansas (B.S. Sport Management) and Memphis grad (M.A. Journalism), Andrew is also a Junior Writer for Sports Illustrated and has published work on SB Nation and Bleacher Report.