Who’s still alive and kicking in the College Football Playoff hunt? What’s the Path To The Playoff for the 13 teams still realistically in it?
Path To The Playoff: Handicapping the 2016-2017 College Football Playoff chase
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If we’re being honest here, Oklahoma State isn’t really alive in the College Football Playoff hunt, and neither are Washington State, USC, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Tennessee or Florida, even though any one of those teams could end up winning a Power 5 conference championship.
And no, Western Michigan isn’t going to get in.
Realistically, there are still 13 teams alive and kicking for the four spots. What’s the scenario to finish up in the top four? What’s the path to getting into the College Football Playoff for each of them?
Ranked in order from the least likely to get in – toughest path – to the most likely, here are the 13 teams and their Path To The College Football Playoff.
– The Buffs have to beat Washington State and Utah to take the Pac-12 South title, then go on to beat Washington in the Pac-12 championship.
– It would be a huge help if Washington is 11-1 going into the Pac-12 title game.
– There would have to be at least one three-loss Power 5 conference champion. The College Football Playoff committee might choose a one-loss non-champion like Ohio State or Louisville over a two-loss Pac-12 champion, especially considering Colorado lost to Michigan by 17.
– It would help if the Buffs were impressive. They can’t just limp into this with a few close calls. They have to make a case.
– The same thing goes for the Utes that goes for Colorado. Win out, and do it relatively impressively.
– Beat Oregon, win at Colorado, beat Washington in the Pac-12 Championship. But here’s the difference – a rematch win over the Huskies matter. That would almost erase the home loss.
– USC has to rip through the last few games and be amazing. Utah has to be the last team to beat the Trojans.
– Again, a three-loss Power 5 conference champ would help. Two-loss Utah isn’t getting in over a two-loss Big Ten champ, and 11-1 Ohio State or 11-1 Louisville might have a stronger case.
– Why so low? There’s just no real path unless Clemson loses at Wake Forest. If that happens, all of a sudden, Louisville is in the top three on this list.
– Obliterate Houston and Kentucky. Keep the foot on the gas, and don’t take it off. Style points matter now.
– Hope Ohio State wins the Big Ten title. Louisville will be behind an 11-1 Buckeye team in the pecking order. It needs Penn State to lose once, Ohio State to beat Michigan, and then go on to take the B1G to get out of the way.
– Hope for a two-loss Pac-12 champion.
– Beat West Virginia impressively at West Virginia and hope Oklahoma State beats TCU, setting up a real, live, Big 12 championship on December 3.
– Hope Ohio State wins the Big Ten championship and finishes No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
– A two-loss Pac-12 champion would help, and a Virginia Tech three-loss ACC champion would really, really help.
– Style. Hope Houston gets rid of Louisville this week, and hope Ohio State looks fantastic. Meanwhile, beat WVU and OSU by double-digits.
West Virginia (9-1)
– Beat Oklahoma, and annihilate Iowa State and Baylor. No more 24-20 vs. Texas-like games – look better.
– Oklahoma State has to lose one of its last two games. West Virginia has no shot if it’s not the outright Big 12 champion.
– Either the ACC or Pac-12 champ has to have at least two losses. Even if it loses the SEC championship, 12-1 Alabama might be in over West Virginia, and the Big Ten champ is in no matter what. A two-loss ACC or Pac-12 champ wouldn’t get in over a one-loss Big 12 champ.
– It would be a huge help if Ohio State lost again, just to get that idea out of the way.
– The Big Ten champion is going to get in. Beat Maryland and win at Iowa.
– Wisconsin has to lose to Purdue or Minnesota.
– Get to the Big Ten championship, win it. However, it would be a big help if Michigan beats Ohio State. There would be a case for 11-1 Ohio State to get in over 11-2 Big Ten champ Nebraska, considering how ugly the meeting was in Columbus.
Ohio State (9-1)
– Penn State HAS to lose to Rutgers or Michigan State. If that doesn’t happen, Ohio State can score all the points it wants and it might not matter. The Buckeyes have to get to the Big Ten title game to be assured of anything.
– DESTROY Michigan State at Michigan State and then obliterate Michigan. Being an 11-1 team in the playoff without winning a division or a conference will be a tough sell, but not if the Buckeyes come in on a tear.
– Hope Wisconsin wins the Big Ten West and Oklahoma takes the Big 12 title. No matter who wins the Big Ten championship between Penn State, Wisconsin and Nebraska, it’s all fine – assuming OSU beats Michigan and if it doesn’t get in. Penn State winning Big Ten title helps – the one loss would be at the B1G champ – while the win at Wisconsin looks better and the blowout over Nebraska looks great. Beating Oklahoma at Oklahoma would look even stronger.
Penn State (8-2)
– Beat Rutgers at Rutgers, beat Michigan State, hope Ohio State beats Michigan.
– Get to the Big Ten championship game, beat Wisconsin or Nebraska. At 11-2 with a win over Ohio State, a blowout over Iowa, and a Big Ten championship, that would be enough to get in.
– Beat Purdue at Purdue, Minnesota, get to the B1G title game. Style points don’t matter now.
– Win the Big Ten championship, preferably over Michigan or Ohio State. However, the Big Ten champ should get in no matter what, even if it has two losses.
– Hope LSU finishes up on a roll. There’s a great chance the Tigers end up in the Sugar Bowl by winning out – there’s your statement win.
– Whether it’s Iowa or Nebraska, hope the winner of that game is impressive in its final two games. It’s not vital, but it would help.
– Beat Arizona State, win at Washington State, take the Pac-12 North.
– It would be nice if the Huskies won in a blowout, but just winning the Pac-12 championship should be enough. If Ohio State is 11-1 and doesn’t get into the Big Ten championship, there would be an argument, but a 12-1 Pac-12 champion Washington would almost certainly get in.
– As an insurance policy, a multi-loss ACC champion would help. It’s 50/50 whether or not a two-loss Big Ten champ would get preferential treatment over Washington, especially if it’s Wisconsin.
– Outside of the potential of getting in as an 11-1 team with a close loss at Ohio State, the loss to Iowa doesn’t matter. Beat Indiana, win at Ohio State, go to the Big Ten championship game.
– Beat Wisconsin or Nebraska and take the Big Ten title, and get in as no worse than the No. 3 seed, possibly No. 2.
– In the same situation as Michigan, Clemson’s loss to Pitt didn’t matter. The Tigers have to win the ACC championship to get to the playoff.
– Win at Wake Forest, beat South Carolina. Even if they win the ACC championship, the Tigers are almost certainly out if they lose to the Gamecocks.
– Beat Virginia Tech or North Carolina in the ACC championship game, and get in as no worse than the No. 3 see, possibly No. 2.
– It would take something amazing to keep Alabama out. Beat UT Chattanooga, beat Auburn, and the Crimson Tide are probably in no matter what.
– However, lose to Auburn and lose the SEC championship game to Tennessee or Florida, and it’s out. Win the SEC championship, and the Auburn game doesn’t matter, win or lose.
– Lose the SEC championship, and 12-1 Alabama still might get in. It would be an argument, but it would be in over any other one-loss non-champion, and would probably get in over a two-loss champion from any other conference but the Big Ten.