First and most important, just win. The Aggies debuted at #4 in this year’s first College Football Playoff ranking. Surprisingly, they were ahead of undefeated PAC-12 front-runner Washington. But that won’t necessarily matter when all is said and done.
As we saw in 2014, the Playoff Committee is not afraid to move teams around for their final ranking. TCU dropped from #3 to #6 that year after routing Iowa State 55-3 in their final game. The committee cited Ohio State’s conference championship win and “13th data point” as their reasoning for moving them into the #4 spot. Point is, conference championship games matter, and at this point A&M may be locked out of the SEC championship game.
Luckily though, enough chaos has already taken place in the BIG 12 and PAC 12 that A&M still has a very reasonable shot at making the playoff.
First let’s look at Bama. The simplest thing in the SEC is for Bama to win out and win big along the way. This would indirectly make A&M’s loss to Bama in Tuscaloosa look better and better. However, if Bama loses to LSU this weekend, A&M will be rooting hard for an Auburn win in the Iron Bowl which would pave the way for A&M to the SEC title game.
Clemson debuted at #2 in CFP ranking and they far and away have the easiest path to the playoff with games against Syracuse, Pitt, Wake Forest, and South Carolina still left. They then would face Virginia Tech of North Carolina in the ACC championship. Although it’s unlikely they lose to any of those teams, a late loss or especially a loss in the title game could open the door for A&M.
#3 Michigan still has games against Iowa, Indiana, and a huge finale at Ohio State. Should they win out, they will likely face either Nebraska or Wisconsin in the BIG 10 conference championship game. The BIG 10 is strong enough this season that there is not a very likely scenario where they get left out of the playoff. A 13-0 Michigan champion, 12-1 Ohio State champion, or even possibly a 2-loss BIG 10 West champion would all likely make the playoffs. What A&M wants to avoid is a 12-1 Ohio St champion with an 11-1 Michigan team that might give A&M some competition for best the 1-loss team.
The BIG 12 is easy to sort out. Their hopes of the college football playoff vanished last week when both Baylor and West Virginia lost.
The PAC 12 has faced similar scrutiny of being weak this year, but Washington is still unblemished 8 weeks in. They are undoubtedly capitalizing on Stanford and Oregon being down. Nevertheless, an undefeated champion from a power five conference is guaranteed to be in the playoff. The Huskies still have 4 games against Cal, USC, Arizona State, and Washington State along with a possibly PAC 12 championship game. Losing any of those games could bode well for A&M. The real question is whether they have enough wiggle room to lose a game but still win the PAC 12 championship. Would a 12-1 PAC 12 champion get in over an 11-1 A&M?
There are still 4 weeks of football left and then another week for conference championships. Anything can happen. But one thing is for certain; it’s November and A&M is very much in the conversation.