Wait, don’t leave yet.
Yeah, sure, the headline sounds crazy. But hear this out. Last week, the Missourian had some fun trying to blueprint the case for three SEC teams to make the four-team College Football Playoff. That’s extremely unlikely to actually happen, but if three SEC teams did somehow make it, why shouldn’t one be Missouri (5-5, 2-4 SEC)?
So let’s just forget for a minute about Missouri’s possible postseason ban that would keep it from being bowl-eligible and about the four-game losing streak and offense’s implosion that might prevent it from getting to the bowl-minimum six wins anyway ... and let’s consider the facts. The real facts.
Right now the CFP top 16 are ranked as such: LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, Oregon, Utah, Minnesota, Penn State, Oklahoma, Florida, Auburn, Baylor, Wisconsin, Michigan, Notre Dame.
Strength of schedule and quality wins are traditionally key factors the College Football Playoff Selection Committee considers when it determines the nation’s four best teams. OK, Missouri might have had the second-weakest schedule of any Power 5 team before the Georgia and Florida games, but a closer look shows profoundly different results.
Missouri actually has as many top-five wins as Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia and Alabama combined (zero).
And more importantly, Missouri can in fact claim several wins against the best teams in the country. Have you ever heard of the transitive property?
If not, a brief math lesson: This property states that if a value A > B and B > C, then A > C. Clearly, this applies flawlessly to sports as well. If Team A beats Team B, and Team B beats Team C, and Team C beats Team D and so on, then A must be the better team than C and D and so on. Transitively.
With that in mind, it should be noted that the Tigers have a huge win over No. 4 Georgia, because MU beat South Carolina and South Carolina upset Georgia. Never mind the fact that Georgia beat MU 27-0 in a head-to-head matchup Nov. 9. Not important.
And that’s just the beginning.
Missouri also has wins over No. 6 Oregon and No. 7 Utah: Georgia defeated Auburn in a 21-14 nail-biter Saturday, and Auburn has defeated Oregon, which defeated Southern California, which defeated Utah.
Georgia also beat No. 11 Florida and No. 16 Notre Dame, giving Missouri transitive wins against both of them.
What about Big 12 frontrunners Oklahoma (No. 10) and Baylor (No. 13)? Those two just battled it out in a Saturday night thriller that ended with a 31-28 Oklahoma win. But that game didn’t even really matter, because both have lost to Missouri. The Tigers routed West Virginia 38-7 early in the season, and West Virginia just beat Kansas State (No. 24), and Kansas State has beaten Oklahoma.
What about Big Ten powerhouses Minnesota (No. 8) and Penn State (No. 9)? Well buckle up, because you can add those to the Tigers’ résumé, too. Missouri won against Troy. Troy won against Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern won against Appalachian State (No. 25). App State won against North Carolina. (Side note: Carolina only lost by one to No. 3 Clemson, so do the math.) North Carolina won against Miami. Miami won against Pittsburgh. Pitt won against Ohio. Ohio won against Buffalo. Buffalo won against Eastern Michigan. Eastern Michigan won against Illinois. Illinois won against Wisconsin (No. 14). Wisconsin won against Iowa (No. 20). Iowa won against Minnesota. Minnesota won against Penn State.
It’s simple calculus, no stretch of the imagination needed. Missouri has the quality wins. In fact, it has wins against 12 of last week’s CFP top 16. Only LSU, Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama are safe from Missouri’s transitive wrath.
So stew on that, College Football Playoff selection committee. Not making the SEC Championship game might hurt Missouri’s chances, but the same goes for Alabama.
So at the very least, there should be a debate over the No. 4 spot at the end of the season: Alabama? Or Missouri?