By Andrew Nason
With only 2 weeks left in the regular season and conference championships still to be decided, the field of teams who have a legitimate shot at contenting for 1 of the 4 spots in the College Football Playoff is dwindling. Here is my breakdown of the remaining contender’s chances of earning 1 of the 4 playoff spots.
Teams Still in the Hunt:
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (10-0, 7-0 SEC)
With Georgia’s blowout loss to Auburn, The Crimson Tide will take over the number 1 ranking in this week’s CFB Playoff rankings without question. This year’s Bama squad isn’t as dominant as they have been the last few years, but they still feature an all-star defense and a powerful running attack, led by quarterback Jalen Hurts and running back Damien Harris, who both average over 5.5 yards a carry and have ran for 19 touchdowns. Bama has an easy match up this week against Mercer, and then goes to Auburn, where the winner will clinch a trip to the SEC Championship game against SEC East champ Georgia. Obviously if Alabama wins out, they are in, and are all but guaranteed the 1 seed. If they make the SEC Championship game and lose to Georgia, their chances of making it as the 3 or 4 seed are still pretty decent, as long as Georgia only has 1 loss at that time. A loss to Auburn, unless other top teams suffer loses, would leave the Crimson Tide praying for a miracle, meaning losses by other power 5 conference top seeds. With the way Auburn absolutely shut down Georgia, Alabama fans shouldn’t be feeling too cocky heading into the Iron Bowl.
2. Clemson Tigers (9-1, 7-1 ACC)
Featuring the most ferocious defensive line in college football, the Tigers are in the same boat as a lot of teams, win out and they’re in. Dabo Sweeney’s team has 2 somewhat easy weeks before they take on Miami in the ACC Championship game. With Kelly Bryant’s health continuing to improve, the reigning national champs are in a good spot to make a return to the playoff for a 3rd straight season.
3. Miami Hurricanes (9-0, 6-0 ACC)
The U is back! Miami’s issue all season is that they haven’t played anybody good. Well last night, they welcomed the number 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish to Miami and they absolutely demolished them 41-8. Miami is one of 4 undefeated teams left in the FBS, and have already clinched a trip to the ACC Championship game, where they will meet the reigning national champion Clemson Tigers. The win over Notre Dame was impressive, but the U still cannot afford to lose a game this season in order to make the final 4. A win over Clemson with an undefeated record will all but grantee Miami a top 2 seed, depending on how Alabama finishes up.
4. Oklahoma Sooners (9-1, 6-1 Big 12)
Baker Mayfield is the front runner for the Heisman and Oklahoma’s offense is one of the best in the nation. The Big 12 has brought back its championship game this season, so as of right now, Oklahoma is the top seed and is on pace to be the home team. TCU is currently in the best position to face them, and based on this weekend’s result, Oklahoma should have no issues beating the Horned Frogs again. Win out, and the Sooners will secure a spot, but due to the generally weak perception of the Big 12, the Sooners cannot afford to drop a game before the title game.
5. Wisconsin Badgers (10-0, 7-0 Big 10)
Why is an undefeated, power 5 team with a Heisman contending running back (freshmen Jonathan Taylor) left outside of the top 4 when 2 of the top 4 have losses? The answer is simple, Wisconsin doesn’t have a signature win yet. This week’s win over number 20 Iowa was their biggest win in terms of rankings so far this season, thus why the playoff committee isn’t ready to put them in the playoff. The good news is for Wisconsin is that they control their own destiny the rest of the way. They will have some tough tests the next 2 weeks against Michigan and then Minnesota on the road. Both games are winnable, and the Badgers will need to win both, and then win the Big 10 championship game, which they have already guaranteed a spot in. An undefeated, Big 10 Champ Wisconsin team cannot, and will not, be kept out of the playoff.
6. Auburn Tigers (8-2, 6-1 SEC)
The Tigers made a huge statement this weekend, taking down the number 1 ranked Georgia Bulldogs at home 40-17. 2 losses hurts them, but they are, for lack of a better term, good losses. The Tigers first loss was at Clemson, then ranked 3rd overall, by a score of 14-6. The second came at the hands of LSU in Death Valley, 27-23. Auburn is playing well lately, led by Baylor transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham, and will have tons of momentum as they welcome Alabama in 2 weeks for the Iron Bowl. With the winner going to the SEC Championship game to play the Bulldogs, Auburn is in control of its own destiny.
7. Georgia Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 SEC)
The Bulldogs powerful, multi-faceted run game was completely shut down by Auburn this weekend, but the Bulldogs are still in a good position in terms of the playoffs. Having already secured a trip to the SEC Championship game, where they will face either Alabama or Auburn again, the Bulldogs are in a rare situation, where if they were to drop one of their next 2 games, neither easy games against Kentucky and Georgia Tech, they can still make the playoff. The SEC Champion will not, under any circumstance, be held out of the playoff, so a 2 loss SEC Champ will indeed have a spot. Georgia still controls its own destiny.
8. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-2, 6-1 Big 10)
The Buckeyes looked all but done after getting blown out by unranked Iowa a week ago, but after demolishing number 12 Michigan State, who was coming off a huge win over Penn State, there is some hope for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. Next week they have an easy match up against Illinois, and then head to Michigan to take on a struggling Wolverines team. With wins there, they will head to the Big 10 Championship game to face currently undefeated Wisconsin. A big win over a likely still undefeated Badgers will give the Buckeyes a strong resume to go with their on-paper talent, and will make is hard for the playoff committee to leave them out. Other top seeds, such as Alabama and Oklahoma, suffering losses will help Ohio States chances. If they win out, the chance at the playoff is there, but a little help will be huge for the Buckeyes.
Teams Who Need a Ton of Help:
USC Trojans (9-2, 7-1 Pac 12)
The Trojans were a preseason favorite, but tough losses to Notre Dame and Washington State, combined with the sub-par play of potential number 1 pick Sam Darnold have put them in a position where they need a lot of help to get into the playoff picture. USC has clinched a trip to the Pac 12 Championship game, where they will most likely see Washington State again. A win there and some seriously big upsets at the top of the rankings is the only way the Trojans could have a shot at the playoff.
TCU Horned Frogs (8-2, 5-2 Big 12)
Despite getting thumped by Oklahoma this week, TCU is still in the best position other than the Sooners to make a Big 12 Title game appearance. Winning out, and then upsetting the Sooners likely won’t be enough to push the Horned Frogs into the playoff, but a few key upsets at the top could give them some hope.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-2, 5-2 Big 12)
The Cowboys and their high-powered offense need some help just to make the Big 12 Title game, needing to win out (which should be easy as they have Kansas and Kansas State, both at home) and have to have TCU drop one of its last 2 games. If they can manage to win the Big 12 with just their 2 losses, they may have the offense and the resume to be considered, but like TCU and USC, will need some top seeds to suffer upsets.
Out of the Playoff Picture:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-2, Independent)
Not having the chance to be a conference champion is going to kill the Fighting Irish’s playoff chances this season, as it looks like this season there could and likely will be a 2-loss playoff team.
Washington Huskies (8-2, 5-2 Pac 12)
A playoff team last year, the Huskies dropped a tough one to Stanford, and haven’t looked good enough this season to even be considered a borderline team, assuming more upsets happen over the next 3 weeks.
Penn State Nittany Lions (8-2, 5-2 Big 10)
The Nittany Lions chose a bad time to lose 2 games straight, and now need help just to reach the Big 10 Title game.