Much like past years, Rivalry Week in College Football did not disappoint. Both No. 1 and No. 2 fell on the road, while those right at the edge of the College Football Playoff (CFP) picture took care of business. According to FiveThirtyEight, there are eight teams currently that have at least a 20% chance of making the CFP, including the lone unbeaten Power 5 Wisconsin Badgers. Here’s how each can sneak in.
No. 1 Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC)
The loss on the road to a legitimate Auburn team hurts, but as goes the Alabama pedigree, the Crimson Tide aren’t out just yet. Instead, they’re in a situation much like Ohio State was last year – they suffered only one loss to a very good team. Unlike that Ohio State team, however, ‘Bama’s best win came at home against a decent (but not great) LSU team. The Crimson Tide do not control their own destiny, and are going to be diligently watching next week as they won’t be making it to the SEC Championship Game.
Best case: Auburn beats Georgia, making Alabama the lone one-loss SEC team. Oklahoma takes care of TCU, Ohio State beats Wisconsin, and someone wins the ACC. ‘Bama sneaks in as the 4 along with Oklahoma, the ACC Champ, and Auburn.
Worst case: Georgia beats Auburn, giving the Tigers three losses. Wisconsin beats Ohio State to guarantee a spot. A one-loss Clemson beats a one-loss Miami, and Oklahoma beats TCU. Wisconsin, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Georgia make the CFP, leaving Alabama at No. 5.
No. 2 Miami (10-1, 7-1 ACC)
Alas, the magical undefeated season – highlighted by the famed “Turnover Chain” – has come to an end, as Miami was upset by 4-7 Pitt. The ‘Canes, like Alabama, aren’t done just yet, as their schedule contains impressive wins against ranked Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. That said, lose to Clemson next week in the ACC Championship, and the ‘Canes are certainly on the outs.
Best case: Miami beats Clemson in a tight game next week. Ohio State beats Wisconsin and Oklahoma beats TCU. Georgia beats Auburn in the SEC Championship game. The Committee includes conference champion Miami, with three (Clemson, Notre Dame, VT) signature wins, over one-loss Alabama, who has just one (LSU), and errs with Ohio State over Alabama as well.
Worst case: The ‘Canes get demolished in Charlotte, ending what looked to be a very successful season.
No. 3 Clemson (11-1, 7-1 ACC)
Save a close upset at Syracuse in which starting QB Kelly Bryant went down, Clemson football has showed no hangover after shocking Alabama in the championship game last year. They have played a lot of teams that were ranked at the time, but it’s looking as if their only ranked wins to end the season will be against Auburn and Virginia Tech. Still, they control their own destiny and are largely looking at the same implications as most other conference championship-bound teams: win and you’re in.
Best case: Clemson beats Miami, and regardless of what happens in other conference championship games, the Tigers take control of the No. 1 spot in the CFP.
Worst case: Miami beats Clemson, giving the Tigers two losses and no conference championship. Miami, the winner of Georgia/Auburn, and some combination of Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Alabama, and Ohio State comprise the CFP.
No. 4 Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1 Big 12)
Of all eight of the teams on this list, Oklahoma might have benefited the most sneakily from the slate of Saturday games. Sure, Auburn’s win was outstanding for them, but the Sooners took care of business by shaking off the Baker Mayfield drama and putting up 59 against West Virginia. Much like a lot of other teams on this list, the Sooners will have to take care of business next week against TCU if they want a spot in the CFP. Unlike those teams (except Auburn), Oklahoma already won against their conference championship opponent, and looked commanding in doing so. Wins over Ohio State, TCU, and Oklahoma State already this season boost an overall impressive resume.
Best case: The Sooners win in Arlington, guaranteeing them a spot in the CFP and a shot at the No. 1 overall seed.
Worst case: TCU sneaks by Oklahoma, landing them with two losses. Auburn beats Georgia, Wisconsin beats Ohio State, and the ACC Champion leaves with only one loss. Wisconsin, Auburn, Miami/Clemson, and Alabama enjoy the CFP while the Sooners are left out.
No. 5 Wisconsin (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten)
Perhaps no undefeated Power 5 team has been more left out of the postseason conversation in the short history of the CFP than the 2017 Wisconsin Badgers. With a commanding 31-0 trouncing of Minnesota in the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the Badgers solidified their place in history. Wisconsin has given up more than 20 points just once, and has won by double digits all but twice. Still, the Badgers’ schedule has been relatively forgiving, as Northwestern will be the only ranked team on it – before Wisconsin takes on Ohio State next week in Indianapolis. The Badgers need to take care of business against a hobbled J.T. Barrett and Ohio State to ensure their spot in the CFP.
Best case: Wisconsin beats Ohio State in a defensive showdown, solidifying a 13-0 regular season. Oklahoma beats TCU, Georgia beats Auburn, and someone wins the ACC. The undefeated Badgers come in at No. 3, joined by Oklahoma, Georgia, and Miami/Clemson. Alabama, Ohio State, and others are on the outside looking in.
Worst case: The Badgers lose to Ohio State, and with no signature wins on their schedule are left out of the CFP. Oklahoma beats TCU, there’s a one-loss ACC Champ, and Auburn beats Georgia in the SEC Championship. Auburn, Clemson/Miami, Oklahoma, and either Alabama or Ohio State are in.
No. 6 Auburn (10-2, 7-1 SEC)
Auburn’s complete victory over an over-matched Alabama squad has them looking at the potential of becoming the first ever two-loss CFP team. Their losses are excusable – an eight-point road loss at Clemson early in the season and a four-point loss at LSU – and their signature wins – double digits over one-loss Georgia and Alabama – are great. The Tigers have the build to make history as the first two-loss team, but desperately need to win against Georgia next week in Atlanta to do so. Three losses would certainly mean no playoff berth.
Best case: Auburn beats Georgia to win the SEC. Wisconsin beats Ohio State. There’s a one loss ACC Champion, and TCU upsets Oklahoma. Auburn, Alabama, Wisconsin, and Miami/Clemson are headed to the CFP.
Worst case: The Tigers fail to take care of the Bulldogs for the second time this season, ending their playoff chances.
No. 7 Georgia (11-1, 7-1 SEC)
The Bulldogs enjoyed an extremely successful season, and with only a large loss to Auburn enter the SEC Championship with a real shot at the CFP. Their problems, however, are numerous: they already got crushed by Auburn just a few weeks ago, their one ranked win was a one-point win early in the season to Notre Dame, and Alabama could spell trouble in a number of ways. The Bulldogs can give themselves a shot by beating Auburn, but they still might need some help down the road.
Best case: Georgia clobbers Auburn in Atlanta, making them SEC Champion. Ohio State beats Wisconsin, and the ACC and Big 12 play out how they will. Those two conference champions, joined by Georgia and either Alabama or Ohio State, are in the CFP.
Worst case: Georgia loses for a second time to Auburn, and with no signature wins outside of Notre Dame and the absence of a conference championship, fail to make the CFP.
No. 9 Ohio State (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten)
The Buckeyes need a lot to happen for them to make the CFP, starting with a win over undefeated Wisconsin in Indy. That would give them a second good win this season, joining a one-point win over Penn State in Columbus. A healthy J.T. Barrett is a must, and the Buckeyes will be keeping their eyes peeled for scenarios that work in their favor.
Best case: This is tough. Ohio State beats Wisconsin, making them a two-loss Big Ten Champ. TCU beats Oklahoma, giving them both two losses; same with Auburn beating Georgia. Either Miami or Clemson will win and guarantee themselves a place in the CFP with just one loss. The Committee gives one-loss Alabama, the winner of Miami/Clemson, Auburn, and Ohio State a bid, leaving out other worthy one- and two-loss teams (Wisconsin, TCU/Oklahoma, Georgia, and the loser of Miami/Clemson).
Worst case: The Buckeyes fail to match up against a great Wisconsin defense, leaving them with three losses – and no CFP bid.
- Should TCU beat Oklahoma, they have a few ranked wins. They’d need quite a lot to happen and then the Committee to work heavily in their favor, but that’s a bridge that can be crossed later.
- USC has had a great season, but it just wasn’t the Pac-12’s year. Their best win was against Stanford. Maybe next year.
- Same with Penn State, who suffered two close losses to ranked Big Ten teams. They can’t compete in the Big Ten Championship, thus, their chances at the CFP are negligible.
- UCF will join the ranks of undefeated non-Power 5 teams to be left out of the CFP. Last year, Western Michigan was beaten handily by Wisconsin in a New Year’s Six bowl. Will the Knights suffer the same fate?