What’s the path to the College Football Playoff for all the realistic contenders?
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There’s only one week left in this wild and crazy race, but far more than four fan bases are still thinking an invite into the College Football Playoff is possible.
So what’s the path to get in for all of the top contenders? Trying to think rationally through the same process the CFP committee is going through, here’s what has to happen for each top team.
The rankings below are based on last week – obviously, there will be some major changes and moves on Tuesday night.
How To Get Into The College Football Playoff: No, Alabama doesn’t have a lock on anything, even if it’s ranked in the top four in the next-to-last set of rankings. Here’s Bama’s problem: it doesn’t control its own destiny.
The ACC champion is in, and so is the SEC champion. If Wisconsin wins the Big Ten Championship – in. If Oklahoma wins the Big 12 Championship – in.
That’s four teams, and Alabama – and it’s mediocre resume – is off to the Orange Bowl in the New Year’s Six.
However, if Ohio State beats Wisconsin, and/or TCU beats Oklahoma, it’ll likely slip into that No. 4 spot.
How To Get Into The College Football Playoff: The Pitt loss only matters because all talk about getting in with a close loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship is over. But it’s this simple, no matter where Miami is ranked on Tuesday night; beat Clemson – who’ll likely be the No. 1 team, or 2, at worst – for the ACC Championship, get in.
How To Get Into The College Football Playoff: Beat Miami in the ACC Championship, get in as the No. 1 seed going to the Sugar Bowl.
How To Get Into The College Football Playoff: Beat TCU in the Big 12 Championship. Get in as the third seed if Wisconsin loses the Big Ten Championship, get in as the four seed behind the Badgers, the ACC and SEC champs if UW wins.
How To Get Into The College Football Playoff: Beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, get in as the two or three seed, play in the Rose Bowl.
But is there still any shot of getting in with a close loss to Ohio State? It’ll be nearly impossible – the schedule is too mediocre – but if TCU wins the Big 12 title, there’s a distant chance to get the call over Alabama.
How To Get Into The College Football Playoff: There might be some who point to the three-year history of the College Football Playoff and think a two-loss team might not/should not get in – especially after Penn State got a wee bit of a raw deal last year.
However, the Tigers have beaten two CFP No. 1 teams in the last few weeks – Georgia and Alabama – and one of the two losses came on the road to Clemson. It’ll almost certainly get in with a win over Georgia in the SEC Championship.
How To Get Into The College Football Playoff: Don’t worry at all about the ranking on Tuesday night. Beat Auburn for the SEC Championship, get in as the No. 2 seed at absolute worst. If Miami beats Clemson in the ACC Championship, get in as the No. 1 seed going to the Sugar Bowl.
8. Notre Dame
How To Get Into The College Football Playoff: Buy a ticket. It’s over after losing to Stanford.
9. Ohio State
How To Get Into The College Football Playoff: It’ll take some work. Just beating Wisconsin for the Big Ten title won’t be enough – Ohio State has to annihilate the Badgers.
Blow out Bucky, hope for TCU to beat Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship, and then make the case that beating unbeaten Wisconsin with a conference title is worth more than Alabama being 11-1 without even winning its own division.
It’s the reverse argument for Ohio State last year, getting into the CFP at 11-1 over 11-2 Big Ten champion Penn State. However, the 2016 Buckeyes had great wins over Oklahoma and Wisconsin on the road, and Michigan at home. 2017 Alabama doesn’t have anything like that.
10. Penn State
How To Get Into The College Football Playoff: It can’t. But at 10-2, it’s a mortal lock to get one of the New Year’s Six bowl slots.
How To Get Into The College Football Playoff: If the Trojans destroy Stanford in a breathtaking blowout win, many will make a case for a team that rolled through the last month of the season. However … Notre Dame 49, USC 14. The Trojans can’t get past that. Win the Pac-12 title, and it’s a near-lock to go to the New Year’s Six Fiesta Bowl.
How To Get Into The College Football Playoff: This could turn into one of the biggest theoretical debates of the week if TCU beats Oklahoma for the Big 12 Championship.
If Ohio State beats Wisconsin, then TCU will have beaten the team (OU) that whacked the team (OSU) on the road – not to mention the revenge-win factor over the Sooners.
Also, factor in that the 38-20 loss to OU came in Norman, not in Fort Worth. That matters to the committee.
The other loss was on the road at Iowa State. While that’s acceptable, that’s a problem.
So to get in, TCU has to destroy Oklahoma, Ohio State has to squeak by the Badgers, and it would help if Auburn beat Georgia.
The ACC champ and Auburn would both get in. Then it would come down to TCU, Ohio State and Alabama, and again, TCU has the advantage of a win over the team that beat the Buckeyes, along with a conference title.