Believe it or not, the Houston Cougars are not dead in the College Football Playoff race.
Make no mistake about it: the Cougars’ hopes of playing for a crystal football took a huge hit with the loss to Navy last weekend. As a result of this crushing defeat, Houston needs for the Midshipmen to lose twice in order to play for the AAC championship. Without a conference title, the Cougars will have absolutely no chance to qualify for the College Football Playoff or an NY6 bowl game.
While UH faces an uphill climb to get back into the league championship race, it’s not as impossible as people think it is. Navy still has some tough contests remaining, including difficult road games against South Florida (on a short week) and East Carolina (which beat NC State at home). Given that the Middies already dropped one game on the road this year, it’s not a stretch to think that they could lose either or both of these contests.
Assuming that Navy loses a few games, Houston would be in position to qualify for the College Football Playoff. Although no one will mistake the Cougars’ schedule for the Big Ten East or SEC West, it is worth noting that they only play one team with a losing record over the second half of the season. With a win over Louisville – which narrowly lost to Clemson – and a victory over South Florida in the AAC championship game, Houston’s strength of schedule would receive a much-needed boost heading into Selection Sunday.
That last sentence could be the key to getting the Cougars into the field, since the Selection Committee couldn’t dismiss them based on strength of schedule. Since Houston already owns a win over projected Big 12 champion Oklahoma, it should get the nod based on head-to-head competition. That means that the Cougars would only have to beat out one other FBS conference champion to earn a spot in the playoff. If there were an upset in one of the league title games – especially the Pac-12 – Houston would get a long look for the coveted fourth spot in the bracket because it would own two wins over top 15 opponents.
Is this scenario likely to happen?
Probably not. After all, Baylor and Boise State could potentially finish the season undefeated, which would muddy the waters even further. Considering that we haven’t seen a major upset in a conference championship game in a few years, it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll see one this season given how well Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, and Washington are playing right now.
In other words: there are a lot of “if’s” and “but’s” that are needed in order to make this happen. As my high school football coach used to say, “If if’s and but’s were candies and nuts, we’d all have a heck of a Christmas.”
However, just because something isn’t likely doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible. Even though the Cougars lost a game last weekend, there’s still a chance – albeit, a slim one – that they could make the College Football Playoff. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that we should never doubt Tom Herman – regardless of what the odds are.
So don’t give up on Houston just yet.