One team is already locked in the College Football Playoff.
Washington ended an undefeated regular season with a thriller 34-31 win over Oregon Depending on how things play out across the rest of the Power Five, the Pac-12 could end up somewhere in the top four in the final playoff standings in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
A second win of the season against the Ducks was the final answer to the doubters who dismissed the Huskies’ chances in this game and a spot among the elite teams in the bowl division.
In case it wasn’t clear: Washington is a worthy playoff team and a dangerous matchup for any team in the semifinals.
Quarterback Michael Benix completed 27 of 39 attempts for 319 yards and a touchdown and capped two huge touchdown drives in the fourth quarter that turned Oregon’s lead 24-20. Washington led 20-3 in the second quarter, but was in danger of slipping away the Pac-12 championship before the offense reasserted itself against the Ducks’ depleted defense.
What remains to be determined is where the Huskies will fall in the final rankings, which will depend on how they play in the SEC Championship Game between Georgia and Alabama and the Big Ten Championship between Michigan and Iowa. Regardless, Washington will become the first Pac-12 team to reach the playoffs since the Huskies did under former coach Chris Peterson in 2016.
On Friday, Liberty defeated New Mexico State 49-35 to capture the Conference USA Championship. The Flames are one of the few undefeated teams in the Bowl Subdivision and a contender for a bid to the New Year’s Six, but there is a roadblock of teams in their way, and we’ll see.
What Washington’s win means for the playoff run
Washington finished a perfect regular season among the best leagues in the FBS, and can sit back 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: as high as No. 1 or as low as No. 3. Washington has no chance of falling to No. 4 with a second win against the Ducks.
The No. 1 seed needs two upsets: Alabama over Georgia and Iowa over Michigan. The Huskies are probably the no. Staying at 3, the two favorites will win, although beating Oregon twice would be enough for the team to push them above the Wolverines.
Then it’s a question of matches. A second or third seed against Michigan in the Rose Bowl prior to the two semifinals on New Year’s Day.
If Michigan loses and Florida State wins, the Huskies will move up to No. 2 and face the Seminoles. In the event that the Tide, Hawkeyes and Seminoles win out and make UW the No. 1 seed, the matchup will come against Texas, Georgia or Michigan.
Michael Benix and the Heisman Trophy
Bennix was the Heisman front-runner for a good portion of the regular season before losing his grip in November, and moved into third place in the pecking order Friday night behind Oregon QB Bo Nix and LSU quarterback Jaden Daniels. Success means changing things.
But perhaps not enough. Benix was very solid in the first half, but less so in the second, and he would have needed a more complete, eye-opening kind of game to make up the ground he gave up to Nix and Daniels.
Given the Huskies’ two wins this season, the good news is that Heisman voters won’t be voting for the Knicks over Benix. This is always possible if many voters do not send in their ballots before the end of the week.
The bad news for Bennix is that Daniels isn’t going anywhere. For those torn between Knicks and Daniels, Friday’s decision won’t mean a shift in voting for Phoenix, but an embrace of the LSU senior as the obvious 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 neutral ground and win a national championship.
This second win dispels any notion that the previous win at home was the result of coaching decisions on Dan Lanning’s part or catching the Ducks on an off day. Washington was the more aggressive team and was more effective at the point of attack, making up for the false belief that Oregon would be the more physical team at the line of scrimmage.
All in all, this performance should open some eyes. More than a borderline upset — Oregon was more than a touchdown option even in the previous loss — this win could lead to a reevaluation of the Huskies’ chances against opponents like Georgia, Michigan or Texas.
Let’s wait and see who Washington draws in the semifinals and, if they’re lucky, the championship game. But there’s no doubt 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 game.
Will the Liberty make the New Year’s Six Bowl?
Chances are slim after the win over New Mexico State. While beating the Aggies would help boost the Liberty’s reputation on the selection board, the Flames are still looking at the American’s winner, especially if Tulane beats SMU in the conference championship game.
Although SMU is not in the latest playoff rankings, a win over the Green Wave would put the Mustangs ahead of the Liberty.
Basically, the Flames did everything they could in the regular season and still came up short in the New Year’s Six. This is not due to committee bias or lack of deep thought, but a reflection of Liberty’s extremely weak schedule.
The Flames have never played a Power Five opponent and have six wins against bowl teams, with two coming against the Aggies. Outside of NMSU, the team’s best wins are against Jacksonville State or Bowling Green. That wasn’t enough to justify coming in ahead of the AAC champion.
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